My husband is a pastor and we live in the parsonage – a fishbowl environment subjecting us to scrutiny by sometimes critical church members. Our children can’t help but see how we are sometimes treated unpleasantly and unfairly. We are very concerned that this negative influence will turn them against God.
Dear Concerned Parent,
A few pastors and leaders we know have children who turned out very differently. In one family, two sons followed their father’s footsteps to become pastors themselves. In the other, the children abandoned their faith as adults. When we asked the first family about their life as PKs (pastors’ kids) they admitted experiencing everything that you mentioned – hurtful remarks from self-appointed critics, unfair accusations, etc. They recalled, “Being eyewitnesses to such injustice, we realised that a pastor’s life was hard, but our faith in God was strengthened when we saw how our parents remained faithful to God.
“Dad often told us it was a privilege to serve a loving God. He was blessed with a wife who gave full support to his calling. When he was misunderstood by church members, Mom would do damage-control with her tactful gifting to clarify. I could see their ministry was not a job but a calling from God. Mom was aware that we children would also bear the brunt of criticism so she often reminded us, ‘We are a pastor’s family. People are watching us. We have to set good examples.’ Sometimes, she laid down the law about what we could or could not do, for example, with regard to certain movies or pop songs. She has said that she’s glad her children were not influenced by their peers.”
The adult daughter of a church leader attributed her strong faith to the family altar they had since childhood. “Our devotions are a precious time to gather as a family. We are able to connect not only on a physical but on a deeper, spiritual level; listening, learning, sharing and expressing appreciation. When we pray for each other’s needs, it affirms our deep care and love – feelings rarely expressed in Chinese culture.”
Research has shown that each family has definite, consistent conversational patterns in the home and usually, negative words outweigh positive ones. If parents constantly grumble and complain about their church, is it any wonder that the children become angry and resentful? The Bible says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful in building others up… that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29) We must consciously be careful of our speech at home to avoid causing our family members to be infected by our anger.
I have recently started a book in which I record a personalised list for each of my five grandchildren. I pray for specific things I observe are needful in their lives, like controlling temper, forgiveness, etc. One thing I pray for is protection, not only physically but from destructive criticism. The enemy has an evil plan to destroy our children’s lives just as God has a good plan for them. So I pray for protection against the enemy using people to ambush them with negative language. In this way, I am guarding their faith.
We cannot control outside forces but we can control our own influence over our children. We need God’s help to be good role models: by the way we live our lives they will catch our faith, by our words they will see our hearts and by our prayers they will be protected
Do you have an issue you need advice on? Write to Dear Goldie at firstname.lastname@example.org for her godly counsel. Selected questions may be featured in this column. If you leave an email address, you will have your question answered, whether it’s published or not.