A few months ago, I was listening to one of the leaders in our ministers alliance group talk about how ministers were having trouble with their adult children. Often these adult kids were falling into sin and disrepair. He asked us why we thought that was happening.
I didn’t say anything at the time, because I couldn’t see how what I had to say would be helpful. It was more likely to just cause pain. A minister’s job is hard enough without me adding to the difficulty by nit-picking or criticizing. As I thought about it later, though, I realized that there are a lot of young people who read this blog and feel called to the ministry. Perhaps my words could highlight a danger zone to these up-and-coming ministers. What if they could avoid the same problems when their future children reached adulthood?
With that in mind, I want to highlight one reason I believe so many ministers’ children are backsliding or walking away from God.
In the 90’s, when I received my ministerial training, there was such an energy — a drive to “get things done” for the Lord. If you were really going to do something for the Lord, you needed to move and shake. You needed to do things fast and big. Everywhere I looked, both parents were equally involved in the work of the ministry (which we all know is a 24/7 job). That meant that both parents were engaged in ministry around the clock. Even then, before I had my own children, it seemed to me that the children were being lost in the shuffle. Their parents were moving so fast that the minister’s kids were just being drug along for the ride. It’s easy to see why. The demands of ministry are urgent and never-ending, and what it takes to have a successful ministry is relentless.
From my perspective, even back then, it seemed that many of the ministers believed that if they had a significant enough ministry and they prayed over their kids enough, their kids would turn out fine. I call that “slapping a prayer on it”. “Slapping a prayer on it” is when you don’t take the time to get in the Word, find out what God says about a thing and make necessary changes before you pray, but instead, immediately say a prayer as you keep moving in the same direction. You aren’t really praying. You are just slapping a prayer on your own desires, plans and will. (If we really want our prayers to be effective, we need to slow down, get in the Word and yield ourselves to what we see there. Effective praying requires a little more than just saying a prayer. It requires lining up with the Word. But that’s another post…)
Just praying over our kids and speaking the right things about them isn’t enough to prepare them for life, and it doesn’t teach them to live in a Godly way. Teaching our kids to stand in an ungodly world requires time, effort and relationship. Prayer is important, but prayer for a child will never be a substitute for training a child. And training a child takes a lot of one on one time – it takes mentorship.
As I watched different ministers and their ministries over the years, I began to see some disturbing things. While the ministries thrived, often the minsiter’s kids did not. Oh, the kids didn’t say much about it. They flowed with their parents’ busy lives and seemed, from the outside at least, to do well. They knew all the right answers. But when I looked more deeply, I saw hurting kids. They came second to their parent’s ministries and they knew it.
I’m not questioning these parents’ love for their kids. Quite the contrary. It was always evident to me that they loved their kids. Most of the time, they brought their kids into all aspects of their ministries. They wanted their kids with them. It’s not a question of love, but of method. I watched these kids as their parents repeatedly put things that were important to the children on the back burner because of their ministry. Children are understanding. They can handle a good bit of that. But when it becomes a lifestyle it begins to eat away at a child’s self-esteem and their belief that they are as important to you as your ministry. My belief is that kids should know they are more important than your ministry. They need to know that when it comes down to a choice between the needs of the ministry and their needs, sometimes, at least, you will choose them.
Fast forward a few years. When my husband and I began having our own children, we were in the middle of starting new churches. The work load was enormous. But I carried all that I had seen in my heart. Somehow, my kids had to know that the ministry did not come before them.
I made a lot of sacrifices over the years to make that happen. I also faced a lot of ridicule, because people (especially other ministers) often didn’t understand why I wasn’t running at breakneck speed, dragging my kids along behind me. If you slow down a little ministerially so you can be there for your children, people assume that your kids come before the Lord in your eyes. I was accused of putting my family above the Lord and not loving the Lord. Why? Because I separated my relationship with the Lord from the work of the ministry. I dared to believe that God had given me the responsibility to raise my children FIRST, before the work He gave me in the ministry. I dared to believe that if I put the responsibility for my children above the ministry, somehow everything would turn out okay.
Most of my children are teenagers now. I am beginning to see the fruits of the choices I made when they were young. My kids don’t just love God — they are hungry for Him. They joyfully look for ways to serve in ministry. They hear from God on their own and obey Him. My relationship with them is strong and rich. It remains to be seen how they will navigate adulthood, but their prospects look healthy and bright.
Have I always done these things well? Quite honestly, no. I haven’t. I see a lot of holes, gaps and mistakes. But over the years I have continued to make corrections and to learn. Now, when I ask my kids, they tell me that while they know God comes first with me, they also know they come before our ministry. And I see the results that only come from taking the time to really talk to my kids, to slow down to their speed and train them in the best way I know how.
I am not saying you should be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom as I have done. There are so many different ways to take the time to train our children — to put them before our jobs/ministries. You will have to find out what God has for your family. What I am saying, is that there is a real danger to mistake the accolades of man for the approval of God. Just because you receive a lot of feedback from people doesn’t mean you are preparing your kids for life. I’m saying that there are no shortcuts to child training and parenting. You can’t drop your kids off somewhere and expect someone else to be able to do it. You can’t pray over them and expect the prayers to do it. You have to take the time to train them. God gave parents to kids for a reason, and no one else can do that job as well as YOU, their parent.
Always put God first, but don’t mistake your ministry for God. Don’t let your kids fall into second place behind your ministry. Let them know that, after God, your family gets the first and best of you. Believe me, it will make a lasting impression on them.
Have a great day!