What do my kids need from me? How is being a dad any different because I'm a pastor? Here's what I came up with:
1. They need me to be a dad before they need me to be a pastor. They need to see me, play with me, hug me, and spend time with me apart from the pastorate. If I make time for people who need counseling, shouldn't I make time for my kids? They need my full attention on vacation and days they are out of school - Lord, help me with this one.
2. They don't need me to preach to them; they need me to talk to them. I preach to a congregation, not to my kids. I must ask them how their day was in detail. They don't need three points and a poem from me to succeed. They need me living out Scripture right in front of them.
3. They need me to be interested in what they are interested in. I love reading books by pastors, listening to sermons, and writing. My kids could care less about any of that. When do I do these? When it doesn't rob from them (after they are in bed, during office hours, etc.). When I was working on my Master's Degree I only worked on it after they were in bed or before they got up. This was sacrifice on my part but worth it to keep involved in their interests. Kylee loves cheerleading and Abby gymnastics. Personally, I don't consider either a hobby or interest but if they do, I must.
4. They need me to be real with them. No one can spot fake like a wife and kids. They need the me at church and the me at home to be the same man. They don't need religious phrases or churchy actions. They don't need their pastor to walk into the room. They need the real Stephen Harrison, their only daddy, to stand up.
5. They need to be first. Of course, Haley is first. I take her calls regardless of who I'm meeting with or how serious the meeting is. They need the same attention. I must be willing to drop everything for them if they need me. While I must block out undivided time for them, they never need an appointment. They don't stand in line to speak to me at church. They need full access to their dad at all times.
6. They need the ability to fail. I offer grace to others in their failures - my kids need it too. All too often pastor's kids are expected to be perfect. They live life under a microscope. Or at least please don't embarrass me, I'm the pastor. I must care about their spiritual restoration and condition more than my pastoral reputation. No matter how much my kids may fail they deserve grace from me and unconditional love - especially if I'm going to preach it.
7. They don't need to be bounced around. A pastor's life is made up of many meetings. If I'm not careful my kids can be in childcare due to my meetings more than they are at home. I have to protect my nights at home by scheduling as many meetings before 5pm as possible. We must eat supper together at our own table several times a week.
There are many more things my kids need from me. Most importantly, they need me.