9 Ways You Can Help Your Kids
His conclusion on the results of what he called “an unscientific survey” is that much of the negativity is avoidable if ministry couples and churches will remember one thing: “They’re real kids with real experiences, and normal kid feelings,” said Ian Jones, associate professor of psychology and counseling. “Don’t overlook their needs for real human parents to play with them and be friends with them.”
Jones pointed out the responses are from seminary students who represent “the ones who made it” and that even more negative responses might be found in a more representative sample. He also emphasized that not all responses were negative and much of the advice came from respondents who had positive childhood experiences and relationships with parents.
The responses were used to outline nine ways parents in ministry can help their children grow up in a healthier environment.
1. Maintain a healthy balance between ministry and family.
“The most negative thing parents can do is neglect their children for the sake of ministry,” one student wrote. “Family has to be the number one priority. Neglecting family will drive children away from the Lord and ministry – the things that children see as taking their parents away.
2. Relate to children as a parent, not as a preacher or minister.
“Let your children know that they are not responsible for their father’s success in his work,” another student wrote. “Let your children know that they are important to you because you love them.” The student went on to recommend encouraging children to express their emotions and parents to listen to them with respect.
3. Spend time with your children.
“The most important advice I can offer a minister or any other parent is to make time for their children,” a student wrote. “Listen to them and talk about what they want to talk about. Take interest in their lives.”
4. Pray for your children.
“Pray for your kids daily. Make prayer a vital part of family life,” a student wrote. “Parents need to teach their children how to pray.”
5. Don’t assume that your children will adapt to new situations.
“They’re exposed to a lot and absorb many unhealthy things without you knowing,” a student wrote. Another added, “Do not assume kids will automatically develop good Christian morals and values merely because Dad is in the ministry.” Other responses included consistency between what parents preached and how they lived and the need for direct moral instruction.
6. Protect them from people in the congregation who might hurt them.
“Defend, protect their children from the congregation’s criticism,” a student wrote. In another response, there was underlying anger and unresolved issues in a PK who still remembered “with sadness” how her mother did nothing while a deacon scolded her little brother.
7. Keep the communication lines open and be vigilant.
One student confessed that the son of a deacon molested her regularly and she never said anything because she didn’t think anyone would believe her.
8. Don’t single them out as different from other children in the church.
Responses included advice to avoid saying, “You must behave this way or that because you are the pastor’s child.” Another student wrote, “I hate being put up on a pedestal. I wish my parents would have let me talk through my feelings about those situations, but in my house feelings were not discussed.” She added expectations of perfection are placed on them and that their parents can help by “allowing their children to be normal children who sometimes get into trouble.”
9. Love them.
“The most positive things a parent can do,” one student wrote, “are to love their children unconditionally, involve them in ministry, encourage their spiritual growth, demonstrate a vibrant relationship with the Lord, and teach them to love people as Christ does.”
Another piece of advice involved setting up a support group where ministry kids can talk with other ministry kids their age about “the unique stress they experience as ministry kids.” “Part of what has brought healing in my life has been the experience of sharing with other PKs who have watched churches split and parents lose their jobs as ministers,” one student wrote.