If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? 1 Timothy 3:5
I think you and I would agree that we should keep our families as our first priority. But exactly how do we do that. As pastors and church leaders, we know that in the real world of ministry it can be easier said than done. So many different things pull at us for our attention, not to mention the weekly routine to keep all our “ministry plates” spinning. How can we keep family first in our day-to-day ordinary lives?
Dr. Don Sisk said, “We have put our ministries before our families for far too long, and too many have lost both family and ministry.”* One of the things my wife Susie and I are most thankful for is that our 5 PK’s all love Jesus. The “Ebie Fab 5” grew up PK’s and we praise God that as adults, they and their families have faith in Christ.
I was tempted to share some of the things that Susie and I did with our kids, but are these the things that really worked, and will they work for you? So rather than talk about what we did, I decided to go to the experts and ask our 5 PK’s to share their experience growing up in the parsonage and pastor’s house. I asked them two questions, and we will focus on the first this month: “What did you enjoy or appreciate about growing up a PK?” Put simply tell me what you liked. You might want to have this conversation with your PK’s too.
A common theme was how growing up a PK strengthened their faith in Jesus. The example of mom and dad was genuine. My one daughter put it this way, “The teaching at church reinforced what we learned at home.” Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be. Don’t we wish more of the parents in our churches understood that they cannot expect the church to be the primary teacher and example of faith for their children. Instead it is how we live at home that can be reinforced by what kids are taught in Sunday School or the youth group.
We all know the reality that more is often caught than taught. That’s why another daughter shared that we were always learning lessons of faith. One lesson that has strengthened her faith was the certainty that the LORD is faithful and will always provide. Growing up she knew that from time to time we made some sacrifices and that there were needs, but without fail we always had food on the table and our needs were met. She was grateful for how often God would use people around us to meet those needs. This builds her faith to know that no matter what she and her husband might be going through today, God will be there to provide for them.
They also recognized that their faith was the result of being faithful attenders at church. But they knew we didn’t attend church because dad was the pastor. We reinforced that we were there because we loved Jesus. Even if dad was not in the ministry and they could be like all the other kids, we would still go to church faithfully because it was one way we expressed our love for God.
Another common response our PK’s gave was how much they enjoyed being a part of what we did at the church. The “we” is key; we did ministry together. Even when the kids were young they got to be involved with mom and dad in the work of the ministry. Whether it was helping with transparencies (remember those?) cleaning, doing lawn work, serving meals, working in the church office or whatever, each of the kids had an opportunity to serve with us.
Early on we started teaching our kids that ministry was an expression of their faith in Jesus. No one should do things at church because other people expected it. Everything we do should simply be because we love Jesus. My daughter said her involvement gave her a sense of ownership and pride in the church – it was her church. And she knew that her opinion mattered; because she was involved in the ministry, dad would listen to what she said.
My son also expressed how much he enjoyed being able to let his ministry gifts and talents be developed. Four of our five PK’s grew up singing and playing the piano, drums, guitar, or bass at church. We did our best to let our kids be themselves and let who they are as an individual define their ministry involvement. Let me encourage you to not force your kids into a ministry box that does not fit them. Allow their faith to find expression in what they want to do, so their gifts and talents can thrive.
Each of the kids also expressed how much they enjoyed the many different friends they made as PK’s. The joke around our house was that the church provided a social outlet for our “Ebie homeschool.” Our kids had lots of peers as friends, but they also were comfortable relating with adults. These relationships helped to shape who they are today.
We took advantage of every opportunity we could. Our kids were involved in PK Retreats, family camp and other network events. Let me encourage you to have your children participate in these events and make some great friendships – some that may last a lifetime.
And the kids had the bonus of getting to know missionaries, other ministers who visited the church, as well as pastors and their families in our community. Sitting at lunch after church, they were included in the conversation. And they were always excited when one of these adults recognized them at another event. Let me encourage you to not only help foster these relationships, but take the time to recognize the PK’s you know at network events. Make PK’s special because they are known and valued as family and friends.
Next month we will examine the flip side of the priority of family and ministry with the second question: “What were the greatest challenges you faced growing up a PK?” Until then, remember ministry matters because the stuff of ministry is of eternal significance.
* Dr. Don Sisk, Balancing Family and Ministry. September 5, 2013. http://ministry127.com/pastoral-leadership/balancing-family-and-ministry. Accessed, January 12, 2018.