It all started at the end of our holiday this year. “Dad, why do we just go away on holiday in this country when my school friends go to Turkey twice a year?”
A few weeks later it was, “Dad, why doesn’t the church pay you as much money as other people? A minister’s job is very important! You should be paid lots of money! Then we wouldn’t have to think about whether we can afford an iPad or not.”
At the weekend there were three questions. One went like this: “Dad, why do we have to go to church every Sunday when most of my friends don’t go very much at all?”
The next was, “Dad, why do our teachers ask us all the questions in RE lessons, just because they know you’re a minister?”
And at bath-time I got, “Dad, why don’t as many people go to church these days?” Oh yes: I had to explain theories of secularisation to an eight-year-old.
Our children, at the ages of eight and nine, are now beginning to feel how different it is to be the daughter and son of a manse family. Some of it is exacerbated by currently living in the wealthiest county in the country. But it was going to come at some point. So how do we respond?
I used the first two questions to discuss with them what Jesus teaches about money, and why it isn’t the most important thing in life. I hope I got them thinking about the priorities of love and relationships. However, the issue will keep returning, especially here in Surrey.
The question about church attendance was asked by one of the children and answered by the other: “We have to go every week, because Dad is the minister.” I said, “No, we go every week because that’s what Christians do.” I would have liked more time to explore that. On its own it wasn’t an adequate answer.
I sympathised with them over the way their teachers seem to single them out in RE, expecting them to know a lot. I suggested it was possible their teachers weren’t churchgoers, and were looking for help from them. But that just provoked another question: “If our teachers are meant to show us what is true and good, why don’t they go to church?” And that led into the bath-time discussion of secularisation.
Yet it’s not just a matter of asking the questions. It’s about what we model and how we handle the whole consequences of my distinctive (perhaps the old word ‘peculiar’ is appropriate here) calling.
So I thought I’d throw this out for discussion: what are the best ways to raise preachers’ kids? I especially don’t want church to put them off. They can’t help but realise at times that not everything about church is nicey-nicey. All that alongside peer pressure around here, based presently on financial lifestyle implications.
Over to you!
Ahead of you in terms of age: 11 and 8 but I get the same questions (although thanks to 2 GCSE contracts over the last 5 years we do get to France- it works out cheaper than GB but that is another story).
I am asking a deeper question and am coming to think that being a Methodist Minister nad having children is very difficult. Culturally, we are being pulled into an abnormal life…. what other parent do you know who works 6 days a week and is out at least 4 nights on top of that?
We become so busy keeping an institution going that we cease to be able to effectively incarnate Christ among the people we meet at the school gate, in the community. More importantly, periods of unhurried family time, or the family as incarnating the radical hospitality of God are grasped at in the rush to another meeting/service.
I am fighting the same battle!
It can be really hard. Ours are through the teenage years now, so I can look back. They suffered from RE teachers assuming they’d know all the answers – probably because they were the only ones that did… Ours also remembered the life we had before ministry, but were also able to see the upsides of the places we were able to live – though aware of the far greater wealth of those around them.
Unfortunately, as they get older, children of the Manse see the worst the church can inflict on it’s ministers, and I think that has effected ours, they were quite upset by the way they saw some people treat me.
I think as they move on, it’s difficult for them when they go to a church where their parent isn’t the minister.
I suppose the only thing I could offer them was, who knows what life would be like if we weren’t here/I wasn’t a minister. And, as you say, to focus on how we live as Christians, not just as minister’s families.
Sorry, that’s probably not much help is it?!
The issue of feeling if “everyone but every one” is better off than you will not be unique to children of the Manse. Through the late 50s to early 70s my parents somehow managed to put my 2 brothers and I though private schooling. And at times it did grate that every contemporary seemed be better off have bew cars fancy holidays etc – parents in “business” rather than a research engineer then lecturer. We got though it!
And even in the 1930s my mother was aware that she was in a minority in that she went to church twice on Sunday where her father was organist – and Sunday School.
That said the trend to seculariation has accelerated considerably. In our patch we have been noticing that going even once every Sunday is less common. Once or twice a month is seen by many as regular.
A friend of ours, a daughter of the Manse, said most either threw it all over or joined in totally. My younger brother’s daughter, he is a Baptist minister, is closer to the latter. His son has similar aspirations.
I have no glib answers. But you seem to be on the right lines to me. Living it and being honest about your own questions seems a good start point.
I am unqualified to answer this question since (1) I am not in paid ministry and (2) my children are now old enough to make up their own (independent) minds. Of course, being unqualified to speak doesn’t stop anyone in cyber space so here goes.
I would imagine lots of ministers’ kids would feel resentment at various stages. Their fathers (or mothers) would not be the only ones working long hours but the children would be under pressure (whether real or perceived) to be role models for other children. I think ministers and spouses also would feel under pressure to have a marriage such as described in the Bible – a big ask! Everything’s perfect and rosy kind of thing. And so the kids may feel that need to be ‘perfect and rosy’ also.
I found in bringing up my own children that we needed to be consistent with them – no enforcer and no soft touch. (Sometimes I was consistently wrong!).
Obviously, we’re not in the same situation as you but, from a general parenting point of view… all kids compare themselves to others (part of their trying to define themselves). Last month we had the “all my friends have gone abroad this year so how come we’re in Wales?” conversation and trying to explain the needs of budgeting (whatever your income) didn’t go down well at all!
I wonder how much of this is to do with your job and how much is about being a Christian family? We’ve had lots of similar questions about why we do things differently to others (Sundays, church, saying grace at meals, etc). Kids like to conform to their peers,especially at M and R’s age but as they get older, I think they become more confident in themselves and proud of their family’s individuality.
You’re not alone in conversations about what this world values in terms of wages – why is fixing a computer worth more than restoring dignity to a dying person? But it is a valuable opportunity to talk about what values really matter and the other rewards for our efforts in what God has called us to do.
And ministers aren’t the only ones whose jobs take up so much family time – look at shift workers or those who give up evenings for volunteer work. Forces families have to move house because of the parent’s job and often see little of them. Perhaps it’s worth talking about people they have things in common with, manse families or otherwise?
The other reason they get asked all the RE questions, of course, could simply be because they know more answers than the rest of the class! It’s exactly what happened to me at school but our Dad’s not a minister. However a good teacher (like mine) will actually stop asking them because it makes the other kids lazy – might be worth a word with the teacher next time you have a Parent Teacher meeting?
Having said all that, yes, growing up in a manse must be different. Your kids will see more of the down side of church and probably also get more of a fuss made of them – because you’re centre stage so will they be. But I guess what I’m trying to say is help them see all the things they have in common with other people whilst teaching them that Christians are meant to be different. And always take any statement from kids that begins “But all/none of my friends…” with the largest pinch of salt!