by Brian Dollar/ January 31, 2015
This week I got an e-mail from a fellow kids’ pastor. It said, “How hard do you push your children? What about those days when someone from the church has been extremely rude? Or when a party took place on Saturday night and on Sunday morning my kids have to clean before worship service can even begin? Or when they are just plain TIRED? Everyone gets frustrated from time to time because we are dealing with humans. How do I, as a mother, know when I’m pushing them too hard? The LAST thing I want is for them to look back one day and resent the time and energy that children’s ministry takes.”
I totally understand the difficulty of this delicate balance. My wife and both of my kids (ages 12 and 14) are VERY involved in our kids’ ministry. They LOVE it! But, I don’t ever want to take that for granted. I want to be proactively working to preserve that spirit and excitement for God, the church, and the ministry. Here are five things I do to help make that happen. Perhaps you can apply these to your family situation. . . .
1. Always talk positively about the church, its leadership, and the ministry.
I don’t mean wear rose-colored glasses and act like there are never any challenges. I think if you act like nothing is ever wrong or difficult, then your kids are not fooled and they start to see you as “fake.” Acknowledge the difficulties (cleaning up after a party when you didn’t plan on it, having to get up early to set up, etc.), but remind them that God has called your family to do an incredible task—lead kids to Christ. Remind them what a privilege it is—and always make sure your tone and verbiage communicate that YOU count it as a privilege.
2. Guard them from “church drama.”
I know too many pastors and church leaders who come home speaking negatively and “dissing” the pastor and/or other leadership when there is a disagreement at church. They do this to their spouse and in front of their kids. Listen carefully—your kids pick up on that. When they see you hurting because of what church leaders or other pastors have done and said, it clouds their emotions and it is difficult for them to let go.
Don’t bring your offense home to your family. They may end up carrying that bitterness long after you have already made up with the person you were feuding with. Most of the time you don’t go back and tell your kids about the restoration of that relationship. They are left feeling the effects of the bitterness that you ended up sowing in them (however unwittingly).
3. Treat your kids just like everyone else.
Well obviously they have to get up earlier than most and also tag along with me at times. But other than that, I treat my kids just like any other worker on my team. I expect the same out of them (not more, not less) than anyone else on the team. I never say to them, “You are my kid, so I expect you to do more than the rest of the team.” Instead, I say, “Remember, you are a leader on this team—others are watching your example. Let’s set the best example possible and lead people in the right direction.” When you apply additional pressure to them simply because they are your kid, they will soon begin to resent the reason for that pressure.
4. Pray as a family—for your pastor, your church, and the ministry.
It is very difficult to pray for someone or something regularly and be angry or discontented with them. My family and I pray for my pastor and his family regularly. We pray God’s blessings on him, the leadership, and the church as a whole. This endears my pastor and the church to my kids. Rather than driving them further from the church, it does the opposite. There’s an old saying, “If you talk about someone to others, you will grow to hate them. But, if you talk about someone to God, you grow to love them.”
5. Serve with joy.
Let them see you smile as you clean up after the party from the night before. Let them hear you rejoice about the opportunities to serve in kids’ ministry. Talk about it as a FAMILY ministry. Don’t let them feel like they are just “helping Mom” or “helping Dad.” Instead, talk about the difference WE are making. Include them in the joy that comes from serving God and His church.
It’s a blessing to have your family serving with you in the work of the ministry. But, never leave the health of your family to chance. Be PROACTIVE and PURPOSEFUL in planting the seeds of a healthy spirit of gratitude and love for God and the ministry. It won’t happen by accident!