Last week I introduced a blog series based on my experiences growing up as a preacher’s kid. In these “Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid,” I’m sharing what I’ve learned about Christianity, following Jesus, and the church from my behind-the-scenes perspective and how it affects how I’m laying foundations of faith for my own children.
Today’s Confession: My Parents Never Expected Us to Be “Perfect Preacher’s Kids”
We all know that no one is perfect, so saying that my parents didn’t expect their children to be perfect doesn’t seem like that profound of a statement.
However, in some church environments, there is a certain expectation or higher standard held up for not only the minister, but his entire family. They are set up as an example for the entire congregation to follow.
When I say “expectations or high standards,” I’m not talking about God’s standards for those leading His people. Those are a given. Your pastor should be living a life that is pleasing and honoring to God. Absolutely. He should be in fellowship with and accountable to Godly counsel. His house should definitely be in order. (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
But order doesn’t mean perfection or flawless. It means the home is under God’s authority, His presence reigns there, and that the parents are next in the chain of command, leading their children, dependent on God’s grace and wisdom.
Those expectations and standards are right.
However, sometimes people add to this, adding a pressure of perfection to those other requirements that is impossible for any human to maintain. They have an ideal of what they believe that the pastor, his wife, or his children should be like (very friendly and outgoing, always in a great mood, supernaturally holy and reverent, dressed in a certain way, etc.)
And while that can be difficult for a pastor or pastor’s wife, it’s even more difficult for a child.
Children are still learning every day. They make mistakes every day. They will most likely misbehave often. They haven’t perfected the art of sharing and putting others first, so they might be selfish at points. There will be times when they will be loud and rowdy or cranky. Their attention span is generally going to be shorter than an adult’s.
Thankfully, my parents understood this. And while I saw other minister’s children held to impossible standards by their families or congregation members, I wasn’t. That kind of pressure and emphasis on behaving because you’re being watched rather than because it comes from your heart creates someone who is good at playing along with Christianity but their heart is far from Christ. (Isaiah 29:13)
Of course, while my parents didn’t expect unrealistic perfection from us, they did require us to behave as they knew we could and should, based on our age and experience, and they prayed for us and had faith that God would keep us as we grew in Him.
My mother once had a conversation with another woman in ministry where this woman basically told my mom, “Oh, I expect my children to experiment with drinking and other things that they shouldn’t. They’re kids.” My mom’s reply was, “I don’t,” and she defended the foundation that she knew was being laid for us and her faith in God to lead us and His Holy Spirit to convict us. She didn’t demand for us to be super holy and perfect, but she also didn’t give us permission to live like the world. My parents trained us, discipled us, and disciplined us as needed. But our behavior wasn’t about the impression we were making or because we were the preacher’s kids. It was about becoming more like Christ and doing what was right and pleasing to God. If my parents hadn’t been in ministry positions, they would have trained us the exact same way.
As a little girl, I was a talkative, boisterous, wiggly child with boundless energy, a solid stubborn streak, and a temper thrown in just for fun. (My mother has laughed about how much my oldest son is like me, even to the point of telling me that she kind of feels sorry for me since she knows what I have to deal with sometimes.)
If any church member expected me to sit completely still and absorb every word spoken during the sermon and not doodle or fidget or fight with my brothers, they were probably sadly disappointed.
Some people seem to expect a child who is following Jesus to behave like a tiny adult, with a maturity that he or she hasn’t arrived at yet.
I loved Jesus. I absolutely did. But I was still a child, and even as I grew, I wasn’t perfect.
As an adult now, I have to remember that with my own children and the children I teach at church. While I can train my boys to be quiet during prayer (“close your eyes, sit still, clasp your hands” are just tools to help them focus), they aren’t going to last through a ten-minute interceding without at least looking around at some point. I can teach them how to respect God’s house and take care of the church, but they are still going to break out in a run occasionally, either entering or exiting the building, or talk loudly (even yell) when they get excited about something.
And as they grow and mature into older children, then young adults, they still aren’t going to always do everything right or be perfect, but Brad and I are prayerful that they will become more and more sensitive to God’s leading, as we continue to lead them in their walk with God, praying with them and over them and being the examples that they need. We never want their behavior to be based on an outward appearance. We want it to be motivated by their relationship with Jesus and His work in their lives.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12