Danny: Welcome back everyone to 101 Questions Church Planters Ask. I’m your host, Danny Parmelee, and today we’re answering the question “How Do I Avoid Messing Up My Kids as a Pastor?” And to help answer that question we have two very special guests, Daniel and Christina Im. And they have a podcast of their own, IMBetween, we’ll give you guys a chance to give a little shout out for that later, for our listeners. But Daniel, you also just released a new book, “You Are What You Do: And Six other Lies about Work, Life, and Love, and that’s part of the reason why you guys are on this podcast. One of the chapters, which I read the whole book from front all the way to the back, and you had a chapter on family stuff which I thought was just great. So, congratulations on that and thank you guys so much for being on the show today.
Daniel: Hey, it’s so good to be with an old friend, and especially one from Tennessee. So, I decided to rep with my Tennessee shirt on.
Christina: Yeah. I should have worn my Tennessee shirt. Next time.
Danny: I was going to say Tennessee certainly misses you guys. But how are things going for you in Edmonton?
Daniel: Oh, well, you know, it’s like, completely white outside, so.
Christina: Yes. Exactly.
Daniel: It’s good old winter.
Christina: There you go.
Danny: So, you actually did get some snow today, but it has been a lot more now and of course, I see your pictures on Instagram like, yeah, I’ll take the Tennessee weather today.
Daniel: Well, we are going to go snowboarding later on today, so that’s one of the benefits.
Christina: Yeah. We’re learning to play in it, not just survive in it. So, it’s good.
Danny: Well, that’s great. Okay, well, let’s jump right in. You guys kind of know a little bit of the topic here. And part of this comes up because there’s kind of this, I would say — even if it’s a stereotype, but for a lot of pastors, kids growing up, a lot of them walk away from not only the church but even from their faith completely and we want to do anything that we can to kind of prevent that. So, why don’t I just kind of kick it off and maybe some things that you could talk about what church planters, pastors can do, really even just in the area of setting up boundaries and, you know, kind of navigating a little bit of that fishbowl.
Daniel: Yeah. I guess — I mean, we’ll share out of our experience, and now we recognize that every church planter’s and pastor’s experience is a little bit different, especially with what the family dynamic is. So, for Christina and I early on, Christina got her bachelor’s in social work and was working in that. And then once we had kids, you were also youth pastoring with me in Korea and we were doing ministry and life together and then you got pregnant and then from that point on, you were a stay-at-home mum. So, it was kind of, you know, I guess our entire parenthood journey has been predominantly with you being at home full time with the kids. And now, in the past couple of years, you’ve had — like, in my book I talk about side hustles, Christina’s had several side hustles over the years, especially as we’ve started our podcast and it’s grown, yet predominantly, it has been at home, her full time at home. So, I guess when we do share what we have done, that’s just the caveat, recognizing that we are able to do that. And obviously, it’s a choice that we’ve made to say yeah, if Christina were to work full time outside of the home, you know, I guess we maybe could have gone on more vacations, but.
Daniel: You know, the lifestyle that we’ve chosen, the ministry and life balance that we’ve chosen is this.
Christina: Mm-hmm. And I do want to talk — maybe you’re even listening to this podcast and you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t even have kids yet.” And hopefully, it’s something that looking back at our own lives and going into ministry, I was really, really afraid to go into ministry because of this stereotype. Right? I’ve even seen pastors of churches that I went to before and seeing their kids walk away. It’s almost like, why would I choose this path for my children if I know it’s going to end in heartache? And when we were discerning our calling, that was really a stumbling block. And so, if you’re feeling afraid, maybe you’re in ministry right now and you’re like, “Why are we doing this?” May this be an encouragement. We pray that it is an encouragement to you and also, realize that hey, we want to validate that those are real feelings and we’d like to hear those.
Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. Honestly, you know, I know we are talking about kids specifically and the parenting side of it, but I would say, though, the relationship that you have with your spouse is really going to set the foundation for how your kids — your, I guess, implicit expectations on your children in regards to ministry. So, the way that you — the expectation that you have on your spouse, that for some are going to be, you know, my spouse is going to be a member of the church and I will expect on my spouse what I would expect on a member. Right? And there are many that would actually go about and set the boundaries in that way. And then there are others who it’s very much of a team. Right? It’s like, yeah, we do the assessment together, and even if you did the assessment together, which I know Converge doesn’t, it has an incredible assessment process, even there, there’s that sense of, well, yeah, you are in it together, but there is that level of involvement. So, first, you need to recognize what that is, because that’s then going to lean in and direct how you then approach your children in ministry.
Christina: Right. And that’s an ongoing conversation. Because as you’re discerning the call, as you’re going through the church planting and as you’re having children, those could all be very different seasons in your life. For example, when Daniel and I were in Korea together, we didn’t have kids right away, and it was like, we were doing school on the side and working in youth ministry together, and we could be all in, 100% of the time.
Christina: And then I got pregnant and doing school, and beating morning sickness and, you know, so on and so forth. And then having a baby and having no family around, and then you realize, “Hey, what worked before is not working now.” And it’s not fair to put those expectations on each other. Right? So, we encourage this all the time in our own podcast, too. You need to have those conversations because life continually goes on and things change and we both change. And it’s that opportunity just to check in with one another and be like, “What am I expecting you to do versus what’s reality? And how can we go on from this?”
Danny: So, how does that translate into conversations with the children? Or does it not? So, it makes sense when you have two adults like, “Hey, I expect you to –” you know, “– at least come on Sundays.” Right? To your spouse. But how much do you break it down or would you suggest that parents talk to their children? Because children being in ministry is different than all the other kids, you know, that essentially are there. So, how do they engage? At what level do they engage with their kids to talk about that? I guess, tension and involvement.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, that question in and of itself is such an important question to ask because then you’re not assuming. Right? You’re not assuming, “Oh, hey kids, well, because you’re my kids and because I’m the pastor, well, you better do this and you better go to that…” I mean, to actually, you know, assume that and not have conversations with them, is actually quite unhealthy and to even expect more from your kids than you would from other children in the church, I think that’s what actually sets them up for this internal tension and being like, “Uh, so am I special or am I –? Why am I doing this? Am I doing this to please my father or my heavenly Father?” And, you know, there’s this weird dynamic that happens when you end up expecting more on your kids than you would any other family. And I think that’s where we really need to start. Right? It’s that sense of, okay, hey, are you expecting your spouse to be like any other member in the church? Are you expecting your kids to be like any other child in the church? And if so, then what do those healthy boundaries look like? And obviously, when they’re younger, it’s different like, when you have a four-year-old, that’s going to be different than the conversation you have with the 12-year-old and with the 16-year-old. Right? So, for us, as our kids have gotten older, they’ve definitely noticed and there’s more of a self-awareness that it’s like, “Oh, wait a second. So, my dad’s the boss? This is –” You know? And then there’s this, you know, they begin thinking. Right? So, I think that’s where the foundation of “Well, actually, no.” I mean, we’re all level — you know, the level is plane. “Yeah, daddy works here, but you know, the level is plane.” So, what does that look like?
Christina: Mm-hm. Along with that, too, yeah, we’re on the level plane, I think we do need to help our kids address and understand that people will not see them on an equal playfield. Though either elevate them and think, “Wow, they’re the most godliest kids ever.” Or they’re going to look for ways to try to like, poke your armor, so to speak. Or look for ways like, “Oh, wow, you sinned in that area.” Or, “Look at what he’s wearing. Look at what she’s listening to.” And so, to be able to talk, even around the dinner table and spend time together and be like, “How do you feel if somebody were to criticize what you’re wearing today?” And to have that kind of dialogue together, and even be able to have the opportunity to remind them that we are all children of God. And also, to be able to roleplay and be like, “What would you say?”, or “What would you do if this happened?” and then be able to talk about that.
