The families of pastors should not be neglected

Published 5:36pm Monday, July 7, 2014

I got a call one day from a neighboring pastor who was a good friend.

“Michael,” he said, “my son’s in jail. He won’t talk to me. Will you go see him?”

I readily agreed to make the trip to the county jail.

I found the jail dark and depressing, and Andy (not his real name) disheveled and scared.

He’d been arrested for drunken driving.

I did my best to encourage him, promising my prayers and phone calls to whoever I needed to call in order to get him home.

Andy told me a sad story of a dysfunctional home life.

“My dad’s a preacher,” he said.“He’s always had high expectations for us kids. I never can live up to what he wants me to be.”

I knew his father pretty well.

He was an authoritarian leader in his church, believing himself a CEO with unlimited power. His style was shoot first and ask questions later.

Most churches will allow this kind of leadership for so long before they rebel.

This pastor did leave the church unhappily some time later.

According to Andy, his dad was the same kind of leader at home.

I’ve known some pastors’ children who follow in their dad’s footsteps and commit to Christian ministry.

As one pastor said to me about his son, “He’s a better Christian than I am.” He was obviously proud of his son’s commitment.

But there are a host of other children who don’t attend church as adults because they bear scars from long ago.

I understand the conflict that can occur.

Our children didn’t want to participate in a particular ministry at one juncture.

It was an “extracurricular,” and my wife and I wanted to give them freedom to choose.

The leader of the ministry confronted me and said, “The pastor’s children should be involved in this.”

In other words, they were supposed to be different and be in this ministry even if they were in it alone.

Perhaps this was the issue in Andy’s home.

Maybe his father didn’t give him freedom to make some of his own decisions.

And his father obviously didn’t let Andy know he loved him and was proud of him.

A conference leader told a group of ministers that we should consider our own families the most important members in our church.

I wish I’d heard this sooner and practiced it.

In our quest to save the world we ministers often neglect our families.

Andy’s father died a few years ago, and I’ve lost track of Andy.

I hope he’s strong and well and serving the Lord as an adult.

In the county jail he gave me new compassion for pastors’ children.


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