Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Loneliness is not confined to the ministry. Many are lonely today, and many children grow up in lonely situations, for many different reasons. The purpose of this post, however, is to give some insights into helping children deal with “ministerial loneliness” – ie, the kind of loneliness that comes because their parents are in the ministry (pastoral, missionary, evangelistic, etc) – though I believe that many of these suggestions would benefit any child.
In 1993, I surrendered to the ministry. Amanda Hudson married me in 1994, knowing that I was called to be a preacher. Therefore, it’s her own fault that she is a preacher’s wife (she actually loves being a preacher’s wife). Our first child came along in 1997, and now we have 4, the oldest of which will be heading off to Bible college at the end of the summer. None of them surrendered to be preacher’s kids; they were just born into a preacher’s household. Yet, we have never seen any unhappiness about it, and all four surrendered their lives to God at an early age and, as far as we can tell, are very happy to be PKs.
I admit, however, that I have often worried about them and grieved when I sensed that they were lonely. We started a church in 2000, and we’ve seen folks come and go. And for some reason, when parents leave they tend to take their kids with them. So our kids have seen their friends come and go, too. Many of us – in fact, most of us – pastor churches considered “small” and sometimes that means that there is a small circle of potential friends for our kids to draw from.
And, even then, when they are the “preacher’s kids,” sometimes that causes a separation that many kids definitely feel.
So, what can we do? Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t over-dramatize the situation (I started to say, “don’t freak out about it” but that didn’t sound very dignified). Sometimes, we as parents are more upset about things than our kids. They are remarkably resilient and adaptable to their situations. Being in the ministry as a family is a great thing – unless we persuade them that we are “living martyrs” by our attitudes.
- Embrace the will of God. Realize that God might have a purpose for loneliness in your child’s life. John the Baptist grew up in desert places (Luke 1:80). Samuel grew up in less than ideal circumstances. God can use these times to develop the kind of character He wants us to have, for the job He has us to do.
- Get together with other preachers who have families of similar ages. Sometimes, we preachers head off to meetings and see our brethren – and leave our families at home. When do our wives and children ever get to fellowship with other people in the ministry? Invite someone over for dinner, or plan a get together, and let the kids develop friendships. You don’t have to preach at each other or even wear a tie; just get together and talk. Our family is fortunate to have several pastor families within 2 hours of us, and we get together whenever possible throughout the year.
- Encourage your kids to have pen-pals. My daughters really enjoy sending and receiving notes from some of their friends around the country.
- Siblings can be friends, too.
- Have fun as a family. Dad, you especially need to be there and be involved. Never pass up a chance to throw the ball around, go for a walk, play a game, or be a friend to your child. It’s just as wrong for you to be an absentee workaholic father as it is for the fellow in the pew.
- Go to summer camps, youth meetings, etc, where your kids can be around other kids in a good setting.
- Let your kids make friends. Some parents are so afraid of losing their kids that they wall them off from everyone. While I certainly believe in the Bible principles of separation, I don’t believe in isolation.
- Get them a pet.
- Keep them in books.
- Nothing wrong with sports if its available and doesn’t conflict with the church schedule or your personal standards.
- Our kids need quality friends more than a large quantity of friends.
These are just some thoughts from a Dad with kids ranging from 17 to 11. Take them for what they are worth. It’s a great thing to be in the Lord’s work with our families. Thank you for reading. God bless.