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Missions 101

The Pastor as a Father

Oct. 7, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

John Frye offers four pieces of advice:

  1. I tried never to shape their behavior by pulling out “your-dad’s-the-pastor-of-the-church” card. What salesman-dad pulls rank on his kids with his vocation? Or engineer, or school teacher, or baseball player? “Your dad is the pastor” is a dangerous and phony standard to use on children. Why? Because being a pastor does not equal being a good dad. Children can learn to hate everything about the faith under the pressure of living up to an artificial standard especially when their dad is an inadequate father.

  2. Julie and I risked erring on the side of grace rather than on strict, regulated family laws. We, of course, had standards and guidelines, but we would rather be known as gracious than as strict disciplinarians. Love and grace are risky realities in raising children, but in the long run they are worth it. This can be tough, though, because you don’t get a hand-book with each child. Every parent wants a “paint by numbers” guide to raising the perfect kid. And if they can’t get one from the Christian radio guru, they will make one up. I have seen children in the church, after being raised under and pressed down by strict “Christian” and moral laws, flee into apostasy when they got out on their own. Parents had an image that they wanted their children to match and never got to know the image of God that God had in mind in creating the child. So much parenting today is fear- driven, not grace- and love-driven.

  3. Julie and I believe that being faithful to each other is the most valuable legacy we can give our girls. Julie and I are very different persons (that probably goes without saying in view of the old saw “opposites attract”). We have had some turbulent times in our marriage and family life, but we both made a commitment before we had children that “divorce” would not be in our vocabulary. I recall an argument Julie and I had. I left the house angry and one of the girls came with me. I was driving and fuming inside. My little daughter looked at me and in a fearful voice asked, “Are you and Mom going to get a divorce?” My spirit broke. Our marital anger created insecurity in her heart. When Julie and I would "kiss and make up," as they say, our girls would swarm around our legs and hug us. A seminary mentor repeatedly said, "The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother."

4. I did use our family’s life periodically in sermons (and,yes, I did err sometimes in not getting permission first. But I learned). Here’s what one daughter thought of that (as a pro):
“I loved being the PK at Bella Vista [Church]. I loved that I might hear my name or at least a story about me in your sermon illustrations. I guess that was my inner actress getting a little fame. It made me feel special and it made me feel like what we were going through, what we’d accomplished or what we’d said was important. I loved it!” I wanted people to identify me and Julie and the girls as a family like their families with fun stories and deep sorrows. Thankfully, the church overall accepted that.

HT: Scot McKnight

Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

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