I grew up with parents who were evangelists.
What that meant in the 60’s and 70’s is my dad, along with three brothers traveled as a quartet and held revivals all over the country. (check out the quartet!) (Side note for you youngsters: Revivals were nightly church services that lasted one week, two weeks, or even a month that were held at a church with guest musicians and preachers to “revive” and grow a congregation.) That was my world!
My mom and aunts often went with their husbands and sang with them. Can you believe they even sang corresponding parts as their husbands??!! The men used to joke that they had to audition a lot of women! (I love my uncles!)
(My parents are the 2nd couple from the right!)
The women mostly traveled with them BC (before children), when the kiddos were young, or more during the summer. But since homeschooling wasn’t a thing back then, as the children entered school, the family traveling became more limited.
My husband Tim grew up with a father who was a preacher. Both his parents were singers as well. Our kids were blessed to have so many potential music genes! His sweet father was quite a hard worker in ministry to the point of being a workaholic (as my dad and other men of that generation were), just because I believe pressure was put on ministers in those days to work all the time and be on call 24/7.
(Tim’s dad is 2nd from the left)
All that to say is that Tim and I, both of us former PK’s and both of us on staff at our church, we had some pretty strong feelings about what we did and did not want our own children to experience when it came to church. So for those of you in ministry, I want to share from a place of experience on some “how and whys” we raised our children with. Please feel free to learn from it and utilize any of these principles for your own families, especially if you didn’t grow up in ministry. And some of these we learned from our own precious parents or from some great role models. So take what you want to use and throw the rest out! Each person’s situation and family is different. I understand that.
Sadly, some ministry kids grow up resenting the church, and I’d love to help you not avoid that situation. I’ve heard my parents say many times how awful it’d be if they won thousands of people to Christ but not their own children, so they were very intentional in their parenting. Tim and I have tried to do the same.
Also, as you live, keep these following foundational principles in mind:
- Kids often equate church with God.
And if they grow up resenting the church and time you spend at church and away from them, they transfer those feelings to God.
- Make sure you practice your faith the same at home and at church.
I pray this comes naturally to you. Children spot hypocrites from miles away (and inches too)!
- Kids see things as more black and white so be very wise how you live.
Here are some things to keep in mind: Language that slips, movies you watch, how you talk about others, excessive alcohol, lack of spiritual discipline, etc. They can’t quite grasp the concept of legalism yet. As they get older, you can explain those things better.
Okay, here are some ideas that we did that might spur some thoughts and ideas for your own family:
1. Block off important days on your calendars for important events of your children.
As my kids got older, this was a pain because of the time it took. When they were in three different schools and in extra-curricular activities, it took hours to post all their events on our calendars! As I mentioned on a previous blog (Calendaring Christmas article link), put on that date what they need to bring: soccer snacks? A Madrigal payment due? You get the idea.
2. Pick them up and be there when they return from camp, a conference, or a mission’s trip.
I cannot stress this one enough! I would often force us arrive home from a trip early not to miss this one chance. It is that When your kids arrive home, they are excited and chatty. They will tell you the highlights of the week or an event. And sometimes this would last for a couple of hours. Really. Then exhaustion hits and sad emotions follow as they come down from the emotional high and the sharing isn’t quite the same so don’t miss this small window of time. You will never get it back. The next day you will ask, “How was the trip?” and they will say, “fine."
3. If it is a heavy season of ministry, make sure they have some extra fun things to do with a great friend or caregiver.
I am talking Easter, Christmas, campaigns, or whatever for those of you in local ministry. I love that our friends at Mountain Christian Church in Maryland have volunteers run a super full event for staff kids during all the Christmas eve services which includes a bouncy house, fun games, special treats, etc.
4. If you have little ones, and both parents have to be at church early, hire a teen to “nanny” the children at church while you both are busy.
That way you still see them, but the sitter might get them food, play with them, help them get breakfast, help get them ready, etc. If your kids need to sleep in a bit later, maybe hire someone to come to the house and then bring them to church. This is what our daughter does with her four month old so she gets a full nap in before coming to church.
