Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Preacher's Kids

My children don't deserve the reputation that preacher's kids have of being troubled and corrupted. They're a far cry from the stereotype, with their high intelligence and outstanding achievements. I don't claim much credit for that, but neither do I care to downplay their admirable qualities.

In fact, I've been thinking about other preachers' kids I know personally, and most of them are above average in terms of gifts and character, too.

I guess they have to be exceptional.

They certainly have to sort through a lot of bovine manure. They learn the Bible stories and feel the love of their fellow Christians, and yet they also see prominent church people lie, bully, and hurt others—including the preacher that is their parent.

Overall, I've been treated well by the church and when I have been treated poorly, I've kept it from the children, but they're not stupid and like all kids, they have eyes that see more than they let on.

I struggle over how to lead them through the expected religious rituals of our church. Must they always come to every church function? Do they have to get baptized at the right age? Do they have go through confirmation? What about taking communion? What if they don't want to? How much influence from me is appropriate and when does it become manipulative and oppressive?

I worry about how often clergy have failed their children, dating back to Old Testament priests like Aaron and Eli. Their children grew up to be cynical and callous, spurning the church and society.

So I have a few rules for preacher parenting:

I love my children more than I love the church. If I have to choose, the children come first.

The welfare of my children is not negotiable. I'm usually at peace with living on less than others who have similar capabilities. However, if I can't make enough money to feed and care for my children, I'll find work where I can provide for them. When God calls me, my children come too. Part of the deal is that they are taken care of, or it's no deal.

I'm a grownup in a world that can be brutal even in the church. I expect people to be mean and hateful to me, sometimes because I am their preacher. I also expect to be restrained and kind in my response to them. But if someone hurts my children (or my wife), the gloves will come off as I protect the people I love the most. So beware.

Since I'm raising them, I expect them to go to church and be a part of church functions. My wife and I both teach them about God, values, and character. But their spiritual commitments are their own.

Like all parents, I am desperate in my hope that they'll make good choices, that they'll stand strong in adversity, and that they'll avoid making the truly damaging mistakes. But I'm also enormously proud of how well they've done up to now.

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