Thoughts From the FishbowlBy Laura White
March 23, 2021
Today it happened. A package arrived that read, “Congratulations! It’s Time to Walk.” I jokingly told my daughter that she wasn’t allowed to open it. But try as I might to put off the inevitable, the official cap and gown are now hanging down the hall. Time goes by and, naturally, my thoughts turn to the privilege we have to shepherd these sweet pastor’s kids while they are in our home.
As Psalm 27:3 reminds us, children are a heritage from the Lord. They are a precious reward from Him for every parent, regardless of whether they are in ministry or not. But, I have a special heart for those of you who are doing this while living your life in the fishbowl of ministry. First, it should be noted that I truly do not believe the pastor’s family is special in the sense that it is better. It isn’t better. It is different. There is an additional pressure of perception and observation that is beyond a typical home. And if you’ll allow a sentimental mom a moment to ponder back over the path we have walked, I have a handful of encouragements I would like to pass along to my fellow pastor wives as you shepherd your kids.
Correct the Focus
When we planted our church, we had four kids ages 4, 1, and twin 6-month-olds. If you think that sounds crazy, you would be right. But the beauty was that my kids truly grew up in our church family. If I’m being honest, I thought I was doing a pretty decent job of raising cute little PKs who knew the right answers and were nice to visitors. Every week I would remind them how to act as we walked into church and after a few years, they knew the drill to perfection. But one Sunday I asked them, “Why do you make sure to listen to the teacher?” And their answer was immediate: “Because daddy is the pastor.” My heart dropped, and I was convicted that I needed to correct this focus. Instead of teaching them why, I had trained my kids what to do and that had defined who they thought they needed to be. Since that Sunday drive many years ago, I have repeatedly come back to our kids to ask them why they should go to youth group or work in the children’s ministry. The reason is never that their daddy is the pastor. It’s because we love Jesus. Jesus is our why, and Jesus gives them their identity. They are simply Christ-followers who are there to worship their Savior.
Protect the Perception
As you can imagine, our home can be messy. Several years after planting Harvest Church, we added one more caboose baby bringing our total to five. Dinners are noisy, our schedule is insane, we laugh loudly, and boy can they fight! We have truly hard days mixed in with the sweet times and hilarious memories. I’ve chosen to protect the perception of my kids in how I represent them publicly. I don’t shy away from our messy, but I don’t shame my kids on social media or reveal our deeper struggles to a wide audience. If I use family stories as illustrations when I teach, I choose endearing memories. Their mistakes aren’t my examples to share. Those difficult stages are known only to those who already love my kids and uphold those needs with prayer and not criticism. My kids are just kids. They are maturing and growing not only in life but also spiritually. Our home needs to be protected as a safe place to fail.
Encourage the Individuality
Even with a set of identical twins, each of our kids has distinctly different gifts and personalities. This is true of every home. But the unique aspect of being in ministry is that others quickly assume our kids take after my husband and me. We are both speakers and leaders. But put a microphone in front of four of our five kids and they will run for it. However, they excel at mercy and gifts of service to others. So when we chose to serve at church, we look for ways they can use that gifting. I have also learned to say no for them. Just like other pastors’ families, if the doors are open, we are there. Because I want to protect their servant hearts, at times I make sure they simply attend an activity without the additional work of childcare or set up.
Enjoy the Privilege
Early on in ministry, a pastor friend shared the concept of “PK privilege.” This means that when there are extra goodies at the office, some often find their way home to my kids. If someone blesses Brian with a gift card, it goes toward a dinner out for the whole family. When we get new church swag, the kids get a t-shirt first. Is it because they are more special? No. But for all the many nights they share their daddy with others, there are some fun and often sweet rewards he comes home with. These PK privileges give us opportunities to say how thankful we are for our church family and point to the kindness of God as he meets our needs through others. We deeply love our church and these small but very real moments continue to show the joy it is to be in ministry as a whole family.
Just as God called us to the sanctifying role of parenting, he also called us to ministry. I have taken encouragement over the years that he didn’t make a mistake on either of those callings which means he can and will enable me to walk them to his glory and our good. God knew these precious kids would grow up in what some would consider a fishbowl. But by his grace, I pray that they instead see the beauty of a front-row seat to all that God has done.