It is difficult for an outsider to understand the dynamics of a preacher’s family – whether that preacher is a pastor, missionary, staff member, or full-time, traveling evangelist. Each presents a unique set of difficulties for the preacher’s marriage and children. Besides the normal difficulties that any marriage must go through, and the complexities that all parents deal with in rearing their children to maturity (while in the “goldfish bowl of ministry”), the preacher’s family lives within a satanic bulls-eye. The devil has enough experience to know that a man’s ministry can be destroyed or severely hindered if he can but get to that preacher’s wife and/or children.
Church folks have a lot of strange and unscriptural notions concerning the pastor’s wife and kids. And it doesn’t matter if those church members are Baptist, Methodist, or Lutheran. Carnal or unsaved church members usually behave the same no matter what the church sign reads. If you doubt it, read “Pastor Abusers: When Sheep Attack Their Shepherd,” which describes the behavior of this small group of people across all denominational lines.
There are more ideas about the responsibilities of the preacher’s wife than legs on a millipede. The so-called “First Lady” is, in practice, the “last lady” – the last to sit down, last to eat, and the last to leave. She is considered “fair game” for the sharp tongues or razor-edged attitudes of a tiny but vocal part of the church, who sometimes turn the pastor’s wife into a bundle of nerves by their ridiculous and unchristian behavior. Many a pastor could write a book describing the antics of a “Sister Sourpuss” – or a pack of them.
It would surprise most church members that the pastor’s wife is not given a single unique scriptural responsibility in relation to her “position” as the pastor’s wife. NOT ONE VERSE. The pastor is to be the husband of one wife – and her responsibility is to be HIS WIFE, and to serve the Lord like any other Christian woman.
The pastor’s children are also in a unique position, and not an easy one. The prodigal preacher’s kid has become almost proverbial – and yet when the preacher’s kid goes bad, no one looks around the church to find out why. It MUST be the preacher’s fault – no doubt some hidden failure in his home life. However, it is very possible that the kids were discouraged from the faith by what they saw in the behavior of a small group of members in the church, and the abuse that they saw their parents receive at the hands of “pastor abusers.” It is possible that many left church, not because of hypocrites at home, but because of hypocrites in the pews.
The Bible’s requirements for the preacher’s kids are: they are to be in subjection to their father, faithful, not accused of riot, or unruly (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). That’s it, friend.
PREACHER, PROTECT YOUR FAMILY. God gave them to you. You are a husband and father FIRST. There are other churches and fields of ministry, but you can’t get another family. Below are some thoughts on this subject:
- Preach the truth and dispel people’s notions about the pastor’s family. I have often preached what I am writing about today. Preachers are afraid of their churches. Friend, be afraid of losing your family. Preach the truth.
- Don’t turn your children into role models or examples. The pastor is to set the example as a Dad for his flock – but that 6-year-old or 16-year-old should not burdened with the responsibility of being a perfect example for the other kids. Discourage as much as possible the idea that the pastor’s kids are to be perfect or role models. They aren’t and the sooner everyone accepts it the better. They are JUST KIDS.
- Discourage people from creating undue expectations for your children. For example, the teacher in class may be tempted to say, “Don’t you know the answer? You’re the preacher’s kid.” As though the child sat with his dad in Bible college – or received a master’s degree genetically! People don’t think of how it makes the child feel – so you’ve got to educate them.
- Don’t let ANYONE speak abusively to your wife or children. Some people think that the preacher’s family is fair game and no holds need be barred. If your wife is a bundle of nerves because of some carnal, unstable person’s tirades or behavior, you’d better intervene. And NO ONE has the right to “chew out” your children (no, I am not referring to a simple correction in class or ministry; but referring to a verbal tirade). As hard as it may be to understand, some people will take out their bitterness, dislike or hatred for the pastor on his wife and children. Better to cut those goats loose.
- Refuse to bow to every crazy notion people have about the roles of the pastor’s family. Kill some sacred cows and have a barbeque.
- Keep bitterness, gossip and problems out of your own home. Don’t foster a bunker mentality. Bitter parents will infect their children with bitterness.
- Never tell your kids, “You’re the pastor’s kids. People expect you to behave.” I expect my kids to behave because they are my kids, not because I am the pastor. I expect them to be Christians because they are Christians, not to protect my job or paycheck.
- Don’t foster a victim mentality to your kids. It’s great to be a PK or MK. At least, it can be.
- Refuse to let domineering people decide your schedule. Most pastors put in plenty of hours without worrying about what some man with control issues has to say about it. If you have children at home, you need to schedule time at home. Refuse to let others make you feel guilty for being home in the evening, or taking a day off, or taking a 2 week vacation. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.
- No paycheck, position, or pulpit is worth losing your family.
I encourage you to listen to this message by Larry Brown about wolves in the church, and to read “Pastor Abusers.” Every Bible college should help prepare men for this tiny 1-2% part of a church’s membership that can be the source of many a shipwrecked ministry. Your family does not need to be a casualty – but we as preachers need to stand up for our first flock – our own families.