Danny: Yeah. I think, too, again, just the lowest conversations are healthy with the whole fishbowl mentality and being able to explain to them that people do view them differently even though they’re still a child of God which is equal to all the other children and stuff in the church. Are there some phrases or kind of mentalities that you have found to be pitfalls as you’ve witnessed other, you know, maybe pastors to say, like, when these types of words or these types of phrases, or kind of thoughts kind of come up to your children, those are the things that can have longterm effects, even if you didn’t really intend it to be that way. Does that make sense kind of what I’m asking?
Daniel: Yeah. There’s, you know, that sense when Jesus says, “Hey, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” and while that’s true, I think, in ministry, we tend to place an extra measure of yoke on our children when we use words like “you should” or “you have to”. And there’s not the explanation in and around it. And it’s like, “Yeah, but this person –”, “Yeah, but you have to.” Right? Or “Do this for me.” Right? Anytime that — it’s just very unfair.
Daniel: It’s unfair. And I recognize that there is that fishbowl mentality, but there is that side of, hey, how do you help them be aware of what they’re feeling? And help them perceive and create that safe space let’s say, around your dinner table, where your children are wanting to and able to feel comfortable to bring these sorts of observations up.
Christina: Yeah. I think it’s powerful that your kids hear that you struggle with that, too. Whether you like it. Maybe you like being in the center of attention. Maybe you feel elevated about that. Maybe you just feel more special like that and being able — you might have kids who have personalities who really like to be front and center, and being able to be like, “You know, that is a struggle for me. I understand. But where does my true identity come from?” Right? And then you’ll have other kids or maybe even you feel this yourself, where you hate being in the center of attention. You hate people knowing your name and your life, and you have no idea how they know that. Right? You’ve never seen them before. And yet, they are asking all of these things about you because they heard it in a sermon or they follow you on Instagram. For example, we had an announcement made at church and one of our daughters came up to me afterwards and was just like, “I feel weird that people know my name and I don’t know them.” And I looked at her and I said, “You know, honestly, honey, I feel weird about that, too. Because I want to know their names and I want to know their stories. And I don’t want it just to go one way. So, this is kind of what I do. But this is how I feel, I understand how you feel, because I feel like that, too.” There’s so much power in validating and listening to your children and being like, “Yeah. Wow. Look, my mom feels like that, too. I’m not just this lone person who doesn’t fit into this family because I feel like that.” So, there’s, yeah, a lot of — you can encourage your children that way.
Danny: That’s great. That brings up one of the biggest questions that I get a lot. It’s “Is it okay, or to what degree should a pastor use the children as sermon illustrations?” I know on the receiving side there’s something about hearing the personal stories, hearing about the children, it humanizes, but on the flip side, I know that that can be damaging to children. So, I don’t know, just give some advice in that area that again, helps to prevent kids from feeling used, abused, or whatever.
Daniel: Yeah. Well, why don’t you go first? Because we’ve had conversations about this and there’s stories where I’ll be like, “Hey, can I share that?” or —
Christina: Yeah. Right. Yeah. Well, I think when they’re young and don’t really know there’s even social media out there, I think that’s a conversation that you and your spouse need to have, about, how much are we able to talk about this, how much are we ready to share about this? Knowing also, that those things will follow them in the future like, we want to think that it’s, you know, we sent out in whatever, outer space, and then it’s done, but those things will — you know, if people want to know more about them when they were two years old, that’s a possibility.
Christina: As they grow older, then those are the conversations — especially I’m thinking, you know, preteens, teens, to have those conversations of, “Do you feel comfortable if I share this?” Because If you don’t, and I want to respect that boundary, just the same as I think it’s important for our teenagers and young teens, whoever has social media being like, “Mom, Dad, are you okay if I share this about our family? Because if you don’t feel comfortable about it, then maybe I need to think about something else.” Right? So, just that even extra pause, that moment of contemplation, of even thinking like, “Why am I sharing this? And is it at a detriment to my family? Is it elevating my family? Because I want to look more perfect than I am.” So, yeah, having that space to think about it.
