When friends affectionately identified our three children as PKs (pastor's kids), my husband and I wondered, "What does it take to bring up great PKs?"
Together on our knees, we asked the Lord for help. Thankfully, we soon realized that raising great PKs did not require that we be perfect parents or saints. Neither did our kids have to be perfect. Great PKs are simply kids learning to love and serve their Lord. But, how do we help them learn to love the Lord? Here are four simple steps.
Be faithful to the Lord
We found encouragement in Deuteronomy 6:5-7.* "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." All parents can follow this down-to-earth instruction in normal, daily living.
Of course, holding our kids to God's standard requires that we consistently follow that standard ourselves. PKs need to see in their parents an authentic devotion to the Lord. We told our kids, "If your dad were a plumber and not a preacher, our choices would be the same. We serve the Lord because we love Him and trust Him." PKs are more inclined to fol low Jesus when they understand why their parents follow Him.
Be faithful to your spouse
PKs definitely prosper when parents make their marriage relationship a top priority. That means that both husband and wife must promptly and constructively address conflicts. If necessary, they get help.
In an interview with Billy Graham's wife, Ruth, she was asked, "Did you ever, at any time, seriously consider divorce?"
Ruth answered with a smile, "No. Murder, maybe. But not divorce."
Although trials in marriage can test us severely, kids need to see that we choose faithfulness, no matter what. Marriage and family counselors wisely observe, "You can do nothing more beneficial for your children than to remain committed to one another for a life time." As Jesus said, "What God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matt. 19:6).
Be faithful to your children
PKs need discipline, and God assigned that responsibility to parents. We should not rely on others to train our kids. Understandably, at times, a parent can feel stretched to the limits.
A young mother picked up her toddler in the middle of the street one day and with exasperation said, "I am having a hard time with this. It seems that overnight my adorable baby has turned into a devil!" Even when a PK seems to "turn into a devil," parents must love and do what is best for the child.
Terrible twos, teens, and every age in between, need parents who discipline them selves to discipline their children. The apostle Paul tells parents: "Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).
Along with firm and loving discipline, our children thrive on regular doses of vitamin "H": hearty laughter, happy holidays, home cooked meals, hospitality (especially inviting evangelists and missionaries into our homes and people from the service professions), helping around the house and yard, having family fun, and healthy interaction.
We found family devotions a fun way to administer vitamin "H." Our kids were especially receptive when we encouraged participation. Often, we invited each child to describe the meaning of a verse in his or her own words. We recited memory verses together in an improvised chant. We sang choruses and hymns, watched Christian videos while munching popcorn, discussed audio recordings, and prayed together. And when the kids were old enough, we invited them to take turns leading devotions.
One of the best things we ever did was to teach our PKs at a young age to take time for personal devotions. We gave each child his own Bible. Occasionally I asked each one, "Which book in the Bible are you reading in your daily devotions now?" Then, we talked briefly about that section of Scripture.
If he had let the habit of daily Bible reading slip, I would suggest an interesting passage to help him get started again. I would check again in a few days, just in case he needed another boost. This, more than anything else, helped our children to establish their own faith in God.
Be faithful to the task
Increasingly, we perceived that bringing up PKs requires teaching— interactive, aggressive, persistent teaching—at home, by parents. After a visit to Eastern Europe, our friend Barb told us of a huge cemetery in Warsaw, Poland, that reminded her of Arlington National Cemetery here in the United States, where thousands of gravestones honor American soldiers who died in combat.
The crosses in Warsaw's cemetery, however, did not represent soldiers, but teachers. During World War II, soldiers gathered all teachers in that region and ordered them to dig a deep ditch. Then, a firing squad murdered and buried them in one huge grave. Why teachers? Because the Nazis understood the powerful influence of good teaching. Parents must under stand that as well.
We are called to teach our PKs as we walk, sit, lie down, or get up. Parental teaching is God's plan to save souls for generations to come. No need to be perfect. Be faithful: faithful to God, to your spouse, to your children, and to the task.
Jesus' promise is "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).
* All scriptures in this article are from the New International Version.