Remembering those closest to us

An appeal to pastors to spiritually nourish those who are closest to them: their children.

Juleun A. Johnson, MDiv, pastors a two-church district in Greenwood and Panama City, Florida, United States.

In the rush of daily routine, often the significant slides down our priority list. Such is the case with our families.

As a pastor’s son and now a pastor, I have heard from other pastors’ kids the memories of their formative years. Some of them recount the enjoyable days of camp meeting with friends and the times when they did fun things with mom or dad. Others do not have such happy memories.

Once I was riding with another pastor. We arrived at his home shortly after his son came home from school. With hope springing in his voice, the son asked, “Can we play ball?” “Not now,” the father replied and went on with his routine tasks. Ministry—whether you are a pastor, an administrator, a chaplain, or a professor—is a serious calling from God. But that calling must not prevent you from spending time with your family. After all, you have a responsibility for the spiritual life of your family.

We should more than just hope that the spiritual needs of our children are met. We need to ensure that our children, dedicated to the Lord while they were infants, have the best opportunity for salvation. Although salvation is a personal choice (Phil. 2:12), the Bible admonishes parents (and fathers in particular), “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NIV). This is an admonition and a promise from God. Training our children in the things of the Lord is a vital part of our ministry.

Perhaps you are an excellent administrator who prays for your children, but you do not spend time with them. Or maybe you are a wonderful chaplain who meets the needs of others, but you do not take time to minister to your children. Or perhaps you are a brilliant professor whose books are read by many, but you overlook or are not aware of your daughter’s issues. Perhaps you are an evangelist who can hold the attention of masses with the gospel message, but your children seldom see you because you are constantly on the road. Or maybe you are an innovative pastor, admired by other pastors and members, but pay little attention to your spouse or children once you arrive home. Nothing you do should keep you from spending time with your family.

It’s not too late

What do you do if you have neglected your family? First, ask forgiveness. It is never too late to ask for forgiveness. A friend tells about getting to the point in his ministry where he asked forgiveness from his spouse and children for being away so much. Realizing that every relationship needs cultivation, he used this experience as a catalyst for a change in his ministry emphasis. If you can nurture relationships with church members and ministry leaders, you can do it for your family, too.

Second, encourage your children to experience Jesus Christ for themselves. Be patient with them, for they must make their own decisions about their spiritual life. As a minister’s son, I was always around preachers, and that was good. But I did not develop a personal relationship with the Lord until I went to high school. My spiritual development was challenged and encouraged during a week of prayer at the school. The speaker spoke candidly about his relationship with the Lord. He admitted flaws as well as successes, and for the first time in my life I saw the real Jesus who should head my spiritual life. It took someone sharing their experience with me to begin my relationship with the Lord.

Third, encourage your children by sharing your spiritual journey. They will be blessed if you share the challenges and joys of your spiritual life. They may not always tell you, but your stories will encourage them and deepen your relationship with them.

Fourth, show your family that they are valuable. As ministers, we know how to let others know their importance. Potential members are treated as individuals who are important to us. We visit them, introduce them to church members, and treat them as special people—and that they are. We invest time in them and do our best to win their confidence. Their nurture and growth are a significant focus of our ministry. If we pay that much attention to individuals who until recently were strangers to us, what about our families? How much should we focus on them?

God does not expect us to ignore our families. Even if our children make choices that we don’t approve, they are still our children. Their actions must never cancel the love we have for them. Our words and actions must always assure them that they are an important part of our lives.

Now is the time

Ministers often tell others, “now is the time.” Now is the time for decision—for baptism, for change, for a new life. Now is the time for change. How often have you said something like that? The apostle Paul challenges his readers that “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

Now is the time for us to remember our families. We, who often remind others of God’s invitation, need to respond to that same invitation.

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Juleun A. Johnson, MDiv, pastors a two-church district in Greenwood and Panama City, Florida, United States.

August 2006

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