Eyvonne Sharp

Real faith in a hard world.

One simple way to encourage your pastor

Life in a pastor’s family is a mystery to most church-goers.  They see only snippets of their pastor’s life — Sunday morning sermons, hospital visits, Sunday lunch, business meetings.  The every day experiences of a pastor and his family far outreach the view of most congregants.

This is especially true in the life of his children.

When God called my husband to be a pastor in our late 20’s, we knew the course of our lives would change radically.  Yet our greatest concerns weren’t for ourselves, but for our children.  Pastor’s kids are notorious.  We’ve all heart Aretha sing, “The only one who could ever please me was the son of a preacher-man.”  And many a country crooner has regaled the beautiful, and rebellious, preacher’s daughter.

Children in ministry families face unique challenges, especially in small communities.  Their parent’s job brings immediate notoriety along with  host of uncommunicated expectations.  Some expect perfect behavior beyond what is age appropriate, others expect a broader knowledge of scripture.   Many assume leadership skills in kids not naturally gifted for leadership.

As parents, we’ve worked hard to refrain from placing additional expectations on our children because their dad is a pastor.  Yet, we are often powerless to quell the expectations of their friends, teachers, and church members.  As much as we’ve tried to intervene for them, their childhood differs from what it would have been had their father remained a manager at a call center.

You may not see it, but your pastor often hears criticism directed not toward his Sunday message but his children’s behavior.  And while we’re the first to acknowledge our children are born with a sin nature, just like all of us, we also see them as individuals trying and failing and learning to forge their way in a difficult and confusing world.  To us, they’re our kids and we are trying to figure out how to raise them just as you are trying to figure out how to raise yours.

No ministry experience has been more painful for me, as a wife and mother, than when my children were unduly criticized because their dad is a preacher.  At the same time, no ministry experience has been as heartening as when our church has loved our children as their own.

Not long ago, my husband and I received a text message about one of our kids.  A church member noticed one of them, out in the community, doing a great job.  After some specifics, the message read, “Rest easy parents, [your kid] is doing a great job!”

Every parent enjoys hearing great things about their kids.  But in a ministry family, where the brokenness of life is a constant invader, good reports are especially appreciated.  If you see your pastor’s kid doing something great, drop him a note, send him a text, or mention it after his Sunday sermon.   Don’t make a big deal of it, and be genuine.  Your thoughtful words my encourage him more than you realize.

Note: If your pastor’s kids are really causing trouble, say something.  If they’re participating in behavior that may harm them or someone else, your pastor wants to know.  However, if you see another child behaving in the same manner and don’t have a burning desire to tell their parents, your pastor probably doesn’t need to hear about it either.  Our kids are just kids.  They need correction and guidance and love and discipline and grace — just like you and me.

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