My family recently celebrated the last Sunday of my dad’s senior pastorate at a church. 14 years ago, I came in as a wild-eyed and rambunctious 9-year-old who talked too loud and threw the football down the halls. These past years have been incredible, as our much of our church family has shown me grace upon grace, and deeply cared about my life. I often joke that the Lord sent me as a sanctifying force- both for my parents who raised me and for the church family who embraced all that I was. I could not be more thankful for the way the Lord led my family to a church who supported us, worshipped with us, and showed us Jesus.
But to be honest, as good as these years have been, there have also been plenty of difficult times. Having parents so invested in a group of people, in a calling, and in relationships for the sake of the Gospel comes at a price. Fruitful ministry (in any vocation) comes with roll-up-your-sleeves kind of work. Sometimes it means vacations are cut short, sometimes it means people don't get along with your family because of decisions that have been made, and sometimes it means that you see a side of the church most people don't- the dirty side of ministry in a fallen world- relationships that are severed, and sin that overpowers.
For 23 years I've watched the church both struggle and thrive, be both vulnerable and closed up, treat leaders with grace and treat leaders with harshness, be receptive to the Gospel and run from it. I too am a part of that body of believers, and that struggle for balance is ever present in my own life. But, I also have a unique perspective as a pastor's daughter. I've watched my parents in their own ups and downs- both with the joy of serving their Savior and the hardship and sacrifice for them personally that has come with that. I've known pk friends who ran from the Lord because of their broken relationship with their family's church, and I've known other pk friends who run after the Lord wholeheartedly because of their relationship. Growing up, there were times when I experienced both. Some days the critics and legalistic perspectives that I sensed seemed all consuming. But there were other times when my relationships with leaders, youth pastors, moms in the church and others pointed me to Jesus. They showed me that living out the Gospel is so much more than just showing up on Sunday and singing in the choir. It’s about real people with real struggles who come together, acknowledging their mess, and reminding one another about the hope in the One who is making it all right again. Because of them, my worldview as a pk was shaped into less about doing all the right things and having all the right answers, and more about showing others the Savior who was working on my heart.
And so, I urge you, for whatever children romp around your church classrooms, race up and down the sanctuary aisles and peek into your offices- I urge you to love them well. You as a congregation have a unique opportunity to pour into your pastor’s family in a way that will greatly shape their children's future view of the church. The words that you speak have weight and the way you interact with them matters. The way you either point them to Jesus or choose to make life about anything else will stick with them.
- There will be times when all they want to do is be anywhere else- love them well.
- There will be times when they have way too many right answers in Sunday School- show them grace.
- There will be times when they're sick of feeling like they're on a platform- the most loving thing that you can do is show your own vulnerability.
- There will be times when they will be late- treat them like you would the normal late-comers. Even pastor's daughters have wardrobe struggles and hair disasters.
- There will be times when they feel like the "goody two shoes" at school and want to be anything but that- love them by living a life shaped by Jesus, not one of moralism.
- There will be times when they don't want to show up at the outreach that Saturday because they've spent the past 4 days doing church events- love them by being understanding.
- There will be times when they lie, times when they break the rules, times when they are normal teenagers- love them by living out the Gospel of redemption and restoration- not just by breathing down their necks.
- There will be times when they feel loved by the men and women they're around, and there will be times when they'll feel like they have WAY too many moms- be their confidant, not their dictator.
- There will be times when they know too much- love them anyway.
- There will be times when they take a family trip- love them by not calling- let them recharge as a family.
- There will be times when they question what this ministry for Jesus is all about- let them doubt, and love them through it.
- There will be times when their family's brokenness is on display for all to see- don't overlook it or avoid it- celebrate the example of a desperate need of Jesus. And follow it with the assurance that He has His children in the palm of His hand.
There will be times of needed correction, needed mentoring, and needed verbal encouragement in the truths of the Scripture. But if a congregation will make it a point to love their pastor's children with an understanding of their own brokenness and desperate continued need of a Savior, they will see the relationship as an opportunity, not a burden. An opportunity to love someone with your sleeves rolled up, knowing all the while that our God never stops being about the business of advancing His kingdom. What you do matters. As your pastor serves you, serve his family. They aren't any "better" than the rest of the congregation, and they aren't trying to be. They need Jesus, nothing more. Let them see Jesus, let them rest in that.