Pastors’ children see the best and the worst of the church.
My father served as a pastor throughout much of my childhood, and my oldest daughter spent her first several years in our household as a pastor’s child. Although I no longer serve as a paid pastoral staff member, I teach and preach frequently in my church and in dozens of others; so, all of my daughters know very well the challenges of being seen as the children of the person who proclaims the Word. Having seen the life of a pastor’s children from both sides, I can assure you that churches possess the power either to encourage the pastor’s children or to embitter them.
So what can a congregation do to encourage the pastor’s children?
How to Care Well for Your Pastor’s Children
Here are seven specific practices for your church to implement:
- Show grace to the pastor’s children, especially on Sundays. Sometimes, your pastor’s children have arrived at the church building before the first service and won’t get to leave until long after the last service. Even if the children go home in between those times, the children spending their day without easy access to their father. They see their father, but his focus cannot be on them.
- If you have a concern about the children’s behavior, set up a time to talk to the pastor privately about it. Don’t talk about it in your Sunday School class or small group, and don’t unleash your concerns between services when your pastor is trying to focus his energy on proclaiming God’s Word to the people.
- Be lavish in your praise. When you see the pastor’s children do what’s right, say so. Plenty of people will point out what they do wrong; few will mention or even notice what they do well.
- Don’t involve the pastor’s children in the church’s problems. Even if your pastor and his wife try not to mention problems around their children, the children sense when there are tensions. Don’t make it worse with snide comments and complaints in the children’s presence.
- Be bold and rebuke the critics. The best way to develop a culture of grace toward your pastor’s children is to refuse to allow backbiting to continue unchecked.
- Give your pastors space to deal with their children’s hearts. Yes, God has called pastors to have their “children under control with all dignity” (1 Timothy 3:5). But guiding children to this point takes time. Some days, the pastor will be more successful at this than others. Focus on the long-term fruit, not the short-term failures.
- Hold your pastor accountable to make space in his schedule to care for his family. I will always be thankful for a particular deacon who called me to account in this area of my life more than a decade ago. I clearly remember him leaning over a lunch table and saying to me, “Let me tell you something, Dr. T., if your wife ever has to call me about this again, I will personally take over your calendar so that you’re home when you need to be.” I had served four years as this church’s associate pastor when the senior pastor left to lead a church plant. A few months after the pastor resigned, the congregation asked me to take his place. But, even after calling an additional staff member, I wasn’t letting go of the roles I’d had as associate pastor. The result was that my wife was spending far too many evenings at home alone with our first daughter. My wife tried to talk to me about releasing some of my previous responsibilities, but I didn’t see the same problems that she was seeing. Finally, Rayann called one of our faithful deacons and described what was happening in our household. And that’s how I ended up being interrogated over lunch at Applebee’s about why I was spending so many evenings enmeshed in church meetings. In some ways, the notion of living this way seemed noble and sacrificial. I recalled hearing older pastors boast about spending all their evenings at church and even admonishing younger pastors, “You take care of the church, and God will take care of your family.” But Scripture does not support such a split in responsibilities, and I’m grateful that this deacon didn’t either. Be certain that your church provides your pastor with days off, free evenings, and vacation time to invest in his family.
These seven suggestions have been developed from this article by Chap Bettis.
Discuss in the Comments:
How well has your church cared for the children of your pastors? Which of the practices listed above is weakest in your church? What practices would you add to the list above?
For more on the life of the leader, take a look at The God Who Goes Before You.