Let’s be real, ministry is hard. People are hard. Kids are hard, and sometimes hardheaded. Pastors seem to struggle between the balance of ministry and family, but your kids can live without having a hard heart towards ministry. I never fully understood why finding this balance would be such a difficult task...until now. My parents beautifully balanced ministry and family. (Don’t get me wrong, we are far from perfect, and I know my mom and dad would say, looking back, they would have done some things differently.) As a kid, things seemed so natural, but now, as an adult, I understand the "intentionality" behind our family/ministry dynamic.
I think the result of many pastors' kids walking away from ministry, some even growing to hate it, comes from pastors and their wives not being intentional about their families. Goodness gracious, y’all! I get it! Ministry isn’t only a way of life; it is life. However, if it consistently takes the place of family time, your kids can perceive that ministry is more important or valuable than they are.
My mom and dad sat us three kids down, countless times, to reiterate this simple fact: ministry is important, but family comes first. As little kids we knew that ministry, people, and relationships with Jesus were very important. We rested in the assurance that, as important as all of those things were, we took priority in our parent’s lives.
Now that I am an adult, looking at marriage, family, and ministry, I can respect and appreciate the sacrifices that my mom made for her kids. My mom is an incredible woman. She embodies the strength and graciousness of Esther, the heart of Mary, the willingness to serve like Martha, and an incredible calling like Sarah. My mom is truly one of my best friends, a mentor, and a role model. She has an incredible gift of connecting and ministering to women, and that is a call on her life that the Lord is now beginning to unfold.
However, that strong pastoral woman did not begin pursuing her calling until one thing was complete--raising her three kids. In the 90’s, my parents had taken a pastoral position at a church in Kansas City, Missouri. My mom took a lot of flack from the women’s ministry leaders because she did not have the time to lead the women’s ministry. She would attend the events and support the ladies that led it, but she knew her time was needed as a mom.
As a firm believer that God uses women to lead ministries, I am also a firm believer that one of the highest callings a woman can step into is being a mother. If you have the opportunity to raise children, raise them. God’s calling on your life is not taken away because you become a mom. In fact, I believe that being able to raise healthy, stable people who love Jesus and the Church qualifies a woman to lead other women. If a woman can lead her children, she can lead the next generation.
If a woman can lead her children, she can lead the next generation.
Another pivotal, intentional decision that pastors and their wives need to make in regards to raising grounded, healthy children is consistency. What do I mean by this? Simply, be the same person. I have heard countless stories of pastors walking in duplicity. They love people and Jesus, and speak words of affirmation on Sunday. But, Monday through Saturday they chastise their kids for the smallest offenses. Instead of allowing healthy, open discussion, they use Scripture out of context to end arguments with their kids.
Raising kids in such an environment is confusing. It leads to feelings of resentment towards the Church. Have you noticed, when many PKs leave the church, they use the argument that the Church is filled with hypocrites? Where do you think those feelings began? Those feelings grew in the environment of the home.
My parents are not perfect; no one is. But I respect and love my dad because he is consistent in the way he treats people, whether that be people in the church or people in his home. My dad’s go-to phrase is, “I am who I am, the good and the bad.” In other words, the man is who the man is. He doesn’t change his spirituality or his personality based off of his location or the group of people he is around. His “punny” jokes at home are the same ones he shares on the platform. His lengthy, and sometimes unnecessary, details are in every story he tells, whether that’s on a Sunday morning, or at the family dinner table.
In being himself, my dad has stewarded and cultivated a culture for our family that transcends a geographical location. Our family dynamic is this: it is what it is, and we are who we are. None of us are perfect, and we don’t pretend to be; but we love Jesus, and we love doing life with people. My parents have realistic expectations of their kids. When we mess up, which we do, they do not come down hard on us because we are “pastor’s kids.” They discipline us because we are their kids, regardless of their occupation, and they want to train and develop healthy adults.
...from a pastor’s kid who loves ministry, people, and Jesus...
Please, please, please, from a pastor’s kid who loves ministry, people, and Jesus, please, do not use your occupation and title as a weapon when disciplining your kids. Using those things as weapons will wound your children deeper than you realize. They need to know that you care enough to correct them, simply because they are yours.
My family isn’t perfect, but our imperfections help us to lead people to the perfect Savior. Love Jesus, then your family, and then ministry. When you have your priorities in alignment, just like a car, you’ll be able to stay on the road. It does not guarantee that you won’t have “maintenance” or “repairs” to handle, but it does ensure that you won’t have to fight the wheel to stay on the road.
Loving Jesus and His Church,
Gentry Tuttle is 25 years old and lives in McKinney, Texas. She has been in ministry, working with her parents, for as long as she can remember. Her parents, Charlie and Sherri Tuttle, pastor Genesis Church in McKinney. Gentry and her two younger brothers, Weston (22) and Payton (21), love working alongside their parents, leading people into a relationship with Jesus.
Follow her personal blog at gentrytuttle.wordpress.com.
This post is WEEK TWO in our series, The PK Perspective: Tales from the Front Pew. Now, onto WEEK THREE! Need to catch up? To read WEEK ONE, click >>here<<.