3 WAYS TO KEEP MY DAUGHTERS FROM LEAVING THE CHURCH
Since last week many have been talking about the suicide of a megachurch minister in California. And quite a few have been writing about it. Perhaps no post has received more attention than that from a minister’s daughter who described the hurts and heartaches of her father.
“I’ve seen firsthand the beauty and pain wrapped up in a life called to ministry for almost thirty years,” she wrote on Facebook. And, as of yesterday, more than 43,000 had read her post. More than 34,000 commented. Almost 7,000 shared it. A few days later she admitted she’s been amazed and “slightly overwhelmed” at the response. The experiences shared by her readers have deepened her commitment to build the church and help those hurt by it.
I am one who was touched by her openness. Not because I’m a preacher’s kid, but because two of them live in my home. I’ve been reflecting on what they might write about the experience thirty years from now. I hope the life I’m living in front of them now will lead them still to love the bride of Christ when they’re my age.
As I think about this, I’ve come to three conclusions.
I must make sure my daughters see my love for Jesus when I’m not on the platform.
Although I regularly open my Bible and pray in my church office, I intentionally do this sometimes at home. I want my daughters to see me reading, praying, writing in my journal.
I know a preacher who asked his new wife, “How can I assure you I’m not being unfaithful to you?” “Let me see you in the Word every morning,” she answered. And many years later, she started to suspect something was wrong when she noticed his quiet time wasn’t happening. Unfortunately, she was right. (Thankfully, by the grace of God and with the support of other ministry mentors, that marriage has been saved.)
I’ve realized that a person shouldn’t go into ministry if they don’t have a deep love for the bride of Christ. Loving Jesus—not growing a church, not speaking for a crowd, not meeting the world’s needs—is the only motivation that will sustain us in ministry for a lifetime. And one of the greatest reasons I must nurture that love is so my daughters will see it and know it’s real. I want them to love Jesus, too.
But my daughters also need to understand that ministry costs something.
Every Bible hero paid a price, so we needn’t expect our service will always be easy.
Pastor’s kids know this. In her post quoted above, the minister’s daughter wrote, “Even with a family that loved Jesus, even with all the joys of serving.... ministry was HARD! Ministry hurt. Ministry has cost my father... cost all of us.”
So my daughters must see me loving my enemies well, living out Matthew 5:41, going the second mile even with someone who has hurt me. Of course, I shield them from the brokenness we discover in other people’s lives; I don’t gossip; I keep confidences. But if they see me hurt by ministry, that’s OK. No one succeeds in ministry who entered it for an easy life. They’ll learn by seeing my joy in the midst of pain.
I realize I can’t do this well enough by myself. And that leads to my final conclusion.
My daughters need a supporting church as much as I do.
“As you look upon your pastors, pray for them,” the minister’s daughter wrote. “Invest in them as friends, view them as humans, love them as brothers.”
Or sons. In an elders conference at my church, David Roadcup gave a test for how elders should relate to a younger minister: “If this was your son, would you treat him this way?”
One conversation is too common: “The pastor’s kids are walking away from the church because they see how poorly their parents have been treated there.” And yet I know or know about dozens of ministers whose sons and daughters are in ministry too, sometimes down to the third generation. The common denominator in every case is a church that cared for the soul of their pastor.
I’m praying today my daughters will see how the church is caring for me. This is important not only for me, but also for them, and for the work and witness of the church where my daughters will someday live and serve.
How is your congregation helping your children by the way they treat their pastor? How can you contribute to the strong faith of a pastor’s children?