This is not an article about children’s ministries in the formal sense. It is about the children of people who are in ministry. Missionaries and church planters often struggle with many things, but having children and seeking to start a church or minister in a foreign county is one of the biggest struggles. I personally think that next to being a husband, being a father is the most difficult thing in all the world to do–and do effectively.
It all starts with the fathers. You’re thinking, “Here it comes again, guilt trip!!” This is not intended to heap up guilt as much as it is to remind us all what is important and rearrange our lives accordingly. I am amazed at just how often missionary men or church planting (or pastors in general) have no idea what is going on with their children. God’s discerning grace is all important here, for there is certainly no such thing as a magic wand or formula to follow. However, there are some things that a father might want to take a long look at that makes room for God’s grace to work.
- Seek Christ and pursue humility that only He can give.
- Watch closely the heart of your children. Look into their eyes and look for the rebellious heart to show itself. If you look carefully, God will show you.
- Learn to say, “I was wrong.” You will sin, but you have the privilege of modeling repentance–what more could your child need?
- Love your wife. Lead your wife. Learn your wife. This is easier said than done, but grace is available for this.
- Read your environment! What is the atmosphere of your house? Do your children like to be with you? Do they like to be at home? Is it a safe place for them to talk and share their thoughts and ideas?
- Listen, listen, and did I mention that you need to listen to your children? Listen to what they don’t say as much as what they do say and even listen to how they say it. They may not be able to articulate it so you fully understand it at first. That’s OK, isn’t it? After all, you don’t know how to say it right all the time either do you?
- Don’t assume anything. This often gets us in trouble. We should always ask them questions that will give us their feedback and then let them be right–after all, they are people too.
- Use your spouse’s ears. Somehow, one child is always easier to understand than the next. So you may need to use another pair of ears. This means that you need to be in a good loving relationship to your spouse and able to understand her too. Hmmm….it all works together, doesn’t it?
- Use other eyes. Give the freedom of people around you in ministry and especially extended family member (such as grandparents or aunts and uncles) to give input into how you are doing with your children. Parents who are defensive of their children are typically not good learners of their children. The problem with blind spots is that you don’t see them.
- Depend upon God’s grace. You will not always do it right–that’s OK–isn’t it? Do you have the capability of doing it wrong? The answer should be yes–if you’re honest. Then use God’s grace to change. Grace is flowing–bathe yourself in it and love your children.