I grew up in a boarding school. My father was a boarding school house master, and we lived on the grounds of this community.
I did not grow up in a manse or vicarage or parsonage. My children, of course, are growing up ‘Pastor’s Kids’ (PKs). How can I help them flourish in that environment?
As I write, America is shocked and saddened to hear of the suicide of Matthew Warren, the son of well known megachurch pastor Rick Warren. I know Warren only by reputation, but, as I read his email describing the tragedy, I was struck by his remarkably compassionate and wise response. My heart went out to him as a father and I immediately tweeted: ‘Praying for Rick Warren and family’. Since then there have been several attacks launched against the Warrens, slurs and innuendos, and my heart is grieved again. Can you not give the man and his family some peace? Mark Driscoll blogged a fiery response to these critics, defending Rick Warren against such attacks.
How will they turn out?
It is also making me ask myself a wider and more personal question: how can I — as a father of four children — do all that I can to ensure that their experience growing up as ‘PKs’ is not only positive, generally speaking, but a place of spiritual, physical, emotional and cultural thriving? I hesitate to give any advice at this stage of our lives — our eldest is 12 and our youngest is one — as I may have to eat my words in 20 years’ time. I am trying certain things, but who knows how they will turn out? But, for what it is worth, I pass along my thoughts in five bullet point suggestions and would be interested if readers have any additional comments along the same lines.
* Actually care. I can fail to express my care for my children, I can fail to give them the time they should receive, but, as one elder at College Church said to me recently, children know when they are actually being loved. That love may or may not be exactly what they want, but if you love them, care for them, even if you fail to express it perfectly, likely as not they will realise they are being loved — and will love you for it, long-term, even if they think you are about as trendy as a goat on roller skates.
* Give time. I hate to confess it, but this is probably where I struggle most. I work hard. I always have. Too hard, no doubt. But time is short and I have a mission and I’m scared to death I won’t get it done before I die. But, part of that mission is being a dad. And being a dad means: time. Unstructured time. ‘Wasted’ time, ‘unproductive’ time.
* Find individual and specific ways to spend time with each of the children (if you have more than one). Now I have four, and I am astonished how different each of them is. Their ‘love language’ (to use Chapman’s phrase) is different for each of them, and finding a way to express that care in that specific way for each of them is critical, it seems to me. If there is an overlap between things I like and things he/she likes, all the better. That overlap space seems to create relational glue.
* Do everything I can to avoid the children overhearing the Current Report About Problems at the church. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone much younger than 30, and with considerable spiritual maturity, is too young/fragile to hear about the underbelly of church politics, failures and general nastiness. I love the church, and most of it is great. But you know what I mean. Children cannot hear about this stuff.
* Spend personal devotional time with each child. Everyone has different theories about how to do this, but here’s mine: I think that if a parent can personally sit down, intimately, personally, with the Bible and with a child, then the chances of the Word digging into that deep mother-father, soul space is much increased.
Those are a few thoughts. But most of all pray for the Warrens — who no doubt have a better answer to all of this than I do, or ever will.
Josh Moody is the senior pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois.