Note: This is part two of a two-part article. For part one, click here.
My children are just crossing into their 30's, and I'm happy to say it's worked out. My son married the daughter of a missionary. My daughter married the son of an Old Testament professor.
Both my kids' fathers-in-law have "Reverend" in front of their names. Both of my kids' spouses grew up in ministry families. All four of these young adults love God deeply.
And they have made ministry homes.
How did this happen? Here are my honest answers:
1. Only God knows.
They turned out. He gets the credit. I'm fortunate to be their father.
2. They made great choices.
The truth about child-raising is that every child has free will. Bryan and Amy get the credit for how they turned out. Both of them made great choices and practiced healthy habits. I got to enjoy watching!
3. They have an outstanding mother.
I remember the day we brought Bryan home from the hospital. I thought, "It's weird that my wife is a mother." Somehow a miraculous transformation had taken place. The woman I married became a mom.
And what a mom! Because we had had trouble getting pregnant, she never took either child for granted. They were never a burden, in the way or a problem. To her (and me), they were two of God's greatest gifts to us.
Lori prayed faithfully, read books on child-rearing religiously, and practiced great parenting almost flawlessly. She gets the credit for how they turned out.
Now's the part where I may have made a small contribution.
4. We pointed them towards God.
Jesus said that the greatest thing we could do with our lives is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Lori and I have tried to do that all of our adult lives. We've tried to make His priorities our priorities. We've tried to make our time His time. We've tried to make His cause our cause. We've tried to let His character shape our character.
It's a Matthew 6:33 thing: as we've sought first His kingdom and His righteous, Jesus "added all these things" to us—including great children.
5. We read the Bible personally.
There are a lot of habits that enable you to become a better person: prayer, church attendance, fellowship in a small group, generous giving, and more.
But nothing can substitute for the transforming effects of daily Bible reading (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 119:105; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 4:4; Ps. 19:7).
By taking in portions of God's Word each day, Lori and I have become better people. And the better we got, the better parents we became.
6. We talked at dinner about what God was doing in our lives and what we were learning from him.
There is no substitute for time spent talking around the dinner table.
Since we were never great at having some sort of formal "family devotional" time, we made an intentional effort to ask each other, "What do you see God doing these days?" and "What are you learning about the Lord right now?"
Those questions led to a lot of informal dinner-time discipleship. The dinner table is a great time for casually teaching your kids about God.
7. We served at church together.
A few years ago, Eric Swanson, of Leadership Network, showed me a study that said that the number one factor determining whether children will grow up to love God was whether or not they saw their parents serving at church and serving beside them.
My kids have served beside Lori and me since they were little.
We never went to church for what we could get. For us, going to church meant serving others and advancing Christ's cause together.
Five days after the church went public, they were walking neighborhoods with me, dropping invitations on doorsteps. Bryan was five. Amy was four. Amy dropped one on the doorstep of a professional bass player. His wife has led our drama team for the last 20 years.
They both served in PromiseLand, our children's ministry, as soon as they were old enough. Bryan started our middle school worship band. Amy painted the high school room. I could go on, but you get the point.
The family that serves together tends to grow in love with Jesus and his cause together.
8. We sent them on cross-cultural missions trips.
Every year, our youth group has headed somewhere, not to build buildings but to lead people to Christ. Our youth pastor trains his students to run a full-service Vacation Bible School. He equips every teen to know how to present the gospel.
From these experiences, Bryan and Amy learned two things that are critical to the unselfish formation of character:
- Looking around at impoverished people in Mexico (or Honduras, Peru, Panama, Louisiana, or inner city L.A.), they realized they were incredibly blessed from a material standpoint. This built within them a grateful heart and a sense of responsibility to care for others.
- By leading important parts of a Vacation Bible School, they learned that they could be dangerous contributors to the mission of God.
9. We enlisted godly mentors for them.
Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 14, every child begins to be cool and have parents who aren't.
That's why it's critical that they have a godly "bridge" person in their lives during adolescence. By God's grace, a young woman named Brittany adopted Amy as her mentee, and a young man named Michael adopted Bryan.
Both of them were able to say things and model behaviors for our kids that we never could. It really does take a village to raise a great young person to adulthood!
Does a child of a ministry parent pay a price for their parents' ministry? They can. But they don't have to.
And in my experience, the price paid causes them to love God more.
Never hesitate to enter ministry for the sake of your children. In fact, one good reason to enter ministry would be just for the sake of your children!
Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. He mentors pastors who want to lead healthy, growing churches with resources at pastormentor.com.
This article originally appeared at pastormentor.com.
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