What Should a Pastor Do When His Child Falls?
It happens. Sometimes a pastor’s adult child goes off into the far country and away from God. We have dealt with many who have experienced this with their child and wonder what exactly to do. There are some things that perhaps would be of help to those who are dealing with this. There are two aspects that need to be considered. First how the pastor should deal with the prodigal and second how he should deal with his church in light of his prodigal child.
For your son/daughter:
- Do not change the way you treat or view him/her. Let your love be even stronger. Show it. Express it genuinely and graciously.
- Don’t bring it up. If he/she needs to talk about it, listen without interjecting your thoughts unless he/she asks. Like it or not, God is going to have to deal with them. You will alienate them if you constantly are bringing up the sins in their life.
- Show your own joy in the Lord. Do not let your prodigal perceive that you are feeling sorry for yourselves. It is about them, not you. Do not make it about yourself.
- Do not be ashamed of him/her. He/She is your son/daughter and needs to feel you are not ashamed even though you are disappointed in his/her actions. Of course you are disappointed in their choices but so not be ashamed of them as your child.
- Don’t let the consequences be the big issue. It was the sin, not the consequence that he/she must deal with. Help bear the consequence on your shoulders. If your daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock, do not treat the pregnancy as the sin. It is not. It is the consequence of the sin.
- Comfort him/her in his/her sorrow. Help them cope with whatever losses or suffering he/she is dealing with. If your child suffers because of the sins they committed, do not have an “I told you so” spirit.
- Show him/her hope for the future. Do not allow him/her to live in despair. When the prodigal returns assure them that God has a wonderful plan for their life. Do not make them feel they have destroyed their future because of a fall in their past.
- Defend your prodigal if anyone attacks him/her. Show him/her that you are still his/her dad and that you will protect him/her. You will not defend the sin but you will defend him/her to anyone who tries to throw the sin in his/her face.
- Don’t look for someone to blame. Sins happens because we are sinners. It does not matter whose fault it is. This can be huge because sometimes we want to blame someone else who we feel hurt our influenced our child adversely. Do not assign blame. You child’s choice is their choice and it is wrong to blame anyone else.
- This is big. Fight guilt and shame in him/her. “There is now therefore NO condemnation” must be real to him/her more than ever and you must be the one who emphasizes it to them.
- DO NOT throw your ministry into their face. Many prodigals have been driven further away when a pastor dad tried to guilt them with the shame they are bringing on their ministry. Resist the urge pastor. It is not about your ministry and they need to know you care more about them than your ministry.
For your church:
- Be as transparent as you can possibly be. Do not try to hide the truth, but neither should you broadcast it. Transparency is not necessarily full disclosure. It is simply not trying to create a smokescreen to cover the truth.
- Let this be an example of grace to the people. Your church will be watching you to learn how you deal with the same thing many of them have or will deal with. Be the example of grace to them.
- Don’t blame yourself or second guess your parenting. Good Christians have kids that do wrong. Your people need to realize that. Do not try to excuse your child’s choices, but neither should you take the blame. Good parents have prodigals. Our Heavenly Father has many of them.
- Don’t change anything. Keep moving forward. Do not go into a mourning mode in your church and stop the work of God. Keep moving forward for God even as you deal with the sorrow of your child’s choices.
- Don’t show too much hurt. Be humble, but don’t seek sympathy. It is ok to hurt, but it is not OK to use your child’s choices to solicit sympathy. Show dignity even through your pain.
- Don’t make excuses or accusations against your son/daughter. These are opposite ends of reaction. Some react with accusations while others react with excuses. Do NOT react. Respond with grace.
- Let your preaching expose your heart towards sinners. Show lots of grace and how to forgive. This is a good time to practice and teach restoration to your people. Remember you are by no means the only one dealing with having a prodigal. Show them how to respond.
- Comfort your wife. Most women take these things more emotionally than we do. Be there for her. Pastor, your wife is probably feeling things differently than you. You may be more pragmatic while she may be more emotional. She is the nurturer so be sensitive to her feelings.
- Don’t second guess yourself to your people. “If only’s” and “if I had it to over agains” help no one and often seem shallow compared to, “what can I learn from this.” Let God be God and you his humble child.
- Do not let people attack your son/daughter. It is not open season on him/her. While you should not protect them from their consequences, you can make it clear that they are your child and you will not accept people attacking him/her.
Pastor, it hurts! You are struggling in your heart. However, now is the time to be an example to your church and a testimony to your child. Your prodigal needs you to do the right thing. Ask the Lord to help you be the kind of father to your prodigal as he is to His.
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