When my grandfather passed away in the spring of 2009, I joined my sister, cousins, and other distant relatives in Virginia for his funeral. God got my attention the evening after the services had concluded. With the family gathered in my grandparents’ home, likely for the last time, I found myself contemplating the spiritual vitality of my extended family. One of my grandfather’s children is now an ordained pastor. Another is active in their local congregation. A third is willing to engage in deep theological conversation and professes his faith, but he has no church affiliation, describing himself as “not being spiritual in a religious way.” To the best of my knowledge, neither of the other two siblings enjoy a church connection or are otherwise active in the Christian faith.
I am the only member in my generation of the extended Pichaske family that is active in a Christian faith community.
My grandfather was a retired pastor in the Lutheran Church of America (LCA). Both the denominational leadership and the communities he served regarded my grandfather as a tremendously “successful” pastor. His churches flourished as many came to know Christ and many more saw their faith strengthened. He developed curriculum and wrote books that helped an entire denomination grow in their discipleship.
While my grandfather enjoyed great success helping to instill and nurture faith within families throughout the church, his “success” rate with his own family had not been realized. My grandfather and my grandmother raised five wonderful children who married and produced a generation that is successful in a wide variety of professional and social endeavors. Yet, I cannot help but believe that my grandfather’s most heartfelt desire, as a pastor and as a parent, was to leave a legacy of faith with his heirs passionately serving Christ as committed members of the Church.
As a pastor myself, I began to consider, “What are my hopes for my own family’s faith legacy?” My wife and I have four children, and while we are committed to ministry on behalf of all God’s people, we believe that the “people” God has given us the most responsibility to help grow as disciples are our children: Megan, Matthew, Addison and Alexandra. Would we be satisfied if only two of our children grew into committed, active Christians (50 percent)? Would three out of four (75 percent) be sufficient?
If we believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the source of Life (John 14:6), why would we not do everything within our power to help ensure each of our children knows the joy of life with Jesus in a personal, transformational way?
I’m guessing that all pastor-parents earnestly desire for their children to realize the same kind of relationship with God that they have known.
Sitting in my grandfather’s living room, I vowed that my children’s faith development would remain a top priority for my life and ministry. I determined that I would do all in my power to help them decide for Christ. That was more than eight years ago. Since that time, I have begun to study the practices, postures, and priorities that help preacher’s kids (PKs) grow up in environments that nurture personal experiences of God’s love and love for the Church.
So let me ask you, as church leaders, who is getting the best of your time and energy? Your children or your parish? Are you able to step out of a pastoral role when it’s time to be father or mother? Who would you children say is bearing the primary responsibility for their faith development? You or a ministry leader within your church? Would your children say that you seem more focused on the condition of their relationship with Jesus or the behaviors they are modelling before your congregation? The answers to these questions critically influence the spiritual development of your children.