I was the pastor’s kid who spent hours roaming the church campus between services. I knew the best hiding spots for hide-and-seek, which vending machines had the greatest snacks, and that splashing around the baptismal was the best way to beat the summer heat. The majority of my childhood memories revolve around that church campus, and its staff who were more like family to me. Now that I’ve grown, people often ask me how I’ve stayed so involved in the church, or why I never had that rebellious phase so many pastor’s kids are known for. It’s simple: My parents involved me in their ministry—the good, bad, and ugly. How can you do this yourself? I have three ideas.
1. Spend time with your staff and their families outside of work.
Every Monday night, for as long as I can remember, we had some sort of weekly get-together with the student ministries staff and their families. Beach nights, football parties, summer barbecues—you name it. As a kid, I always looked forward to Monday nights because it meant I got to spend time with some of my favorite people. A huge reason kids stay involved in the church as they get older is because of the community they’re involved in, so allow your team to become part of your family and pour into your kids. Chances are good that as your kids get older they won’t want to hear your advice (sorry, it’s true), but they will cling tightly to the words of other caring adults they’ve grown to love and trust.
2. Bring your kids along as often as you can.
Student worship night? Bring the kids. Painting houses for a service project? Bring the kids. Dinner after church with the staff? Bring the kids. Involve them in as much as you can for two reasons. First, it’s good for them to observe and learn this stuff at a young age—they absorb more than you think. I vividly remember standing in the back of the youth room listening to worship music when I was just four years old. Second, it allows them to see a window into your world. When you tell them about your day at work, or that you have to stay late one night, they’ll be more understanding because your “work” isn’t just a distant idea to them.
3. Don’t talk negatively about the church in front of them.
This is possibly the most important of the three. Your kids will be affected by any argument with your spouse about work, any mention of conflict among the staff, or any complaint over having to work late. Remember, it’s never a “has to,” it’s a “gets to.” “Dad gets to go on a two-week missions trip.” “Mom gets to have dinner with her small group girls tonight.” Change your language, and be sensitive to the little ears that are always listening. If a problem arises (maybe you’re considering moving churches or switching positions), talk through that with your kids. Never put the church down, but involve them when you need to address something about the church. The church is Christ’s bride—be careful how you speak of her.
There are no guarantees that our kids will grow up to become Christ-followers. But we can take steps to help them see what we do as not just a job, but a life.
Kayla Harker is the daughter of a youth pastor and the wife of a youth pastor, and somehow, she still loves youth ministry. She spends most of her time reading mystery novels, eating her way through Disneyland, and writing about her experiences in ministry.