Preparing Our Children For Change
“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2
The pastor’s family lives in an interesting world - one that can be just as stable as it is unpredictable. Unexpected changes are common in all professions with budget cuts, lay-offs and management shifts, but it is rare that they affect a family as much as for those living in a pastor’s home. Military families and missionaries are probably the other households where vocational changes drastically impact each family member.
Preparing for potential change is key in keeping a peaceful home and in maintaining some sense of stability. For the average household, a change in employment just means that mom or dad need to secure a new job. For the pastor’s family, however, it often means they will not just be looking for a new job, but a new church, new friends, new ministry endeavors - and quite possibly a new home. In these situations, the loss of church family and the loss of a home can be equally traumatic. What were once places of security and safety can no longer be the place of refuge. Normal and routine no longer exist, and a new normal will take a while to emerge from the chaos.
Change is inevitable - either of our own choosing or caused by another. To ease the strain caused by trading the known for the unknown here are a few simple strategies that might help your family to ‘set your eyes on things above’ instead of holding on too tightly to the things we call ‘home.’
Embrace The Unknown
Our family mantra has always been - “It only takes one phone call.” While we didn’t want to instill fear into our girls’ hearts (or in ours for that matter), we did want to impress on them that we were called to follow God’s lead and that anywhere He sends us is good. “It only takes one phone call” was our way of reminding our children that God is in control - and that it is a good thing. Embracing the unknown, in faith, is an invaluable opportunity to build trust in a Sovereign and Almighty God.
Hold On Loosely
We are called to be managers of our earthly possessions. By the world’s standards many things may ‘belong’ to us, but they are all merely on loan. We are called to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with, but the riches God blesses us with on earth are often transitional or temporary.
Create An Atmosphere of Adventurous Faith
Create a sense of anticipation. Dream about the future and what God may do. Play the ‘what if’ game at meal time or on road trips. It goes something like this –
“What if God moved us to a different church, what would you look for first?”
“What if Dad no longer worked as a pastor, what would change (if anything) at our house?”
“What if Dad got a different pastorate, what state or country do you think it would be fun to move to?”
“What if we moved to a different house, what is one thing you’d like to have in your new room?”
Be Honest and Open
Share what can be shared. Be sensitive to the different ages and stages of your kids. Less is more at times, but letting your kids get blindsided with a potential move is never a good thing. Renting a home, paying on a mortgage and living in a parsonage all have their ups and downs. Educate your children on your current living situation and how it could change someday – but that you’d still be a family!
Nurture Thankful Hearts
Speak often of how God has blessed each of you. Literally count your blessings in front of your children from to time. Instill a deep sense of gratitude for all that God has done in and for your family. What a gift it is to nurture thankful hearts in our children so that they can truly trust Him in all things – even an unknown future.
Don’t give into the temptation to bury your head in the sand - hoping that all will stay stable and unchanged in the future. Instead, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15