Daniel: Yeah. And then there’s that side of who is the main character. Right? So, when you think about it, there’s main characters and there’s supporting characters. So, when you’re sharing a story and your child is a supporting character or, you know, you’re not necessarily sharing intimate details about their mess-ups, or this, that, or the other, but they’re more of that supporting character in the story, I feel like that’s always safer than necessarily putting them and placing them as the main character or them as — so, there’s that gradient. Right? I mean, definitely, if they’re the main character and it’s like a failure sort of story, I mean, that’s just uber embarrassing. Right? You would never even want to share that about your spouse. Right? If there’s any sort of a failure or a trip up, you know, make yourself that person. I find that that always humanizes yourself when I think pastors sometimes, too often, make themselves the hero of every story, right? So, I think that’s just something to be aware of, “Okay, well, how do we even make it where someone else is the hero of the story?” And then that does humanize us. So, I think there’s definitely levels as to, okay, this is going to be safe and this I definitely need to ask their permission, and this, and that. And then, as they get older, it would be — it’s even more so, in terms of the sensitivity around how much do you share and etcetera.
Christina: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I think we need to be careful as parents, too. I think that we can sort of, especially as pastors, we can sort of throw the card in “But this will help people.” And we can almost try to navigate the way that we talk to our kids like, “Can I share this story? Oh, no, you don’t want me to? But this will help so many people.” And that is a boundary I don’t think that parents should cross, because if they’re saying, “No, I don’t feel comfortable about that”, we can show our children that we love them for who they are just by respecting that issue.
Daniel: Yeah. Completely.
Danny: That’s great. Now, as kids get a little bit older, I think and this is where it gets really difficult at how much choice should they have? So, I think — and especially as kids get into middle school and definitely into high school, words like, “Hey Mom, Dad, I don’t want to go to youth group.” Or, “I want to go to a different youth group.” You know what I mean? “Because my friends are going there.” And it’s the evil church that’s across the street that is growing larger than ours.
Christina: Yeah. How dare they.
Danny: Yeah. But no, I mean, just how do they navigate some of those choices? It may be the one, you know, going to another church is easier, but what if it’s like, “Hey, I don’t want to go –” Or, “I don’t want to go to church today.” which, I don’t know, maybe you guys talked about that in your podcast, when the spouse, I had to talk — that was the beautiful thing of a multi-site, everyone just thought that Emili was at a different church, when she just completely not going to church. But, with kids.
Daniel: Yeah. With a lot of prayer.
Christina: Oh, for sure.
Daniel: With a lot of prayer and seeking others’ guidance on those issues. Right? Because I think this is one of those areas where it’s so easy to fall into the, “But you have to.” Right? “What are people going to think of me?” And then it just places all of these unfair expectations on your children. Right? And I think that’s why it’s so important, you know, before it gets to that place now, if it’s at that place, it’s another thing that we can address, but even before it gets to that place, how do you shepherd and pastor your children’s heart. Right? So that gathering together with one another — gathering together with other believers in a church setting is one of the highlights of the week.
Christina: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think another two words that have meant a lot to us is to stay curious. Stay curious about our children. If a child, if one of our children came up and said, “Hey, I don’t want to go to church today.”, then instead of — my default, honestly, was thinking, if they don’t go to church, then what will people think? And I know that about me.
Daniel: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Christina: And so, that’s why when it’s like, — take a pause, take a breath, instead of being, “Well, you have to.” and I would never say, never admit to them “It’s because I’ll look bad.” No, no, no, no. It would be many other excuses beyond that. But to be like, okay, take a breath and pray for wisdom. And then ask, “Why is that? Why don’t you want to go to church today?” Or if it’s, you know, “I want to go to a different youth group.”, “Why do you want to go to a different youth group?” And it’s not a condescending thing. And also, there’s been times, if they’re saying that and they’re just emotional and stressed out and yelling, maybe today is not the right time to have — or maybe this moment is not the right time to have that conversation. Maybe it’s two hours later. Maybe it’s the next day to have those conversations, but asking, “Why?” For example, I think back to — we went to — when I was between grade two and grade six, we went to this church that was in the middle of nowhere, 45 minutes away from where we lived, because an old pastor went there. I had nothing in common with these children. I remember standing there, feeling so lost and so alone and so just out of place. Who wants to feel like that? If I had my say, I would say, “I don’t want to go to church today because I feel like a loser. I have no friends.” Right? But my — I mean, I wasn’t — I couldn’t stay home by myself, anyways. But I never said anything and my parents never asked me about it, too. But I think, wow, looking back, how incredible it would be if we had that conversation. If I could tell my parents like, “I feel awful when I go to church. I don’t have any friends.” And then, what could we — you know, continue talk about after that.
