Heart Matters: Parental Guidance Suggested

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

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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.

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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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