IN 2020, just before the worldwide corona pandemic crisis, my wife and I took a Caribbean Cruise which was truly ‘the trip of a lifetime’. We thoroughly enjoyed our one-day Jamaica stop, but I will never forget the words of our Christian tour guide: “We live on a beautiful Island but we also have many challenges.” Reflecting upon these words one year later got me thinking about the families of pastors and church workers. Family without question is something wonderful and beautiful, ordained by God. At the same time, there are so many challenges that each family faces on a daily basis.
Maybe you heard the story about the single young pastor fresh out of Bible School who felt inspired to preach at least once a year on Christian parenting. His sermon title was for the first year came right to the point: Ten Commandments for Christian Parents. Later after he married, with two small children his sermon title changed: 10 Suggestions for Raising Christian Children.” Later as his children became teenagers, he stopped preaching on the topic of Christian parenting all together.
Recently, I watched an inspiring teaching of Craig Groeschel for leaders titled How to Last and Thrive in the Ministry. He shared 10 important traits but number 2 stood out to me especially, “lead your family to love the church”.
“Many ask me how do you balance church ministry and family? I don’t try to balance it because it seems sometimes you are spending too little time with your family or at other times you are spending too little time in church ministry. As much as possible we want to integrate both as being one and not separate. Family is church and church is our family. But when our wife or children resent the church we need to pay careful attention. We want our family to know our first ministry is always to them and what we do in church ministry is the overflow into our family and marriage. Andy Stanley once said something like this: “Nobody at home should feel like they are competing with the church.” And I would add this, your family will never resent the church when they are getting the very best of you.”
I remember fondly planting our first church in Germany and often my son Michael, who was between the ages of eight and twelve would take the city bus with me early Sunday morning, helping to set things up in church. (Just a side note, often in the same bus we ran into Mormon missionaries who too were on their way to church and suffice to say we had some very interesting conversations.) My daughter Stephanie at age about 10 began helping out with the preschoolers in church and today she is grade school teacher. Craig Groeschel goes on to make another important point:
“How do you get your children to love Jesus and the church? My advice is help them as soon as possible to serve in the church. Even if they are three or four years old have them pick up toys or help take out the trash. When children start serving at a young age it’s no longer mommy or daddy’s church but it’s their church.”
Today, both of our adult children with their spouses are serving the Lord in church ministry, which is the result of God’s unlimited grace. As all parents, we made our share of mistakes in raising our children, yet our Lord had tons of mercy with us.
I know many Christian leaders who have done their very best raising their children in the church and they are not yet serving the Lord. Such parents need to know for them that there is no condemnation! Every child, every teenager and every adult must make their own free will decision to follow Christ. Over the years I have met strong Christians active in fruitful ministry, who came from the most horrible backgrounds and many times these workers, sad to say, experienced a dysfunctional Christian family. There is so much we don’t understand about who and who does not follow Christ. Let’s not get caught up in some extreme and crazy theological position that only leads down an emotional dead-end street.
I would encourage you to read an excellent article by Brian Moss titled: I failed as a Parent: Now What? As much as we try, we can’t save our children; only God can do that. But we can join God in His work by praying for the salvation of our children for He: “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4)
When we pray for our children’s salvation, we are praying according the will of God. His desire is for our children to know Him! Let’s never forget the scripture. “Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3,9b)
If your children are still at home, cover them daily with prayers of blessing so that they will be surrounded by God’s love and protection. Mechthild and I discovered that eating meals together as a family, was one of the best settings to talk about life in general and what it means to follow the Lord. We always gave our children freedom to raise any question, no matter how uncomfortable it was at times. It was always of the most importance that we as parents never became bitter or displayed hardness of heart, especially when it came to talking about difficult situations in the church.
As leaders let us stand with other leaders who right now are struggling in their particular family or marital situation. Let’s not be shy about reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need.
May God strengthen and bless your family today! May God help your children whether small or as adults to understand and grasp deep within their hearts the intentions and the plans of our Heavenly Father in their lives. We can never thank God enough for our wife or husband, or the children given to us, as we continue to encourage them in the ways of Christ. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
Paul and his wife Mechthild have planted churches in various parts of Germany as well as in Bregenz, Austria. The Clarks are actively involved in teaching as well as assisting and coaching other churches being planted in German speaking Europe. Paul initiated and administers a web platform which provides resources and inspiration for German speaking pastors throughout Europe. Paul is author of the book: German Pentecostal Church Planting 1945–2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the Twenty-First Century.