Parenting as a church leader at this time of change
Parenting as a church leader or leading ministry within a church is a unique calling. We parent in a goldfish bowl of congregational expectations. Our office may also be our home. Our kids are even there, bang slap in the middle of our workplace!
And very often, being a church leader means our families experience change. During Covid-19, our churches were suddenly closed and our ministries had to adapt dramatically, at the same time as our kids become home-schooled and we entered lockdown.
As church leaders, our heart’s cry is that our kids learn to meet and know God: but we can fear that our ministry may negatively impact our family and our kids’ spiritual lives. But the research shows that this doesn’t need to be the case, that there are simple things we can do to position them to thrive and embrace all the benefits of being a ministry family. As we go into this post-pandemic phase of our ministries, there are four things to think about that will help your family adapt well to the new new.
Ensure they know they are connected to you.
Being connected to our kids and them to us isn’t just about being together. It’s about them knowing they are connected to you so there is a mutual sharing and delight in your lives together. This will be particularly important in this time of change, when kids may fear losing you back to church.
Four things to think about:
- Check in with your kids and ask: do you feel connected to me? If you’ve become disconnected, find ways to strengthen your connection.
- Let them see the inside of your ministry journey, not just the outside. As you make changes to church, create windows into your thoughts and decision-making so they understand the changes.
- If your congregation is unhappy or there’s conflict about your decisions, frame for your kids why people are upset so your kids realise it’s OK.
- As your ministry goes back into the real world, talk to your kids about what they’ve enjoyed about your connection over lockdown, and agree what of that is precious and you want to preserve.
Ensure they know they are prioritised
Church leaders’ kids can often feel that the church is pulling their parent away. So if we can help them know you always prioritise them and you make choices proactively to protect their place in your life, they won’t see the church as competing for your time and attention. Coming out of lockdown, your kids may be wondering if that together lockdown time they’ve had with you will just disappear as church takes over.
Two simple steps:
- Talk to your kids about the changes that are coming and how you want them to know that they are still prioritised: that family comes before church.
- Discover ways to help each of your kids know that you are prioritising them, even if you aren’t physically present.
Ensure they know they are covered
Church leaders’ children can often feel very exposed: the spotlight is on them, everyone’s interested in them and has views about them, and may not have control over their own information. Some of our kids will have loved the privacy and hiddenness that the Covid-19 season has brought. But that’s about to change. We can protect them from the spotlight and cover them from over-scrutiny by not driving attention onto them. We can also allow them to keep control of their own information and help them learn how to have autonomy over what they share.
Some ideas for covering our children as we emerge into a new season so they don’t feel exposed:
- As we return into face to face ministry and swap stories, people will ask you about your children’s experiences. Find ways to answer those questions so that you don’t give away your kids' information. Then they are free to share what they want to when they want to. Let them know that you will do this.
- Some of our kids have been more visible than usual, sitting with you as you lead on Zoom, while others have been completely hidden. You may want to talk to them about the idea that everyone will be looking forward to seeing them again and want to talk to them. Coach them in how to answer well-meaning questions; compose some answers they could use, or role play different scenarios so that they can control what they tell people.
Ensure they are empowered to go on their own journey with God
We want our kids to go on their own journey with God as members of the body of Christ and of the congregation. For the last few months this has been a different sort of journey, focussed on the home not church.
As they re-enter church take a few moments to consider:
- What have they discovered about their journey with God that they want to retain. For example, it could be that not being in church has given them a freedom to worship they don’t want to lose, or they’ve loved the informality of online church. How could you retain those good things as they re-enter church?
- This would be a good time to review with them how they want to fit into church. Where do they want to serve? How do they meet God best in church?
- Session 8 of the free parenting for faith course is a good place to start exploring how to help kids engage with church.
Rachel has written extensively about the unique challenges of parenting in ministry in her book ‘Parenting as a Church Leader’, which much of this is drawn from and we have more resources in our Parenting as a Church Leader topic.