Pastors, don’t make your kids have to set boundaries for you. What do I mean? Well, there’s nothing like being a PK. I can say that from experience precisely because I am, well, a preacher’s kid. For all the dour, sour words my sister and I have heard from fellow PKs who don’t share our enthusiasm—we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Daddy’s first church in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana, was in a rented, basement room at the downtown YMCA. Then, when I was 6, Daddy (though Sis and I are both over 50, he will always be “Daddy” to us) bought a little storefront building on what was then Mishawaka Road, and there he pastored until he retired.
Through the years—oh! The people we met. There was Sister Aaliyah (not her real name), who thought I was a brat and always wanted to spank me—until I grew up and quit tearing through the church like a whirlwind. And Sister Zuwena, whose firm handshake could tear your shoulder right out of its socket. Sister Bethan always brought green bean casserole—my favorite!—to potlucks, just for me. And Brother Hugh cooked pike for us after every fishing trip.
These were just a few of our dear congregants, people we loved like family—and Daddy would take care of them, every one, like beloved sheep. Many times I’d go with him when he visited them at home or in the hospital. I was also there when he buried them. I knew their stories and played with their kids.
Most of his parishioners respected him and supported him. Others, as in any church, talked about him behind his back. Criticized his preaching. Bad mouthed his family. A couple even tried to undermine his ministry. It happens. Even then, he took his calling seriously: he—and we—cared for the flock Jesus had entrusted to him.
But what about the flock God didn’t entrust to him? Let’s talk about that for a moment.
Elderly Sister Honeyball didn’t attend our church. Oh, she’d come for special events: “singings,” dinners, homecomings. That’s how we knew her. But she had her own church and her own pastor. And yet, time after time, when in need, it was my dad she’d call. “Brother Street, I’m sick. Come pray for me.” “Brother Street, I’m in the hospital. Can you come visit me?” “I need a gallon of milk, Brother Street; can you bring me one?” And my kindhearted, faithful father would dutifully haul himself over to attend to her needs. It galled my mother, it galled my sister, and it galled me that it never occurred to her to call her own pastor.
Until one day.
Daddy wasn’t home, I don’t know where my mom and sister were, but Sister Honeyball made her periodic phone call. And I answered.
“Hi, little Renée”—I remained “little Renée” to church members long after I had ceased to be “little” anything—“Is Brother Street home?”
I don’t even remember what she needed that time but I knew what she wanted: for Daddy to trot over to her house. And he was simply too kind not to. She knew that.
Well, I couldn’t help myself. “Sister Honeyball,” I said, “why don’t you call your pastor?” I was very kind, mind you. But very direct.
She got the message—and she didn’t call again. (Maybe she did end up calling her pastor.)
When Daddy came home, I told him about it. Oh, he wasn’t happy. (And Mother pretended not to be, though I think, secretly, she applauded.) But we all knew that this sister had been taking advantage of him. She never did again.
So, could I have handled that a better way? Probably. But was I right in contending that if Sister Honeyball attended elsewhere, she should be supported by her own pastor? Absolutely.
That was the day Daddy began setting boundaries so he wouldn’t wear himself out looking after sheep from other flocks.
Pastors, don’t make your kids have to set boundaries for you. Draw some lines. Insist that members of other churches go there for their support. To do otherwise robs you, your family, your church, and God of valuable time. It can even damage your health. God called you to the church that you pastor. Redirecting a needy non-member to his or her own congregation doesn’t make you uncompassionate; it makes you wise.
Besides, if you don’t do it . . . the PKs who love you will.
Written by Renee Chavez, writer, editor, and Pastor’s Kid.