5. If you have multiple services, don’t make your kids go to class all of them!
I know it gets tricky with your budget or maybe with both parents schedules but this will burn your kid out on church and they will get bored hearing the same lesson over and over. Get creative. When we began our third morning service, our girls were quite young and the church was smaller. I was the worship leader and Tim preached, so we actually designated a room for our family for that early service. Tim would stay with them the first half while I lead worship and then we tag-teamed it. It became the morning for a special cereal or breakfast; we brought different toys, and their hair stuff (we did have three girls!). Our girls thought it was great fun! They then would go to Sunday school and Children’s church the next two services. Sunday also was “friend day” — we were too tired to hang out with people, so we let our girls strengthen their Christian friendships on that day.
6. Practice hospitality and involve your kids.
This might be having other families over for pizza or soup. But your kids will love it and your children will meet some awesome Christian role models. My mom was so fantastic at this! We had friend families over but she took it even farther. She could throw together spaghetti in a moment so that whenever our church had “Christ in Youth” conferences, or special guests at church, we always invited them over for lunch or snacks after church. I met some great people. Something else they did was to have an extra bedroom on purpose. This bedroom was for any missionaries or pastors passing through to save them money. I even remember when one friend whose husband was abusive stayed with us awhile. My parents modeled Christian hospitality.
7. Practice evangelistic hospitality.
Another area that I think is so important for Christians is to build relationships with people from work, school, or their neighborhood. We often hosted a neighborhood cookout, a soup night, and took meals to the families with new babies. We tried to attend our neighborhood block party every summer just to build relationships with our neighbors. Let’s face it: there is a stigma to working at a church that scares or freaks out people so we have to work hard to break down those barriers. And Christ called us to first go to our own “Jerusalem,” or in our case, the Chicago suburbs!
8. Limit night meetings.
Your kids need at least one parent home. If I had rehearsals, we made sure Tim was home. And those of you who have grandparents in town, count your blessings.
9. Have family dinners every night, or a majority of nights.
Important conversations and time happen with this meal. I can’t get over how many people don’t do this or understand its importance. It is a time that a family “regroups,” like a time out in a basketball game. I want to emphasis this doesn’t have to be big and fancy…tacos, sloppy Joes, soups, subway, grilled hamburgers, etc. But it will help you if you make a menu and plan ahead. Deciding is half the battle, isn’t it? Don’t get discouraged if every night isn’t a happy, cozy feeling meal. Some nights will just be blah. But sometimes there will be nights when everyone gets the giggles. But make it a commitment. Thanks, mom, for doing this for us.
10. Have family fun nights once a week, or at least every other week, depending on your kid’s ages.
This can be as simple as movie/special treats to going an hour away to hike together. I’ll be honest, as they get in high school, this won’t happen as often unless you let them invite a friend to participate, and that is okay too. The idea is to have fun as a family unit. Vacations should be a high priority as well—an investment of your family.
11. When schedules collide, get creative.
t our high school, homecoming dances and proms were on Saturday nights. It was foreign to me but that is how it worked. And we had Saturday night services, though thankfully they were early enough to still have family time afterwards. But, what this did mean is for me to schedule myself off on those days and for Tim to leave a service before it was over— in order to be apart of group picture time. It was important for him to be involved even if minimally. He did not miss one—and we had three daughters!
This got very tricky as the church got bigger. The church was willing to hirer me enough staff so I didn’t always have to be there. I would produce and rehearse the services and then usually attended the first one of many Easter or Christmas services. Therefore I was able to be with the kids while Tim preached the other services. But sometimes we would all serve together, helping in the nursery or greeting. Once we took Christmas Eve dinner to church and had it together there, so we could have it with dad.
12. Take advantage of and celebrate any perks.
Ministry kids sacrifice a lot. And we never mentioned that fact to our kids. We also talked about the importance of what daddy or mommy was doing and about how people were finding Jesus. But whenever a special perk came, like someone inviting us to attend a play downtown or a sporting event in great seats, we would make sure we talked to the kids about what a great blessing that was and how someone had blessed us because they were grateful because our family had helped them find Jesus. Celebrate those special perks!
13. If a special trip can be shared with a child, take them.
Some of the greatest blessings for our family has been the ability to take a few missions trips together: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Kenya. I can’t tell you what it is has done for my kids hearts and for our family unit. When you have shared experiences like these, the memories and your relationships can’t help but be strengthened. And sometimes it would even be one girl going with dad, but it would make a big impact on their life, and build that relationship.
Okay, that is enough for now and I am sorry it was so long.
I pray that God will give you lots of wisdom as your raise your kids as you serve Him!
Celebrating with You on Raising Christian Kids,
Cheering you on, Denise