LaVon and I were in our mid-20s with a three-year-old and a newborn when the bishop sent us to start a new church on the south side of Kansas City. Today my wife and I are approaching our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Danielle is a sophomore in college and Rebecca is a junior in high school. And we've all survived so far.
The girls survived my 80-hour weeks. They survived living in the fishbowl, feeling that eyes were constantly on them, occasionally not being invited to parties for fear their father would find out what was happening there. They survived my interviews of their dates and our refusal to let them get tattoos or die their hair blue even when all the other kids were doing it.
They survived requirements to attend worship and Sunday school, give away 10 percent of their allowance, and participate in mission projects. They survived periods of doubting their faith. And today these girls have become remarkable young women. They didn't just survive. Somehow, by the grace of God, they thrived.
Looking back, I see we did some things right with our PKs. Here are a few of the lessons I learned.
1. You are not indispensable to your church, but you are indispensable to your family.
One Saturday evening my daughter collapsed on the volleyball court. My wife called, assuring me that our daughter was okay, though an ambulance was on the way just to make sure. It was stewardship weekend, and our Saturday service was about to begin, but I handed my sermon manuscript to a staff member and asked him to do the best he could to preach it, and I went to be with my daughter. (Had I not had an associate, I would have called one of our lay leaders).
Three things happened as a result: (1) My daughter knew that she came before the church. (2) The church knew that their pastor put his daughter's health before the church, and they knew this was the right thing. Several people told me I modeled something important for a congregation of driven business people. And (3) our staff and leaders saw that I trusted them.
This is an extreme example. More typical is asking to be excused from a committee meeting or Bible study for parent-teacher conferences or a band concert. Someone else can lead the meeting, but no one else can be you at your child's key events.
Having said that, I did not make every ball game and concert. As busy as kids are today, I would have to quit my job to attend everything. I picked the most important events and tried to make it to others if I could.
2. Look for ways to include your children in ministry.
Here is just one example: In the eighth year of my ministry at Resurrection, I requested and received an eight-week sabbatical. We bought a second-hand pop-up camper and a conversion van and took a 13,000-mile trek studying 26 of the leading churches in America.
In the mornings I interviewed church leaders, and in the afternoons our family explored local attractions: the Coca Cola plant in Atlanta, Beale Street in Memphis, caves in Kentucky, NASA in Houston, and a host of others.
We attended two churches each weekend, and I asked the girls to rate the children's ministries. This was one of our most memorable experiences, both for them and for LaVon and me.
Since then we've taken the girls on many mission trips, from Russia, to Honduras, to Mississippi. In appropriate ways, my ministry is our ministry.
3. Make the most of a crazy schedule.
When my youngest asks me, at 11:30 p.m., "Dad, how about you and me head to Taco Bell?" it doesn't matter whether I'm hungry or tired, this is an invitation I can't refuse. We have the best conversations at Taco Bell at midnight (note: we don't do this on school nights!)