This article is part of the 7 Tips series.
Pastoring and Parenting
This is written mainly for pastors and those who aspire to be pastors. Hopefully, other parents will profit too. If you’re a pastor and a father, you already know how hard each is, and how much harder the two in tandem can be. And I trust you already know, and have taught again and again, what it means to raise your children in the discipline and nurture of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). What follows is simply a small collection of counsel that I hope will provide some reminder, spur, or spark of encouragement.
1. When it comes to family devotions, almost anything is better than nothing.
I’ve often heard Southern Seminary’s Don Whitney say something like this: “When it comes to family devotions, brief and frequent is better than long and rare.” When it comes to family devotions, almost anything is better than nothing. So find something realistic and workable, and stick with it.
We do family devotions at the breakfast table. For a few fleeting minutes, the kids are more or less a captive audience while they—at least in theory—eat. They’re generally fresher then than at dinner time, and we’re less likely to have guests present or an obligation of mine that pressures our time. So we read through Scripture a chapter at a time. If time and kids’ interest allows, we may discuss the passage briefly. I’ll lead us in praying based on the passage, and, again, given time and willingness, sometimes we’ll pray through requests from our previous Sunday evening service. Occasionally, we’ll sing a verse from a hymn or the doxology. That’s about it. Five or eight or ten minutes. I pray and trust that it’s bearing fruit.
2. Make time for one-on-one conversation with each child.
I’ve heard this advice so often it feels like a cliché. Maybe it is. But it’s one I need to hear again and again. I was recently talking with one of my fellow elders about some of my current challenges in parenting. He asked me, “How much time are you spending with each kid one on one?” My honest answer was, “Not a lot.” So I took a page out of this elder’s book and set up a weekly rotation. Every Monday I take one of the kids out to lunch at a place of their choosing. That gobbles up a weekday slot I would normally have been using to disciple a church member, but the sacrifice seems appropriate and it has already proved fruitful. If I don’t have time to disciple my own kids, someone else can and should disciple those church members. Now, every Monday, one of my kids is especially eager for lunch time, and so am I.
Remember how Paul appealed to the Thessalonians: “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:11–12). Paul assumed that a father knows his children and tailors his counsel to each of their needs and situations, their strengths and weaknesses. How much time does it take to know your kids well enough to shepherd them like that?
3. Get counsel.
Kids are such a moving target. I’m often at a loss because everything we’ve always done seems to have stopped working. I’m fresh out of wisdom and good ideas. So here’s my counsel: whenever you hit a wall, find a godly father you trust, whose kids are at least a little older than yours, and get counsel. Being a pastor doesn’t mean you have all the answers. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).
4. Confess your sins not just to God but to your kids.
You will sin against your kids with sad regularity. That sin presents you with a choice: humility or hypocrisy. Your kids see your sin and know it is sin. What they also need to know is that you know it is sin, you hate it, you disown it, and that you love both Jesus and them more than you love your illusion of your own superiority. So name your sin, apologize, and say to them, “Please forgive me.”
5. Stock their memories.
Kids’ memories are surprisingly sticky and spongy. Start young with catechisms and Bible memory. Stock your children’s memories as full of Scripture and sound theology as you can. Pack in as much as you can while they’re young, and pray for the Holy Spirit to enable them to unpack it in years and decades to come.
You will sin against your kids with sad regularity. That sin presents you with a choice: humility or hypocrisy.
6. Plan to give them your best.
Pastoring is draining work. It can be unpredictable and overwhelming work. And no matter how much you mean to give your kids your best, your best can be hard to find after yet another day of tough counseling conversations and not as much progress on the sermon as you needed to make. So don’t just try to give your kids your best, but plan to. Give them weekly traditions to look forward to, times when they know you’ll be glad to give them your all. It could be as simple as making pancakes together every Saturday morning.
7. Do some homework.
Bobby Jamieson is the author of The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring.
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