October was a crazy month for our family for a number of reasons, and this past weekend was the first weekend in a while that felt “normal.” I took the opportunity to do something with my two daughters they had been asking to do for a while: go on a behind-the-scenes tour of our church (or as they put it, “explore the church”). There were no ministry events going on, so they had fun running around the church, exploring “hidden” (i.e. locked) rooms, and seeing what the children’s building looks like when no one’s around.
The best part about our adventure was this: they thought it was really cool that their dad is a pastor. They knew that other kids don’t get to mess around in our church’s prop room (they thought it smelled funny) or play unlimited air hockey in the youth wing. It was a fun moment, because they are–even at the ages of four and five–aware that there are also times when my role takes me to overnight youth events or causes me to miss dinner because I need to care for someone or another family.
I hope that they always think that me being a pastor is cool. Because from their perspective, there will always be costs associated with my role: pastoral emergencies, having youth events on Saturdays (their favorite day to spend with me), or missing out on bedtime to be at my ninth grade guys small group. For every one of those things, I hope there’s at least one upside they can enjoy because I’m a pastor. Here are a few ideas to make sure that happens:
Full access to the church grounds. Let your kids enjoy your church building in ways other kids normally wouldn’t be able to. My kids loved exploring the empty buildings. Other ideas I’ve heard include having a picnic on the auditorium platform and allowing them to invite friends to enjoy the game room when no one else is around.
Allow your kids a free pass into your office. My girls know that they can interrupt anything going on in my office at any time. The only exception is if someone is seeing me for pastoral counseling. When they knock, I stop what I’m doing to hug them and have a conversation. They even have their own whiteboard (right under mine) that they get to draw on. And if I’m in a meeting that can’t be interrupted for a few minutes, they still get to come give me a big hug.
Allow them to be friends with other staff members. Sometimes I think my girls love visiting me at the office more for seeing all their “friends” than seeing me. I’m grateful to serve with a team that doesn’t mind when my girls wander into their office or cubicle to say “hi” and sometimes get a treat. When they visit our church during office hours, they feel like a blessing, not a distraction.
Invite your family to youth events. Since my kids are so young, they haven’t gotten to do this much, but they enjoy it when they get to come to hang out with the teenagers. Our girls came and played in a mud pit during our fall kickoff, and my family visited our fall retreat a few weeks ago for lunch on Saturday. They feel pretty special getting to come to things that only high school students are invited to.
Take advantage of a flexible schedule. Some seasons in ministry require extra time from us that can make it seem like we’re cheating our family. During seasons that aren’t as demanding on your time, make sure you cheat your job instead and spend more time with your kids. I’m well aware that not everyone has a job that offers the flexibility to go on field trips with their kids or take off a few minutes early to have a special “movie night” with their kids. And when you take some time off to spend more time with your kids, let them know that you’ve chosen to take off work in order to spend time with them. You don’t have to make a show of it, but it’s important for them to see concrete examples of you choosing them over ministry.
What are some other ways to make your kids glad that you’re a pastor?