April 24, 2013

The View From the Eyes of the Pastor's Kid

I am at Exponential this week and have invited a few guests to post in my place. Today, I'm welcoming Rachelle to the blog. She brings a needed perspective to our ongoing conversation in this space regarding ministry: the perspective of the pastor's kid.

I grew up as a pastor's kid. {Insert your typical stereo-types and jokes here.}
Would you believe that, at age 35, I still get introduced sometimes as "the pastors' daughter"? And now, since my husband is full time at our church I also get the title "pastor's wife", which comes with its own separate jokes and pre-conceived notions.

My dad started a church over 30 years ago, so I have owned the title "pastor's kid" for as long as I can remember.
When you grow up as a pastor's kid, because people come to the pastor when there is trouble, there were many times that I would know about marriage problems, financial issues and many other difficulties with many people from my church. It became my responsibility to keep quiet about all of them. We had very little money, and I watched my parents get a lot of expectations piled on them. I also realized that people were watching me all the time.

My parents’ marriage was watched closely, as well as their parenting, their financial decisions, their leisure activity--all of it. My dad was expected to be on call 24/7. I remember one time he got a call at 2:00 am because a lady had lost her cat and wanted my dad to come and rescue it from a tree. 
He went. He was expected to be at the hospital if there was a church member, or family of a church member, friend of a church member who was sick. Our door was always expected to be open, and people were free to stop in any time they chose.

Through all of this, my dad did not and does not complain. He has felt the call of God on his life, and he is the most merciful, gracious person that I know.

But here is why I think that many pastor's kids go off the deep end:
They see all of this.
They see all of the time, the work, the effort that goes into being a pastor.
And the sad part is, they also see the meanest side of people. Most of the time, it is by people claiming the name of Jesus! It can just blow your mind the things that people can say and do. If that is allowed to stay in your mind, and you dwell on it, and don't bring it before God and leave it there? It can destroy you.

So here's what happens: As a kid (or as a wife) watching her daddy (or husband) get treated like this is so disconcerting. You can start to feel like you just can't trust anyone. You can start to wonder, “Is really worth it, pleasing God and serving people with your life?”

I am very blessed.
My dad has a very godly, supportive and loving wife. My dad never ever put the ministry before his family. (and this is hard to do!) My dad knew that God wanted him to give his life to serve his community. And the most important part: my dad has a personal, growing relationship with a God who loves him and wants what is best for him. I learned how to handle the hard parts of ministry from watching my dad.

So for those of you who have had your own ideas or expectations of pastor's kids or pastor's wives, I encourage you to look at it a little bit differently for a minute. Understand the pressure, the unrealistic expectations, the stress and the pain that goes along with it. Understand that your pastor has feelings, that he is under attack, and that his wife and kids have real needs just like you do. Consider writing an encouraging note to your pastor, his wife or even their kids. Don’t participate in spreading gossip about him or his family. Make sure you are totally in the Spirit before you even think of putting down his character (and especially don't talk to him about some issue right before or after he preaches). Pray for him and his family a little bit harder.

And the next time you are tempted to judge, or criticize, try looking at the view from the eyes of a pastor's kid, a kid who is still developing his view of the world, of people, and of God. Try looking at the view from the eyes of a pastor's wife, who just longs to have a friend who cares about them, who wants to get together for coffee, not because they need counsel, but because they actually care about her.

Finally, if you are the pastor’s wife or the pastor’s kid, remember this promise from God’s Word: “
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

If you are not a member of a pastor's family, what have you learned from Rachelle that you can put into practice? If you are a member of a pastor's family, how do you embrace the life and calling God has given you?