If you are in the ministry as a full-time wife and mother, these words from my heart are especially for you. Hopefully, you are content,excited, and joyful about the amazing life you lead in the ministry. However, one area that is often very challenging is managing and training your children publicly for all the world to see. People want to know the how and why you do what you do. They also will have an opinion about any direction you may take. That is where it is such a comfort to know that you are doing your best for an audience of one who is Jesus.
I personally lived in the goldfish bowl of ministry and then have watched our own three children swim there too.These are just a few that I have learned along the journey.
For those of you living in the goldfish bowl
1. You must love your children so deep and nurturing that they are totally secure and confident. Many times the busy pace of ministry and in serving others can supersede relationships. Our children can easily feel slighted or unattached. We must always keep our primary mission and that is always to nurture our children. To nurture simply means to nourish. The strong connection you have with your child is so important. Many times as you talk with others noticing your child can be so reassuring. It might be through a touch or a wink that your child knows that you are totally aware of them. It gives confidence and at the same time they are learning patience and flexibility.
2. Your children must know the boundaries in their behavior and that you will keep your word. This is a tough one because situations are always changing. It is difficult to give these boundaries to our children when people in the church have so many different opinions about raising children. However, God is always faithful in giving you wisdom for every difficult situation. One note to keep in mind is that your children are your first priority always.
3. Keep the thought that your children are children and not small adults. No matter what pressure you may feel for them to be perfect, it is just not reasonable to have that expectation. Most of the time people are understanding, so do not worry. Then, there are those who do not. Just bless their hearts anyway.
For those of you who are observers of those in the fish bowl
1. Please, make a special effort to love ministry children. The smile you give, the word of encouragement, the piece of candy, a special small gift will endear that child to you forever. I have very sweet memories of special people who loved me as a pastor’s kid when I was a young child and especially as a fearful, unsteady teen. You have an opportunity to encourage and uplift these little people who often have many needs. You can make such a difference. The flip side to that is discouragement and sadly, there is far too much of that.
2. Your understanding goes such a long way. You may not know how many hours that “naughty” missionary child has sat in their car seat. The pastor’s child may have been on a very long visit with his mom or dad. I remember once my brother and I sat for eight hours in a hospital lobby. There was not a babysitter available and of course mom and dad checked on us every hour but, to this day I remember that very long day. I know that Jesus had a patient and understanding view of little ones. When the disciples were quite disturbed and agitated with the children, Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me” This should especially encourage us to love and to care for all children and especially those who are known as ministry kids.
Along the way it may seem difficult bringing up your children so publicly, but His grace is always available and enough. I can truly say that it is worth every mile and the journey is sweet as we lean upon Him. So notice those little ones and teenage ones that are among you and encourage them in the same way that you want your children to be encouraged and helped.