By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
"Dad, what would you do if I started using drugs like my friend?" our son, Brandon, asked Steve one day as he walked into his office.
Brandon was in middle school when one of his friends was caught using drugs. As a result, the friend's parents sent the child away to a boarding school. Brandon was visibly upset by their response - so it prompted his inquiry.
Steve is a pastor of a church in California's Central Valley. At that time, the town was known as a "meth town." Great place to raise kids and to do ministry - right? When the drug trouble started visiting Brandon's friends, we became keenly aware of how vulnerable our son could become. And now, Brandon's eyes had also been opened to the threat.
But what was Brandon really asking? When you're the parent of a pastor's kid, it's wise to get to the root of your kid's question. While other children may wonder how their wrong choice would affect their relationship with their parents, for a pastor's kid, there is an unspoken (and sometimes spoken) understanding that their wrong behavior can negatively impact their dad's career.
What a burden for a kid to bear - right? Not to mention the pressure this type of thinking puts upon the pastor's marriage. For example, when the minister's kids are out of control in the nursery, talk while their dad is preaching, or refuse to engage in youth group activities, the concern over how the congregation perceives their parenting abilities can create conflict between the pastor and his wife.
This conflict is compounded by the secrecy pastors often impose upon their families. It is a lonely pastor who believes he must grin and bare it, muscle through the rough patch, and hope his congregation won't judge him and his wife too harshly when their kiddos don't measure up. Gosh, I'm exhausted just thinking about that fishbowl type of life - what about you?
So, how did Steve respond to Brandon's inquiry?
Steve looked up from his desk, put down the book he was reading, and looked deep into Brandon's curious eyes. Steve replied quietly, "Son, if you started using drugs, I would quit my job as pastor. I'd strap on my nail bags and go back to work as a carpenter. And I would take you to work with me every single day until you were free from the drugs. You are my priority ministry."
Adolescent-aged Brandon's lip began to quiver. He was trying to be a man and hold his emotions in check, but finally, the tears began to fall. He hugged his dad and simply replied, "Thanks, Dad."
Wow, I tear up every time I tell this story. I was seated in Steve's office. So, I had the privilege of observing one of the sweetest times of intimacy between my son and his dad. Brandon needed to know his father valued him more than his reputation or career as a pastor. And guess what? Your pastor's kids need you to know that too.
PKs Can Be Okay
I think we have all heard the sad stories of the PK who is not okay. The pastor's kid who grew up resenting how the church took advantage of his father, ignored the pastor's family, or expected perfection from kids who grew up in the fishbowl existence of ministry life.
Have you ever considered how your pastor's children need your support? When you make it a point to encourage your pastor's kids, you can literally pour courage into their hearts and minds. And uplifting your pastor's family will bless him as well.
Let's take a moment to unpack three practical ways you can support your pastor's kids:
1. Acknowledge Them
Look the child in the eye. Know their names. Smile at them. If they're in a conversation with their dad, don't interrupt. If it's their father's day off, don't interrupt their family time.
These ideas may seem like simple gestures, but you'd be surprised how much your respect for your pastor's time will be appreciated. And acknowledging the child will make them feel like they've been seen and valued.
2. Contribute to Their Need
Most pastors don't go into the ministry to make much money. Living lean often comes with the territory. Pastors are usually willing to make the sacrifice because of their passion for serving Christ. But what about their kids? What about the pastor's child who doesn't get to participate in events because his parents just can't afford the ticket?
While other children whose parents have different careers might also be left out of certain activities due to finances - your pastor's child may be tempted to believe they're the only one who is sidelined because of his father's low-paying ministry job. What would it be like if, once in a while, you offered to pay for those football cleats or ballet slippers?
3. Pray for Them
I know it seems like an obvious contribution for partitioners to pray daily for their pastor and his family. But let's be honest, often the only time church-goers enter into real intercession for the pastor's kids is when one of them has gone wayward. What if you determine to pray powerfully for your pastor's children - before they run into trouble?
James 5:16 says, "The effective fervent prayer of a righteous one avails much." What if, like Moses, you placed yourself upon the mountaintop with arms raised in diligent prayer for God's protection over your pastor's children?
Satan is a prowling lion who comes to kill, steal and destroy. And if he cannot break through your pastor's armor, you can be sure he will turn his fiery darts toward your minister's children. You'll never know this side of eternity how your prayers might deflect the enemy's attempts to harm your pastor's kids. But I believe one day God will reveal that to you.
When our kids were in high school, there was a group of frail elderly women in our church who interceded for our children. I am forever grateful for their powerful prayer support. All of those women have gone home to be with Christ. I am confident our Savior will reward them for their prayer ministry to our family.
Pastor appreciation can be expressed in multiple ways. A card is encouraging. A hug is nice. But deciding to uphold your pastor's children by acknowledging them, respecting their family time, contributing to their needs, and praying for them are practical ways to minister to your minister and his family – all year through.
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