There are few things I think about more than the salvation and sanctification of my kids. I’m sure every Christian parent could say the same, but as a pastor the stakes are a little higher and the odds seem a little less in my favour. I am aware of how very hard it is to be a pastor’s kid. I want you to know that I think about it a lot. I want you to know how thankful I am that you think about it a lot. I am so glad that you care about my family and so grateful for all the times you have told me that you are praying for the welfare of my children.
As you continue to do so here are a couple of things that I thought you would want to know:
It Is Not about Me
I can sense in some of your concerns that you are worried that I am worried about what it will say about me if some of my children stumble and struggle in their faith. A pastor can worry that people are judging him on the basis of his children’s spiritual performance. That’s bad for the pastor and its bad for the kids.
I can honestly tell you that I know that its not ultimately about me.
I see in the Bible that there is no consistent correlation between parenting and outcome. Sometimes bad parenting does produce bad children. I see that in the story of Eli. God rebukes Eli for not restraining his children. They became wicked and self indulgent men and God judges them and he judges their dad.
But, on the other hand, sometimes good men produce bad children. That happened to Samuel. Samuel is one of the best men in the Bible but the Bible says:
Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. (1 Samuel 8:3 ESV)
Good parenting does not guarantee good outcomes. Bad parenting does not guarantee bad outcomes. Obviously it is better to parent well than poorly, but just as obviously, salvation is always by grace, through faith. A pastor, like any parent, can speak of the way and show the way, but as Samuel experienced, he cannot force his children to walk in those ways. They may turn aside (God may bring them back!) and in either case it won’t be determined by him.
I know that.
That pressure is off. I will love my kids, I will pray for them, I will coach their soccer teams, provide for their needs, listen to their dreams, discipline their misbehaviours and celebrate their successes and triumphs but I will not save their souls.
I will be a factor – but not the determining factor in their spiritual lives.
Its not about me. And its not about you.
It Is Not about You
To be clear, a church that loves the pastor and the pastor’s kids is a real help when it comes to evangelizing your children. I can gladly say that my kids have never looked at the church as “the place that ate their dad”. Our kids have been loved and helped by the church.
When I was a Youth Pastor my kids were the best cared for kids in the entire church! My wife and I would arrive at service and 3 teenage girls would wisk away our daughter and we wouldn’t see her again until we went out to the car to leave. She called them “her buddies” and at 19 years old she is still in contact with a couple of them today. They have been nothing but good to us and the same has been true for each of my kids.
The church has been very good to me and it has been very good to my kids.
That isn’t to say that the job has been easy, but I’m not convinced that it has been significantly harder than the jobs done by the average dad in my church. Life is hard. We’re not in Eden anymore. It takes somebody working 45-55 hours a week to feed, clothe and house a family. You don’t need to feel guilty about that. A lot of people have come to faith in Jesus Christ while their dad was working a full time job. I did and I suspect that you did too. Hard work will not be the reason that my kids struggle in their walk of faith.
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate my time off and my paid weeks of vacation! Thank you! Just know this, you being a good church does not guarantee the salvation of my kids and you being a busy church does not guarantee that they will struggle.
Its bigger than that and its harder than that.
It Is Really Hard
There is no way around it. Being a pastor’s kid is hard. The other kids and even the leaders expect you to know all the answers. I have one kid who found that really hard. When you do know all the answers its easy to find Sunday School and Youth Group boring and basic. I had another kid who found that really hard. You also feel like everyone is watching you. Which, of course, they are. They are watching to see what movies you go to, what shorts you are allowed to wear and what apps you are allowed to download. They want to know stuff about you that isn’t really about you.
Its about me.
And that’s really, really hard.
But here is the good news: God is really, really good.
But God Is Really Good
Going into ministry feels like putting your kids on the altar. It’s a perpetual re-enactment of the story of Abraham and Isaac. To follow God it seems like you have to put your kids at risk and to a certain extent it is like that. You could make the argument that my decision to go into ministry made it less likely that my kids will go to heaven – I’ve heard that argument. It gets whispered into my soul on a fairly regular basis.
And when I hear it – when I begin to shake and tremble – I go to Mount Moriah and I see again the goodness and the mercy of God. After Abraham bound his son, his only son, whom he loved, upon the altar God said this:
“Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:12–14 ESV)
The first line of that passage encourages me to believe in the goodness of God. The last line encourages me to wait for the timing of God: “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:14 ESV)
Not on the plain and not on the steppes. On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided. Abraham had to walk a long way with his heart in his mouth before learning that glorious truth.
So may your pastor.
So may you.
God has his own way. He has his own timing. But he is always good.
I’m trusting in that and I’d love for you to trust in that too. Please continue to pray and to care and to rest in the goodness and the kindness of our God.
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
N.B. To listen to the Into The Word podcast, featuring Pastor Paul Carter, see here.