Monday, December 29, 2008

Pastoring and Parenting

"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

...For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." -1 Thes 2:7-12 (ESV)

Three things stick out to me in this text, one in which Paul compares his role as a pastor with that of a parent. The two are obviously distinct from each other, but Paul seems to suggest that there are a lot of similarities between the two. Here are the three things I think we can learn from this text:

(1) Effective pastoring (not just by staff, but by all church leaders) and parenting both involve a maternal aspect. Paul refers to a "gentleness" that marked his ministry--a gentleness that most of us can remember being embodied by our mothers. Moms have an innate desire to comfort and care for the immediate needs of their children. They show an empathy and concern for their children. This is an absolutely necessary component of parenting and pastoring, because without experiencing compassion and concern, people will rarely listen to the counsel that parents or pastors have to offer.

(2) Effective pastoring and parenting both involve a paternal aspect. Paul said that like a father, he "exhorted, encouraged, and charged" them to live a life worthy of God. I read recently about how while mothers are more concerned with their children's immediate needs, fathers are primarily focused on the "end-product." This is so true and important to ministry in the church and in the home. We must not coddle those we are leading, but warn them, teach them, and set high expectations for them. We must teach them the gospel very clearly and teach them the expectations that God has of them.

(3) Effective pastoring and parenting both involve a sharing of our lives AND of the gospel. The motherly instinct is to be affectionate and to share our lives with those we lead (listen to their hurt, hug them, encourage them, etc.). The fatherly instinct is hopefully to teach them the gospel and push them toward greater maturity and obedience to Christ in the long run. But Paul says we must do both to be effective leaders. We must come alongside those we lead, genuinely desiring to know them and comfort them. But we must also go before them and lead them toward growth and maturity.

In our homes and in our church, let's follow Paul's example and strive to provide both of these to those we are pastoring and parenting!

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