We all dread getting that call, the call we never wanted to get. Have you ever received that call? It could’ve been in the middle of the night, or during a business meeting, it may have even blindsided you. It’s the “bad news” phone call. Your basement flooded while you were out of town, your child has been in a car wreck, a loved one has tragically died, you have cancer.
No one wants to receive that kind of call. In fact, we dread them.
Unfortunately, many parents believe that the call of God in the life of their child is like one of those dreaded calls.
But why? Is your child going into ministry truly as bad as someone dying? What's so bad about God calling your child into full-time Christian service?
I'm sure every parent that dreads that conversation with their child has their own personal reasons--many of which they may have justified in their minds…but here are a few of those reasons:
- Ministry isn’t as good as a “white-collar” profession
Ministry jobs have typically been viewed as a second-tier, third-tier, or even a fourth-tier profession. It’s like the quote from Woody Allen, “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.” (He probably got that from George Bernard Shaw who said, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches”). At any rate, it seems like people add to that phrase by saying, “Those who can’t teach gym, go into ministry.”
But this isn’t what the Bible teaches about the call of God into full-time ministry.
The Apostle Paul speaking to young Timothy said, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1).” Granted, Paul is referring to that of the pastorate, but I believe that the call of God into any sort of full-time ministry is, in fact, noble—mainly because God is the One calling them to it. Someone who desires to commit their life and profession to full-time ministry must be called by God to do so, because it’s not as easy as everyone assumes!
Parents, even though you may dread the call of God in the life your child, you need to pray that God would help you change your perspective on the importance of such a profession. It is a noble profession in the sight of God!
- You won’t be able to financially support your family
Honestly, I can understand this argument. I have always heard that if you want to make money, don’t go into ministry. In fact, Thom Rainer wrote that “The reality is that most of the some 400,000 pastors in America are not overpaid; indeed many are underpaid.”
It is important that pastors receive fair compensation for the work that they do. The Apostle Paul taught this simple truth when he said, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer deserves his wages’ (1 Timothy 5:17-18).”
Granted, those who are called by God into ministry don’t do it for the money—at least they shouldn’t—but we still want to be able to support our families!
Parents, don’t let the fear that your children won’t be able to financially support themselves deter you from supporting their call into ministry. Instead, teach them about financial management! Teach your children how to assess what they will need to make financially in order to support themselves and their future families. Teach them how to budget and handle money. Teach them to be good stewards of what God gives them. Jesus even taught a parable on stewardship in Matthew 25!
Your children may not have much in the form of money working in full-time Christian service, but they will have what they need. We are all promised this in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So teach your children how to manage what they do have.
Instead of worrying about your children, equip them.
- What if the “ministry” doesn’t work out?
The hope is that when a person is called by God into full-time Christian service that it WILL work out. Unfortunately, ministry professions have one of the highest attrition rates of any other profession. General statistics show that around 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month for various reasons (see Editor's Note below).
It is always good to have a “plan B.” As parents, we feel an obligation to make sure that our children are taken care of, so we want to make sure that if their initial professional desire doesn’t work out long-term, they have something to fall back on.
I find it interesting that even the Apostle Paul was a “tent-maker (Acts 18:2-3).” This is how he primarily received his funding in order to travel and serve in full-time Christian service. In a sense, it seems like Paul was a bi-vocational pastor, except for the fact that he didn’t receive steady income from any one church—as he wasn’t a pastor of any one church. Paul had learned a very practical trade, and he used his ability and skill to support himself and his ministry financially.
Parents, teach your children a trade. Teach your children to be able to work with their hands in as many areas as possible. I was blessed growing up that I was able to work a wide range of jobs while in high school and college that gave me, at least, a rudimentary knowledge of many trades. This has been extremely beneficial to me throughout the years. I have been able to work as a teacher, construction worker, dry-waller, and tiler. I have installed swimming pools, worked retail, landscaping, radio, and many other trades. This has provided me with many skills to be able to continue to provide for my family—whether in ministry or not.
Beth Moore in one of her devotionals on Luke 2:52 talks about the Greek word for wisdom. Wisdom is skill in the affairs of life, practical wisdom, wise management, sound judgment and good sense. In respect to divine things, it is insight, deep understanding, and knowledge. Moore says, “Christ was both completely practical and deeply spiritual. In today’s terms, He was a man who could preach an anointed sermon, then change a flat tire on the way home from church.”
Parents, support your child who desires to go into full-time ministry, but teach them how to do many practical jobs to provide them the skills they may need if they choose to one day leave the ministry.
- It’s not what I always wanted you to do
In my time as a youth pastor, I have dealt with families where the parent dreaded their child’s desire to go into full-time ministry for many of the reasons mentioned above. This last point has always been a difficult one to deal with because it often deals with the heart of the parent more than their concern for their children.
I remember one student that wanted to go into ministry, but his father wanted him to get go into business. The father even told his son that the only way he would help pay for his schooling was if he went to business school. He would NOT pay anything for his son to go to Bible College. The student ended up going to business school and receiving his degree. His heart is still for ministry and he has helped, even in his time in business school, plant a church and new campus locations.
My counseling was more direct to the student in this particular case, but it made me wonder about the parental perspective. As a parent, we do desire the best for our children. We want our children to be safe, provided for, secure, and geographically close, but if we are not careful, we will choke the individuality from our children. The fact is this: our children are not us. Even though they have many of our qualities, both good and bad, God has designed each of our children uniquely for His purpose and plan for their lives—not ours.
Jeremiah 29:11 teaches, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” As I am writing this, I am watching my children play together. I want my kids to play baseball, but my daughter loves ballet. I wanted my son to dress up like Batman for Halloween, but he chose Captain America. I know these seem trivial, but it’s a small glimpse into the individuality of my children. They are little people with their own personalities, ideas, imaginations, likes, and dislikes. They are not a perfect clone of myself—which is definitely good—they are their own person.
I pray that as my children grow, if God chooses to call either or both of them into full-time Christian service, that I would be receptive to it. Even though I may have dreams for them, I pray that I would allow them to pursue their own dreams instead.
Parents, as Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Trust that God knows what He is doing much more than you do. Trust in how you raised your children—that you have raised solid, sensible, wise, godly kids. Trust in your kids that they will use everything that they have learned, and that you have taught them, to make wise decisions.
You may end up being pleasantly surprised.