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!