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Heart Matters

No ministry takes precedence over caring for and overseeing the spiritual development of our children.

I asked my 14-year-old daughter, Rachel, what I should write about in my column. She said, "Write about me, Dad." Her wonderful hazel eyes twinkled as she added, "Then maybe some famous Hollywood producer will read about me and I'll be discovered."

My Rachel isn't all that different from any child in this country-or I expect around the world. She wants to be noticed. My task as a dad is to notice her. I'm reminded of the time she tried just a little makeup-her first safari into the jungle of female niceties. She walked into the room, sidled up next to me on the couch, and asked, "What do you think, Dad?"

I examined my little girl closely, trying to guess what it was I was supposed to notice. Her knowing smile and the expectant look in her eyes told me that if I got this wrong, life as I knew it would be unbearable for at least a week. Still I sat gazing upon this, my child, with no earthly idea of what it was I was giving my opinion about. I studied her with my most loving fatherly look and said, "I think you're beautiful."

"I knew you'd like it." She hugged me and ran away. It wasn't until my wife talked to me later that I learned about the makeup. A minuscule amount of eye shadow and blush had renewed my desire to observe my child. I vowed that day that I would see, inspect, and examine my children. I'd take notice of the smiles, the sadness, or even the makeup.
Parenting isn't all that easy, so I work hard at it. I believe my primary ministry is to not "orphan" my children.

Have you ever noticed ministry orphans at your church? You know, the children who run uncensored through the hallways and sanctuary. They have no parental guidance in their worship experience. By the way, I believe church should be labeled "PG"-Parental Guidance suggested.

Why are they orphans? Because mom or dad or both have taken on an "important ministry'" in the church. I know God has gifted people with ushering skills or marimba playing in the church orchestra or singing solos in the choir. Being a pastor, I'd like to help every believer find his or her ministry. But no ministry takes precedence over caring for and overseeing the spiritual development of our children.

I have a 21-year-old daughter finishing college, a son soon to be married, Rachel, whom I just told you about, and a 9-year-old son. My kids are good. They love the Lord and serve their fellow believers. People often ask what our secret is to raising good kids.

I think my wonderful children are that way for many reasons. They have an incredible mom who balances out my wacky input in their lives. But most important, my kids have always known that I was their children's pastor first. Then I was pastor to the other kids at church.
I believe parenting supersedes any other ministry involvement. Call me old-fashioned, but what would've happened in Eli's home had he spent some quality time training his two boys in the way they should go?

What do kids need? They need a mom and dad who'll notice them. Add to this a long line of significant others-Sunday school teachers, pastors, and children's church workers who'll pay attention to their ever-changing needs. People who'll treat them like the special created-in-the-image-of-God people they are. They need adults who'll take the time to notice the makeup, the tears, the attitudes, the hurts, the joys, and the spirit of these children.
I know you can be that kind of parent and church worker. Notice your children. Talk with parents about their ministry orphans. Make a commitment for your children to be your #1 ministry priority.

(Rachel, I know you're reading this. I still think you're beautiful. Probably much too beautiful for Hollywood).

Dick Gruber is a children's pastor in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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