“You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, training them up in God’s fear, minding the house, and making your household a church for God as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of Hosts” Charles Spurgeon.
As I have spoken with various pastor’s wives on this topic that we’ve been looking at for weeks, overwhelmingly these wives and mom’s are most hurt by the things that impact their children.
Megan is a longtime friend with almost a decade of experience as the wife of a children’s pastor. She juggles the call of being a wife, a mom, and a full time help mate to her husband at the church. She has the unique struggle of being entrusted with all the children in the church, including her own, and loving them well while she watches the parents of the kids she’s invested so much into often not love her kids with the same passion in return. What follows is her story of the tight rope she walks on a daily basis.
Megan and her daughter Grace write a blog together. You can look them up here.
“Train up a child in the way they should go and they will never depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. ‘This is a proverb, not a promise.” Joshua Straub, Founder of 22:6 Parenting.
For most of my life, my dad was in music ministry. I married John, the son of a preacher. John is currently a children’s pastor and we have 3 kids: Sean 18, Grace 15, and Hope 5. John & I have been in full time ministry the last 9 years and we were heavily involved volunteers before that. I wouldn’t say that I am an expert when it comes to ministry, but I do have experience. My life has been filled with the highs & lows of this ministry world. When Whitney asked me to write about my own personal experiences of “hurt in the church” my thoughts didn’t immediately go to how I have been hurt, but how those in my household have been affected by this calling.
I’m not your typical Pastor’s Wife. Recluse. Introvert. Vampire. All of these words have been used to describe me (mostly by my husband). Some days I feel like I have to put on my “pastor’s wife hat” and some days I realize that a pastor’s wife is just “who I am.”
My favorite thing in all the world to do is sit in a cold, dark, quiet room and watch TV while my least favorite thing to do is carry on a conversation. I’m always rehearsing small talk in my head. I rack my brain for words and often panic, hoping to say the right thing. Sometimes I fail and come across like a weirdo. Conversations aside, I always make sure that I say “hello” to people. That’s just a given no matter what your personality type is. “Hello” is easy, right?
I make sure to speak to every child that enters our department. Not because it’s my job. I do it because God has created these blessed kiddos and they deserve respect and dignity. If a visitor comes in, I go out of my way to find someone for them to sit with to whom they might relate.
Grace, our 15-year-old, with her gentle and compassionate heart, always goes a step further. She doesn’t just find a friend for the child, she immerses herself in their world and BECOMES their friend. She gets down on their level and talks with them. If someone is alone, she sits with them. If a child doesn’t have a partner for game time, she asks to play with them. And if a first grader is crying because they miss their mom she will hold and hug them until the tears stop. She does this because she knows what it’s like to be an outsider. She remembers being the new kid at church. She knows what it’s like to be lonely. Her best friend in the world is a girl she befriended on that girl’s first day of church in the second grade. Grace knows the benefit of making friends with the new kid. It’s led to a friendship that has outlasted time & distance.
I truly believe that outright ignoring someone is harder work than saying “good morning.” I have been on the receiving end of church members walking right past me, the only two of us in the hall. As I visibly start to greet them, they go out of their way to put their head down and silently walk past.
I have seen people ignore my children. Sometimes my kids are oblivious, which is fine with me. I have walked into a room with my entire family and have had someone say “Hi, Mrs. Megan. Hi, Mr. John. Hi, Sean. HELLO, HOPEY … oh … hi, Grace.” Right in front of me. From across the room I have observed an adult walk up to a group of girls and step right between Grace and her peers, handing out hugs to all of them while my child gets pushed out of the conversation, left to feel like an outsider.
Because of John’s status in the church, everyone knows us. They know our names, they know details about us, and our children get treated differently. There is a stigma on pastor kids, an expectation of how they should behave. Some look for perfection, while others are waiting for them to fail.
Scripture doesn’t give us a lot of special advice on how to raise a child when you are a pastor. It doesn’t tell me how to handle hurt and disappointment in these situations. Pastors are simply told in 1 Timothy 3:5 that “He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church?”
Proverbs 22:6 tells us that we should “direct [our] children onto the way they should go.” These verses tell me that we are to do our best in raising children who love the Lord and love others. I take the duty of raising godly children very seriously. I feel that we are instructed to do so.
Not only was John’s dad a pastor, his godfather, Richard was one as well. By the time I met Richard, he was no longer in vocational ministry. Richard had 2 sons, one of which had gotten off track and was heavily involved in drugs & alcohol. Richard felt as though his house was “not in order.” Taking 1 Timothy 3:5 seriously, he felt that he was disqualified as a pastor. It had to be hard for him to set aside his calling but he felt that he could not lead a church effectively and tell others how to raise Godly children. I admire Richard for that and it challenges me to make sure that my kids are well-behaved, respectful, and following after the heart of God.
I feel constantly torn between being a mom and being a pastor’s wife. I am always trying not to rock the boat, but then it hit me: God called me to be a mom long before John was called into ministry. My primary role as a mother is to raise these children, teach them right & wrong, and to protect them. Sometimes this means I protect them from church people. I don’t want my children to hate the church. I need church people to understand that my children are just like theirs. I don’t want my kids to be treated “special.” I just want them to be treated with respect.
The children of pastors need to feel loved and equal. I firmly believe that my children didn’t choose this life but they are called to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all become pastors someday. It means that they may mess up & need forgiveness. They may be at church before the doors open & after they close. They are often compared to other children (good or bad), but they should be treated just like all the other kids in the preschool/children/youth departments. As Christians, they are to respond in love and kindness and even forgiveness when they are mistreated by fellow believers.
However, don’t think for a second that their mom, your pastor’s wife, is going to sit back and let her children be hurt.
For those of you who are in ministry, I know the pain of watching your children be treated differently. We can’t forget that we are tasked with protecting them from the daily happenings of the church.
I asked my kids what it’s like being a PK and they couldn’t come up with much. It’s just life for them. It’s all they know. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve sheltered them or maybe what I perceive as threats to them as PK’s is just so very personal to my mom heart.
Grace said “tell people to chill out. Dad is doing his best” and Sean said, “Be on time. When you are late, it’s disrespectful to his time.” I noticed that they didn’t automatically think of themselves. Their first thought was of their dad. They want to protect him and we need to protect our kids.
For those of you who are not called to vocational ministry but are a part of a church, please just remember that staff kids are like everyone else. They make mistakes. They need forgiveness. They need to feel loved. When they are the new kid in church, help them to feel welcome. When you take notice that they have been at the church every day for the last week while Mom & Dad are preparing for an event, take them out for some ice cream. When you hear their behavior being stereotyped, speak up for them. It isn’t their choice to be a PK. Help them to know that you didn’t just vote for their dad’s position, you voted for them to be a part of the church too.
And for all of us, we are to train our children to love God & to love others. When we sincerely do this, as adults, the words that we have taught them and the lessons they have learned about God’s grace and love will never depart from them.