Raising faith at home as a church leader – Living in a goldfish bowl

Growing up as a pastor’s kid definitely means living with some unique challenges.

Many a child of a church leader has felt the expectation to behave like a little angel when they were small, and then to know every answer to the Bible quiz when they hit the youth group. Even in the most accepting church, eyebrows will be undoubtedly be raised when the child of a key leader steps out of line. Talk about unrealistic expectations.

As any ministry family will attest, it’s not easy feeling like all eyes are watching you. It’s like being a member of the royal family, without the palaces or the perks!

You seem to be always noticed or on show. Your presence or absence is duly noted. What you say carries weight and might be repeated or even used in evidence against you!

Our two children certainly resented it when they were treated differently – either being singled out, or conversely, being overlooked. People perhaps assumed they had absorbed maturity, knowledge or confidence by osmosis simply by virtue of living in our home! As if!

Living in a goldfish bowl, where everybody sees you, is a strange part of our calling. But leaders are role models, after all. People do see into our lives, know our story, recognise our kids and sit in our front room more than your average family. Our children and our marriages often are more visible and scrutinised.

This sometimes sucks (understatement) but this transparency also brings opportunities. As we invite people into our imperfect (and sometimes downright embarrassing) reality, we pray they will also feel comfortable to share honestly about their own lives. We get to transparently and authentically connect with others as a family in unique and often wonderful ways.

We certainly haven’t got goldish-bowl-living right all of the time, but one thing I do know: as parents in leadership, we can make sure that the pressure to perform doesn’t come from us. The ‘what will people think?’ syndrome can’t leave our lips even if it enters our minds.

Children are just children and most of them will make mistakes, have doubts about their faith, keep secrets and have difficult phases. The one place they need to be unconditionally accepted is in our home. After all, we are just normal parents with normal kids, working it out and swimming along as best as we can.

As a family

Why don’t you spend some time with your children this week writing down what they like and dislike about your role in leadership. If your children are older, maybe ask them if they feel that other people at church are watching their every move. If they do, give them permission to be themselves and remind them that it’s OK to make mistakes sometimes.

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"It was so good to talk to other mums who are struggling with the same things as me."

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