I didn’t get to honor my father on his birthday because I was a zombie the day after I gave birth. He celebrated his birthday on December 2, and Caylee was born the evening of December 1.
Since December 2 was a Sunday, he was preaching that day in two services. I didn’t expect him to drop by the hospital because I knew he had to speak that day. What a surprise it was when he popped in with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and their kids! He snuck in some time between his two messages just to congratulate me and spend a few moments with me. My physical body was exhausted but my emotional tank was full!
One of the reasons why my siblings and I fell in love with Jesus Christ is because my parents, especially my dad, never made the ministry of pastoring a mega church more important than the ministry of our family. These are the ways in which my parents, especially my dad, ministered to my siblings and me:
DINNER. My dad made it a point to have dinner with us. Sometimes he would get home late, but he insisted that we all eat dinner together as regularly as possible. We looked forward to these long meals where everyone was chatting and sharing stories of the day. He left the concerns of ministry and running a business at the door, and he made us feel like we were the most significant part of his day.
ROUTINES AND BONDING ACTIVITIES. He encouraged family routines and activities like exercising, doing sports outdoors like swimming, biking, basketball, golf, etc., which allowed us to have lots of bonding time together.
Almost every evening when he was home, we took evening walks as a family, up and down our street, Santa Drive in Valley Golf. During these walks, he engaged us and we were allowed to talk about anything and everything. To ward off stray dogs, he protectively carried one of his golf clubs, too.
Before going to bed, he would tuck us in and remind us that he loved us.
On the weekends, we got to spend the night in mom and dad’s room, which was a real treat. And on Sundays, we expected to gather together for family bible studies.
BEING PRESENT AT SPECIAL OCCASIONS. My siblings and I got into sports while in high school as well as into college. He watched our big games and cheered for us. We didn’t have to be the super stars of the teams for him to show his support. When he knew it was important to us to see him there, he made the effort to be there. When we received awards or recognition for academic achievements, he also showed up to affirm us and tell us he was proud of us.
As we grew up, got married and had children, dad visited us in the hospital whenever any of us would give birth. He also attended celebrations that mattered to us.
INCLUDING US. When he was invited to parties, occasions, or events he would politely ask if he could bring us along as well. We were a big family! I appreciated how he dared to ask such a question! More often than not, people obliged and accommodated him, especially when he was the speaker at an event or had a significant role. Hooray for us! If the event happened to be a wedding or a party, instead of sitting with other people, he would insist on sitting with us.
VACATIONS. He blocked off extended vacation times with the family, using these longer periods to have fun with us, to build relationship, and to disciple us. In recent years, he has taken each family on special trips locally or abroad to do ministry together and to invest time with our children. (We are an army when we are all together, so doing this one family at a time allows him to interact more effectively with his grand kids! It’s cheaper, too!)
FULL ATTENTION AND ENGAGEMENT. Growing up, he told us we could call him anytime when he was at work (he also ran a business) or serving at church (as a self-supporting pastor). We were permitted to interrupt his meetings with our calls, and he would answer and give us his full attention. (Of course, we didn’t abuse this privilege!)
He also let us interrupt him in his study room, which was like a “sacred” den, where he poured over the scripture and spend much time in prayer and meditation. However, any one of us could go in and sit down for a conversation. He would drop what he was doing and make sure we knew that we were important.
THE RIGHT EXPECTATIONS. We were never pressured to live up to the expectation that a pastor’s kid should behave appropriately, participate, and be supportive of his or her parents’ ministry in the church. My dad (and mom) reminded us often that we were to live for God’s glory, that we were ultimately accountable to Him, and our loyalty and love for Christ must precede all.
If we got into ministry, that would have to be something God called us to, not something that was imposed on us. My parents exposed us to ministry experiences instead.
They let us see, first hand, how Jesus changes lives, how the power of the gospel transforms even the most unlikely persons into people who choose to follow wholeheartedly after the Lord. They would take us along as they taught bible studies, served at church, did outreaches, spoke at conferences and retreats, and they allowed us to sit in as they counseled people at our dinner table.
In short, they modeled what ministry looked like, giving us a vision for how God might be able to use us to further His Kingdom someday.
ANGER MANAGEMENT. My dad wasn’t a temperamental person, nor was he an irritable or reactive person. He was strict and had command of our home, but he never raised his voice in anger, never shamed us by using words that cut down or wounded us emotionally. It probably helped that his own father was the same way towards him. He had a reference point. At the same time, my dad chose to be Spirit-filled, responding to circumstances, our mess ups and failings with grace and the desire to connect us back to the Lord when we would make wrong choices.
CONTINUAL DISCIPLESHIP. Even until our adult hood, dad often initiates reaching out to us to find how we are doing in all areas of our lives — relationship-wise, ministry or business, finances, and the like. He is eager to know what is going on in our hearts, how he can pray for us, how he can be there. When some of my siblings left for the U.S. to live there, my dad would travel with my mom to see them as often as possible. He was intentional when he visited my siblings, especially focusing on their spiritual growth and walk with the Lord. He intentionally took these trips to minister to them in this way. On Sundays, he sets aside the evening to have dinners with the entire “clan.” It can be a madhouse with 19 grandkids (now 20) running about and making noise. However, he genuinely relishes this time with all of us.
The climate is such that all of us siblings, along with our spouses (whom he embraces as his own), are asked to rate our marriages, to share how we can change and improve as spouses or parents, and what the highlights have been. He interjects spiritual principles here and there without being overbearing. We all appreciate this time to connect with him, my mom and one another. It’s become a family tradition to gather like this.
THE WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE AND IMPROVE. My dad kept our hearts from being embittered towards him by owning up to his shortcomings and faults. When he made mistakes, he humbly accepted our correction, apologized, and committed to change. He didn’t pretend to be perfect, and he admitted to the areas of his life that he needed to work on in order to become more Christ-like.
PRAYER. He prayed for our future spouses, life choices, protection, and he prayed when we were under trial, dealing with issues and problems. When circumstances in our lives were beyond his control, he surrendered us to the Lord and trusted in Him to see us through. He continues to pray for us.
When I think back on the things my dad did as a father to minister to my siblings and me, and the way he continues to do so, there really was no special formula or magic to his parenting. However, he applied faithfulness, consistency, and intentionality through the years. Whatever he did when we were younger, he just kept doing through the different seasons of our lives, and even into this stage when we all have families.
Any person who puts in the effort towards any pursuit or endeavor will reap the rewards in the years to come. My dad is at that point in his life, and I know deep down there is a joy and a satisfaction that comes from the Lord, that tells him he made the right choices as a father.
It is a law of life — to reap what you sow as Galatians tell us. If we want to reap a good relationship with our kids, to see the fruit of God’s work in the hearts, we have to minister to our families. While they are young and needy of guidance, we must pastor our children. Many others can do the work of ministry in the church, of leading a church. God seeks out men and women all the time and raises them for this very purpose. But the church that is the home, that the place where a parent is called to pastor and lead, and this cannot be delegated to others.
Thank you and happy birthday to my dad! I am so blessed and honored to call you dad!
“Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6)