According to Dr. Don Lichi, research suggests growing up in a minister’s home has risks and rewards. His list of rewards includes well-developed social skills, opportunities for interaction with spiritual leaders and resiliency. On the flip side, the negatives include children being overly scrutinized and often held to higher standards than other children. This often leads to undue stress, rebellion and rejection of the church, religion and parents.
Reflecting on my own journey with my wife of 47 years, two children (now grown), and four congregations, I recognize there were mistakes; but there were also successes. I’ve learned with God’s help, wise and godly counsel, learning from (and laughing at) our mistakes, and doing the best we can goes a long way toward making those years rewarding. Here are some insights from my journey:
• Make God and your family your highest priorities. Your first calling is to God, your spouse and you children. Your family members need to know they are the first priorities in your life. This is not an option.
• Materialism dominates the secular world. Survival usually dominates the clergy world! The fact is many pastors…have earned the academic equivalent of Ph.D. or M.D., but per hour earn the equivalent of a crew chief at a fast-food restaurant. Tough economic times can cause stress. Take the challenge of finding creative ways to flourish on a small salary. Learn ways to stretch the earned dollar through classes, workshops and seminars offered by financial experts, local colleges and banking institutions.
• Model godly authority. In an age that promotes doing our own thing, we need to model submissiveness to the will of God. God rejoices in our commitment and surrendered lives. The structure of authority under God is a safety net for God’s people, including pastors and their families.
• God Himself took a day off from His labor of forming and establishing creation. However, too many clergy work 60-80 hours per week. Is it any wonder the pastor’s average tenure for the Church of the Nazarene is 53 months? Set an example for your children and laity: Rest and relax. Take a Sabbath (obviously not Sunday with services, preaching, leading, teaching, etc.) of rest, refreshment, renewal and recreation! It is a gift from God.
• Model a forgiving spirit. Rare is the pastor who has not been criticized privately and publically. When we choose to respond appropriately, our response can be a model for our children and the world of how the true Christian spirit is exemplified.
In his book The Tale of a Tardy Oxcart, Charles Swindoll remembers the words of Sonny Jurgensen, quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Jurgensen was being attacked by sportswriters and fans because the team was in a deep slump. When a sportswriter asked him if all the criticism was getting to him, Jurgensen flashed a big toothless grin and replied, “Naw, not me. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that every week the quarterback is either in the penthouse or the outhouse.” That can apply to married couples, too. Here are some quick tips on marriage and family.
• Model love, honor and respect for your spouse. Let your spouse (and others) know he or she is your number one love! There are far too many who have lost family and church because of infidelity. Hold hands, kiss, speak well of and affirm your spouse before your children and the church.
• Model servanthood before your children by giving your time, talent and resources. Let them see you serve others in humility, sacrifice and joy. Help out at a soup kitchen, volunteer at a fair trade store, serve on a community or school board, join a service club, participate in a work-and-witness trip, or any other number of ways that lets them know service is part of the Christian walk.
• Take the time to build and nurture close, lasting relationships. Everyone needs godly friends who can nurture, comfort and counsel. Jesus called to Himself a group of 12 friends (the apostles) and an inner circle of three (Peter, James and John).
• Let God be God. I know there are times when we are not happy because of circumstances. Remember God is our Friend who wants the very best for us. Sometimes that takes us through the fire, but He will be with us to sustain us as our best Friend. Communicate with Him, and tell Him your feelings…it’s OK…He already knows. Let God be the God of your life!