A "preacher's kid" myself I always thought I knew just how PKs ought to be raised. However, since I am not a parent, I have seldom acted on my inclination to advise pastoral parents how to raise their children best.
Over recent years I have been increasingly concerned that fewer PKs follow their parents' example by choosing to become pastors. Growing up in the parsonage gives young pastors an experiential advantage, and I wish that more PKs were hearing and accepting the call to ministry.
Therefore, when my colleague, Virginia Smith, director of children's ministries, recently sha¡ed seven principles of helping PKs enjoy the parsonage, I asked permission to share these practical ideas. As mother to two PKs who as adults are directly involved in Christ's mission, Virginia speaks from expertise and experience. That experience gives her the expertise so evident in the following points.
1. Be friends with your children. This is especially important for fathers. The way to become friends with your children is the same as with any other friend. Invest time in being together with them. Build memories of the good times you enjoy together. Learn to know your children as individuals and respect their individuality. Remember, your children are not your possession. They belong to God, and He has a plan for their lives. As you involve your lives in close relationship, you will bond them to you, and you will bond them to love the things you love-your work, your priorities, your objectives.
Studies demonstrate that fathers who spend adequate time with their daughters build a protective hedge against premarital sex because the young girls experience an appropriate male relationship at home. Similar evidence is clearly demonstrated for protection against drug abuse and othe¡ destructive behaviors.
2. Be supportive of the work of ministry. It is essential for pastoral spouses to affirm the varied expectations for pastors. Your children will reflect your own attitudes toward the challenges that necessarily affect pastoral families. When interruptions come to your family, strive to uphold the importance of pastoral work to those who will benefit.
When your pastor spouse must travel, plan fun activities with your children. If both parents must travel, make the temporary care arrangements a special treat for your children. Organize good supervision while you aÍe away, provided by someone who can relate well to the emotional needs of your children. Then plan a special activity to celebrate your return when the family is reunited. When you are together again, share at length what happened while you were separated and help your children understand the importance of your journey. Also, listen carefully to their reports of what occurred in your absence.
Remember, the most important information may well be disclosed only after they have talked with you for quite a while. This vital information may come out slowl¡ so take time to process their experiences. If your child's behavior has changed in your absence, likely something bad has happened. Be such good friends that your children feel comfortable telling you their experiences.
3. Set high standards and help your children reach them. If you fill your kids' lives with Bible stud¡ music, art, nature stud¡ and athletics, there will be little time for television and computer games or to envy more affluent friends. Your home will become the center of happiness and the most attractive place for your children.
Likewise, make sure you are the provider of sex education for your children. Start early and naturally respond to their curiosity with information appropriate for their age and awareness, Do not assume that you should wait until they are oÌder. If you wait, their first exposure to sexuaÌity will likely be inaccurate and impure.
4. Involve your child in service for others. Help them to choose tasks they enjoy and to find a mission objective in their activities. Encourage them to participate with you in church activities. As you share ministry assignments together, their confidence will grow. Research shows that children learn more and faster when they actively participate. Thus they will become involved in church life by their own choice rather than becoming bored with religion. Give your children age-appropriate activities that will help them listen and participate during church services. Your goal is to help them choose, at their own initiative, to be involved in the Lord's work.
5. Invite your child to accept Christ. Do not assume they will "discover" a relationship with Jesus on their own. Provide regular religious nurture through family worship and periodically talk with them about their growing friendship with Jesus.
6. Protect your child from the church.
Stand between them and those members who criticize and expect too much from PKs. Let your children know that you want good behavior, but that you do not abandon them when they misbehave. Discuss incidents with your children and sympathize with their pain or frustration.
7. Give your children unconditional love. Be to them as Jesus is to all of us.
After your children have passed the age when you can control their activities, they may make choices you dislike. At that time you have only two responsibilities: pray for them and remain their friends. Once they are adults, do not expect to control their choices, their careers, or their homes. Your opportunity to influence their future is right now. Their first formative years provide you the opportunity to impact their lives for eternity.