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4 Principles for Raising Your Kids While in Ministry

I was honored to be asked to speak at the HIM Conference this last weekend in Waikiki, Hawaii. It’s an amazing conference with strong communicators such as Francis Chan, Tony Campolo, Dr. Gary Chapman (Five Love Language fame), and Nancy Duarte (who presented a fascinating message on communication). I had never been, and I hope to return … a really good conference.

One of the workshops I presented there was titled, Raising Kids While Doing Ministry. When I was a young minister, I feared that ministry would wound my family. I had heard numerous stories of the crazed “PK” (pastor’s kid) who was out of control — they were common stories. Actually, this premise still seems to gather attention and is currently being promoted by the show Preachers’ Daughter.

Today, our kids are 24, 21 and 18, and all love Jesus, the church and their family. Raising our kids in ministry worked for us and wasn’t the colossal failure that I had feared.

When Cathy and I sat down to identify some principles that could be connected to intentional actions, we came up with the following four. I’m sure there are more, but these are ones we can say that we intentionally sought out. They are:

1.The PERKS principle: We included our kids in our ministry as soon as they were born. Our kids got to go places and do things that most kids didn’t (camps and conferences). There are perks of being in ministry — you just have to look for them (i.e. keys to the sanctuary, access to the church kitchen/refrigerator, a flexible schedule, etc. … ).

2.The PEOPLE principle: We surrounded our kids with incredibly wonderful people, friends and mentors: meetings in our home, amazing volunteers, interns and staff that rubbed shoulders with our family. These were the people who baby-sat, hung-out with, mentored and led our kids closer to Jesus. Our children were influenced by a community of amazing people, and we are so grateful.

3. The PRESENCE principle: Because of the flexibility of a ministry schedule (perk), we arranged everything within our calendars to be at our kids’ stuff. Since I didn’t work a 9-5, Monday through Friday, type of job, I had the freedom to attend events during the day and coach sports in the afternoon. Ministry kept us busy, but our calendar time kept us focused and present. Our children have adopted this principle and are now present for us and one another.

4. The PERFORMANCE principle: We allowed and encouraged them to be themselves. Ministers teach their congregation that they should be who God created them to be … but, so often within ministry, families want their kids to be who “others” want them to be. This was a tough one for me, but with the help of my wife, I worked hard not to allow my own insecurity (what others would think of me) to wound our children. We became aware at a young age that we needed to either focus on their behavior (behavior modification) or focus on following Jesus. As much as they didn’t feel pressure from us, we soon realized that they would feel pressure from others (about being PK’s) and that pressure (from others) was more than enough.

We weren’t perfect parents! You won’t be either, but the stories that scared me about raising kids in ministry aren’t the only stories out there. The story that was written about family and ministry is one we’d want written again … and we’d want it for others too.