My children experienced something I never experienced—that is, growing up in a manse: they were part of that often wonderful, and always special and unique group of individuals known as “pks” or “mks”—preachers’ or missionaries’ kids! Being a pastor and having a family is a two-fold privilege, but the combination of the two is not without its peculiar challenges (sometimes aptly called “burdens”) as well as special blessings (benefits).
There are certain burdens connected with being a pastor’s family that deserve special consideration. First, there is the burden of living constantly under the scrutinizing gaze of the public’s eye. Pastors, their wives and children are usually held by the saved and by the unsaved alike more accountable for their actions than others are. They are, in a very real sense, public servants. For them a good rule to live by is “others may, I cannot.”
Second, there is sometimes placed upon pastors’ children by their well-meaning parents the burden of unrealistic expectations. Pastors who expect their sons to be preachers because they are preachers, or their daughters to be missionaries or to marry a pastor because they grew up as a pastor’s daughter, place a burden upon their children that is unfair. Every pastor should be delighted to see his daughter or son surrender to “full-time” Christian service, but to expect that they will because you did is misguided. As a father, I should be as excited to see my child in any other honorable vocation if he or she is yielded to the will of God.
A third burden that needs to be addressed is one of the most serious of all: that of ministering to every other family in the church to the neglect of your own. Pastors easily can become so busy meeting others’ needs that they forget the needs of their family; so unreservedly active in the building of their church that they neglect the more important building of their home. Pastor, missionary, beware! Special care must be given to your own wife and to your own children. Make a conscious and consistent effort to spend time with your family each week. (By the way, this counsel is appropriate for any father/husband, whether a pastor or office worker or laborer in any field!) While your children are small, spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Play with them, read to them, tell stories to them (ask Sandra, Marti or Theo about my Sammy and Sally stories). There will be a day when they are not any longer at home and you will be able to do other things that you had to forego in deference to meeting their needs. Give them yourself when they need you and before it is too late.
I must mention a final “burden,” one that is perhaps the most subtle and snaring of all—that of not demanding of yourself consistency in your Christian walk before your own family at home. Hypocrisy will ruin families of those in ministry faster than criticism, coldness or callousness in and from the local assembly. Your children know what you preach and they also know how you live, both in public and in private. They can see your faith as well as your flaws. Every preacher is subject to the weakness of the flesh. Your family will know and understand that you are human. What is imperative is that they see in you a sincere desire to do right and a sensitivity to God’s Word and God’s Spirit, evidenced by a willingness to acknowledge sin and to repent of it.
Now, may I mention some blessings that are realized by faithful pastors, missionaries and their families. First, our family has a larger circle of friends and family than we ever would have were I not a pastor. Missionaries, evangelists, Christian educators and other pastors are a part of the wider family that we have been given. Because of our ministry, my wife and I have been separated of necessity by many miles from our blood relatives all of our married life. Getting into the family car and driving over to see the grandparents or cousins on a Sunday afternoon was never a luxury we were able to enjoy when our children were still at home. But God gave us a larger family circle and in many instances one with more closely knit ties which have bound us together with many for decades, ties that are often more enduring than bonds which unite families physically.
A second blessing inherent in the pastor’s home is its atmosphere which is saturated with Christian influences constantly. Revival meetings, missions conferences, college ensembles, summer Bible Times (VBS), summer camps along with regular weekly church activities, provide an atmosphere that is unique to the pastor’s family.
A third and final blessing known to those in the pastorate/mission ministry is intangible but no less real. That of which I speak is the knowledge that God has placed you and your family in a privileged place to lead by example and to encourage other families in a godly, authentic Christian walk. That God has counted you faithful, putting you into the ministry, along with your wife and children in this particular place for such a time, is a humbling thought. This certainly must be counted as a blessing!
By far then, the blessings of being part of a family in the pastorate far outweigh the burdens. No vocation can be more fulfilling, though at times frustrating or, in truth, crushing. No occupation could be more rewarding, though at times it will provide the maximum in testing. Being aware of the burdens and possible pit falls is the first step in being armed against them. No unit in our society receives any fiercer onslaught by Satanic forces than does the pastor’s family. Pastors, because of the blessedness of our position in God’s economy, let us determine, aware of the possible dangers and willing to accept without complaint the burdens, to stand steadfast with our wives and with our children, and, having done all, to stand.
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it….” (Ps. 127:1)
“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” (Ps. 101:2)