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photo: Martha G. Brady

For those of you who haven’t picked up on this, I’m a pastor’s wife.  Yes, he is now retired, but I think I’ll always be a pastor’s wife in my head.  It is how I look at church, the people in it, the people leading it, and generally what is happening in the local church I attend.  

I have a different view than many of you in that when things get hard, we were rarely able to leave.  In general, we had a choice over which church to attend in terms of taking the job.  But in terms of all the details, it wasn’t all done the way we preferred all the time.  I know this is the common view: everything is done the way the senior pastor wants/prefers/likes it done.  That simply isn’t true!

There is too much history before he came.  In the early years of his tenure, very little of what he prefers is done.  He has to choose his battles and work toward having priorities in the changes he fights for (if that is needed).  Often, his early years are spent developing leadership or discipling people he hopes to be leaders.  You can see how the public changes may be the last to come.

UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN RE THE CHURCHES WHERE HE PLACES HIS PEOPLE

As I adjusted to the realities of our life when it came to the churches GOD kept moving us to, it was especially difficult as the girls were older.  I knew the kind of church I wanted them to be in when they were teens.  I knew the kinds of people I wanted them to be around.  However, GOD had different plans for all of us.

GOD did something for us that I really didn’t appreciate at the time.  He kept plunking us in churches that had a large numbers of older adults…older than I was for sure.  They were rarely in the same life stage I was.  We were rarely fortunate to have children the ages of ours at most churches where we served.

For those of you who know me…or knew me then, you may even realize that I chafed.  I tried not to show it, but it was difficult.  However, I wanted our children to see the bright side of their situation, so I definitely did not treat them as if they were underprivileged…because they weren’t.  Looking back now, I realize how privileged they were!

If GOD is leading you to a church without a youth program and you are uncertain if it is a good idea, consider how many centuries of children were involved in churches where they didn’t have them (and I’m not against them at all).  But GOD often uses different ways to grow our children in the faith.  A youth group is not required.

I knew GOD had sovereign and wise reasons why He put us where He did, but I felt our children needed to be in better locations so they could grow.  Well, evidently that wasn’t the case.

BENEFITS OF BEING IN A CHURCH WHERE A CHILD RELATES MORE TO ADULTS

Of course, it wasn’t always easy, but…

  • They learned to talk to adults as well as peers.  A valuable skill for life!
  • They learned to work in a church as church members and not just benefit from a “youth program” alone.
  • They learned to test out the gifts GOD had given them as teens to see how they could help in their church.
  • They were encouraged by other adults.  Some of our singles would take them out to lunch individually for fun and visit with them.  This was something that also helped them later on as they didn’t get married immediately out of college.  They had seen and known role models who showed them how to live as single Christian women and enjoy that state if that was what GOD called you to either for a time or permanently.

I have always been thankful for the many people in our churches who were kind and encouraging to my children.  They still talk about some of them when we get together.  One daughter remembers the lady she asked to teach her to crochet…and the friendship that developed from that.  She also enjoyed cooking and helped on the committee that worked on a cookbook one year.  She made a number of good friends that way and learned how to enjoy them over a common interest: cooking.

The girls developed skills by helping in the nursery, helping with VBS in the summers, teaching Sunday School at times, and interacting after church with a variety of the people in church who became friends.

Have you ever noticed what a great job adults do when it comes to giving genuine compliments?  They learned to receive them.  They also learned to laugh off those who didn’t do compliments so well…and not take them to heart.  That too, is a life skill.

The reality is that not everything will go well with all our interactions as we work together in a church or on committees.  We are all human.  But the only way our kids learn how to do this is to get into situations where they get practice dealing with people who are different from them.

THE BENEFITS TO US OF SEEING SOME OF THE PEOPLE IN OUR CHURCH THROUGH THE EYES OF OUR CHILDREN

Seeing some of these people through the eyes of our children can often be helpful to us.  They will see things that we don’t because they are different from us.  They see a side of the person that we don’t.  My view of any person will rise sky high when they are genuinely kind to my my child.

The cardinal rule I will tell you at this point is this…and it goes triple if you are are a pastor, pastor’s wife or anyone in leadership in the church…elder, deacon or spouse!  NEVER, EVER TELL YOUR KIDS ABOUT YOUR NEGATIVE ATTITUDES INCLUDING RUN-INS OR DISAGREEMENTS WITH PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH….ever.  That is one bias your child doesn’t need…and they are rarely around when apologies come.

It will come back to bite you of course, but it is just wrong!  It will prejudice your child against people who may be a source for teaching and encouragement that they may need when they are older and in a stage of life when they are resisting what you have to say.

Think of the times after church, maybe over lunch or dinner, when you make a negative comment about the sermon that morning…or about a person, maybe even the pastor.  It may be a very minor thing that you forget by the next day, but your child may not.

I remember, more than once, from my childhood having people in my church that I really liked and admired.  They may have been Sunday School teachers, or people I didn’t know very well, but looked up to.  Often on the ride home from church a comment would come up days or weeks after I had met the person and a negative comment was made about them…often something minor.  It might have related to their looks, or dress…maybe even how they smelled.  But it was something I hadn’t noticed and cast a pall on that person that didn’t need to be there.

THERE IS A PRICE TO BE PAID FOR OUR CRITICAL WORDS AND ACTIONS.  THE DAY WE ARE CALLED UP TO PAY THAT PRICE MAY BE AT A TIME WE LEAST EXPECT. . . AND THE PRICE MAY BE WAY HIGHER THAN WE HAD ANTICIPATED!

As parents, we have  a powerful influence on our children.  I’ve seen many families raise their kids in church and when they grew up, they had no desire to be involved…at all!  I often wonder how often people they looked up to were trashed and downgraded in the home.

Then, when the child was having a problem and couldn’t really talk with their parents, there was nowhere they could go.  Their parents had trashed so many people in the church that they turned away to get away from all the “hypocrites”.  When actually not all the homes involved were trashing people like their home was.

Of course, I have no way to prove my hypothesis.  But there it is!

I think it is helpful for our kids to get involved in ministry in our churches sooner rather than later.  It prepares them for the realities of ministry in the church.  We must learn Biblical ways to manage conflict (forgive/reconcile/repent) with brothers and sisters in the church.  (great resource  for all ages)

I know I have rambled and touched on only a small amount of what growing up in regard to the Church means, but we’ll touch on other areas later.

Do you need to change your ways in regard to how you talk about others in your church?  

Do you need to apologize to your children re the way you have talked about others in your church?  

Are you talking to the people involved when you have a disagreement in order to clarify the problem…or gossiping to others whe don’t understand the situation, when it comes to disagreements in your church?

 

 

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