All of us in ministry know what it is like to live in a fish bowl. While it is hard on us, it is harder on our kids. Too many PK's (preacher's kids) grow up with a deep resentment toward the church, Christians, their parents and sometimes God because of all the expectations placed on them. We have raised four children in that fish bowl and I have spoken to hundreds of pastor's wives, some of whom carry a broken heart over their kids. As I look back on those child-rearing years, there are a few thoughts I would like to share.
The first thought is that God chose us to be the parents of our kids. Do you believe that? We all know that parenting is hard, not always rewarding and never ends no matter what the age of our kids. People will have opinions on parenting and what we are doing right and wrong. They think they have all the answers when they don't.
During a very difficult season of ministry, a man in our church took upon himself to discipline our son. Lucas was strong willed and an extremely active child. Where we got into trouble was when we allowed that man to tell us who our son was and how we were to raise him. Part of the reason that occurred was that we had failed to take care of own lives.
When we as parents become overwhelmed and stressed, we often listen to the wrong people. Our journey with the Lord and our health physically, mentally, spiritually is a critical part of our children's journey and their health. We will be better parents the more we take care of ourselves and the healthier we are. This is so important. It is not selfish. It is for the sake of others including our kids. We also need to be aware of our own expectations and where they come from as well as the expectations of the people in our church. Remember you have been chosen to be the parent of your kids.
A second thought is that not all children are the same, even within the same family. Take time to really know your kids - their personalities, their giftings, their desires, their hopes and dreams, their uniquenesses. Discover how they think, the way they process, what makes them tick, their emotions, what gives them worth.
Giving your kids time and attention will have great rewards. Some kids are easy, and some are difficult. Try not to compare your kids with each other, instead look at each one uniquely. Early on I made a commitment each night to pray with my kids and to tell them something positive that I saw in them that day. To be honest, there were some days that I really had to look hard. Recently my 26-year-old daughter came to me and reminded me that I had taught her and our other three children to always look for the good in people. I believe that was the result of many nights sitting on her bed helping her see the good in herself. I often wondered if all that energy was worth it. It definitely was.
Thirdly, remember each of our kids is on their own journey. Let me share with you one more quick story about our son. During his high school years, he got caught up in the wrong crowd and with wrong behavior. It was a hard and painful time for Larry and me. But God uniquely drew Lucas back to himself through the testimony of a man in a small village in the heart of Uganda, Africa. Who would have thought? For the last five years our son has worked with the deeply troubled and high-risk kids in Denver. He understands where they are at and he can speak their language. He has thanked us for how we parented him during those difficult years because it is what he needed. God redeems.
Never give up hope. Look for the positives. Trust that the Lord has their plan. Love them, spend time with them, listen to them, laugh and cry with them, believe in them, pray for them. Parenting is a joy, a challenge and often a struggle. Do not let the wrong people or even ministry itself rob you of your greatest calling.
By Barbara Magnuson. Barbara is married to Larry and they have been in ministry for the last 35 years. The first 22 years Barbara was a pastor's wife, and the last 13 years Larry and Barbara have been leading 7-day spiritual retreats for those in ministry at SonScape Retreats. They have four adult children and two grandkids.