Ministry workers spend a lot of time reaching out to people they are called to serve — through mercy ministries, bible studies, teaching, youth groups, church service and the like. We all enjoy seeing the fruit of our labor and feel fulfilled when people are drawn to Christ through our work. But sometimes in our efforts to serve we forget about obeying God’s call to our own family. Because we can become so wrapped up in what we are doing, this can be easy to do. You may not see the detriment caused by family neglect until the damage is done.
I am a preacher’s kid (PK) and ministry kid (MK). For the last 50 years, my parents have been working hard carrying out the call of Christ on their lives. My Dad and Mom, with kids in tow, established ministries in underserved neighborhoods and helped others to the same. My mother was the administrator, kept the accounting books, taught Good News Clubs (CEF), and took care of the family. Most of the time Mom worked hard all day and then found time to put a hot meal on the table for her eight children, then continued to work. Every night of the week there was some kind of ministry activity. My dad was a grassroots, hands-on kind of worker. He used my four brothers to help him with farming, building buildings, cleaning the facilities, yard work, bus driving and much more. The family kept the place in order, served as the choir, ushers, and filled the pews. We were there to help our parents with their ministry. My parents took God’s call seriously. To them, it was a call that required all of their time and energy.
They did a good job, considering that neither of them had a mother or father as role models. Dad’s mom died when he was an infant; his dad left the family. Mom’s mother left her with her grandma and her father never lived with her. On top of that, my parents had no books, magazines or organizations like Focus on the Family, Parenting Magazine, Psychology Today or Family Circle that could help them. Dr. Spock wasn’t even popular yet. So my hats are off to my ministry parents for getting through it all. The good outweighed the bad and growing up in ministry left me with knowledge that could only be gleaned from having been there.
Talk, Watch and Act
As ministry parents we must make sure we are first ministering to our family and spending the quality time needed to raise our children into healthy adults. Your children are changing everyday so it is important that you talk to them every day. Ask them what they think about you, the ministry, and how what’s going on affects them. Encourage open dialogue. No matter how your child feel’s or what she/he says, let them talk. Watch what they do and say, how they behave in every situation. Listen to their response, and evaluate each situation or issue expressed. Then act. Do whatever is necessary to make ministry life better for them.
Watch for signs of withdrawal
As a PK/MK, I learned a lot about feelings of loneliness and fear. Community people and ministry helpers were always around, us kids often getting lost in the crowd. Sometimes you just want to get away – go into the closet to be alone.
Two of my sisters did not talk much when adults were around. They played the happy kid role in public, but could not wait until church or bible class was all over so they could get away. This led to resentment, insecurity, sadness, running away, shyness, and not standing up for themselves. Not addressing the feelings that caused them to withdraw affects them to this day.
When you see your child backing away, going to their room, tensing up, looking sad or crying about participating, take notice. There is an underlying issue that needs to be dealt with. Sometimes counseling or outside help is needed. But whatever you do, get to the root of it. Talk, watch, and act.
Watch for signs of rebellion
PK/MKs learn at an early age to pretend. Pretend everything is okay. Pretend they are happy with everything — especially when others are around. People in the community and even parents put ministry kids in a bubble without even knowing it. As a teen, I found myself always thinking, “I can’t do anything wrong, and if I do I certainly can’t tell anyone.” There was never anyone to talk to or be real with. We were too busy living “right” before everyone.
But parents beware. PK/MKs will live in that bubble until they can’t take it anymore. When they break out and go against what is expected of them, people call them rebellious or “bad kids”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Preacher’s kids are the worst ones.” Parents should watch out for signs of rebellion. As soon as you see one sign, confront the situation immediately. Talk, watch, and act.
Watch for signs of stress
My oldest sister was the first-born daughter in our family. She was a beautiful little girl and the apple of her daddy’s eyes. Before the ministry began, she had the attention of our parents. She says she remembers when my parents mainly focused on their kids, job and making life better for the family. But when dad received the call, my sister’s whole life changed.
As the family grew, the ministry grew and our family became a part of the civil rights movement. My five oldest siblings were appointed by dad to integrate the white school in the late 60’s. Not wanting to disappoint my parents, my sister agreed to do so. She says those years were torture. Having no friend, getting spit on, called derogatory names, always afraid, and being unwanted – all took its toll. My sister developed phlebitis, a condition that causes the legs to swell due to blood clots. She was hospitalized many times over the years and had to wrap her legs each day to keep down swelling and prevent blood clots. Later and after some research, we learned that many times phlebitis is caused by stress. As a young girl my sister battled an adult ailment because she carried an enormous amount of stress for her age. Stress found a way to release itself through her body.
It is important that ministry parents make good decisions about what they ask their children to do and in monitoring the role the child plays in their ministry. Do not put them in stressful situations to further the ministry. If you are sensitive to this, you will be able to tell when what you want your child to do is not the best for them. Keep a keen lookout for signs of a stressed-out kid. Talk, watch and act.
We want our ministries to soar and be successful, so we put much time, thought and energy into developing our plan for ministry, overseeing the staff, nurturing the board of directors, raising money, meeting daily administrative needs—sometimes working from sun up to sun down. All of this takes most of your time. But you must put this same thought, energy, and time into your family life. Make a plan for your family that is as good as your strategic ministry plan. Then carry it out with the diligence you put into your ministry work. The pay-off will be grateful, secure, motivated, productive children and adults who just might follow in your footsteps.
written by V. Elizabeth Perkins, Blossom Consultants & Speakers
If you would like more information on PK/MK’s you may visit Blossom Consultants & Speakers’ website at www.watchingyoubloom.com or contact V. Elizabeth Perkins at MzElizperk@gmail.com