Daniel: Yeah. So, I think even right there, right? I mean, there’s that skill of empathy where you need to be able to empathize with your children and instead of going straight to a response, right? You need to share, possibly, moments where you haven’t wanted to go and how — and not necessarily from the perspective of, “I didn’t, but then, because of this, I did.” Right? Just kind of let that sit and empathize with them, show them that you felt the same thing, that you’ve been there. And then ask the questions. Right? Because there’s always a reason behind it. Right? It’s never just, “Oh, well, I don’t want to go because I don’t want to go.” No, there’s something. It’s maybe someone there or a lack of someone there. Or something that’s happened that you actually need to address that together. And really, that’s the issue. Church isn’t the issue. And honestly, it’s seldom the church that’s the issue, it’s people. Right? So, being able to — so, this might even be that opportunity to talk about Matthew 18 or wrestle that out where you’re teaching your kids in that way, too.
Danny: All right. Last one. This is maybe the most difficult one. How do you — or how should potentially parents deal with navigating kind of that doubt and especially rebellion when it gets to that point where they’re, yeah, just totally going off. And as pastors, we all know, you know, the first Timothy passage about, you know, we have to be able to maintain our household, and if we can’t, maybe we’re disqualified. So, there is that extra bit of pressure, I guess, for us to have children. But how do you — any just words of wisdom to help navigate doubt and rebellion?
Daniel: Honestly, it’s — that’s the part where, you know, we’ve joined together with fellow pastors and fellow friends because it’s one of those issues where, I mean, it’s not — I wish it was more out of the norm than it actually is. And I think, honestly, it comes down to do you have — Are you in community? And do you have others that you can trust with information like this, who will go to the throne, you know, to the foot of Jesus with this with you, and to pray to gether with you? Because there are some times where no book, no tactic, no skill is going to change their heart. Right? We even see in 1 Corinthians 3 that we need to plant seeds and we need to water them, but God is the one that causes the growth, so. I think especially in those rebellious instances, the best thing that we can do is to fast, to pray, to invite others to join with us in that, and just ask for God’s grace and mercy upon it, that he would shift and change your children’s affections, that he would change their perspective and what they are looking to and what they are looking for. And then, also, I think there’s the audit of where they’re being influenced and who is influencing them because it might, you know, there’s the prayer side, there’s the spiritual warfare side, right, in Ephesians 6, but there’s also that side of, hey, are they maybe overly influenced by who? Right? So, being able to address that side of it is going to help, too.
Christina: Yeah. And I think it’s really going back to what you’re saying like, just trusting God as well, that he is there, heavenly Father. Yes, we have been blessed by children on Earth, and we can disciple them and we can love them, but I mean, there’s free will. Right? They have the wonderful and sometimes scary, in our own heads, opportunity to really trust God and ask Him to be their Lord and Savior, and sometimes that happens as a kid and they don’t walk away, and sometimes that doesn’t happen until they’re older, or just sometimes — it happened to my grandpa when he was 91 years old, that’s when he decided to follow Christ. But just remember that the promises of God, that He is the same yesterday, today, forever, that He is with you, He will never forsake you, and that He pursues us. And I think as much as we want to, you know, have the guarantee that our children must be Christian before they leave the home, we don’t have that, but just know that God is pursuing them as well.
Daniel: Yeah. Yeah. Amen.
Danny: That’s great. All right, before I let you guys go, how can people find your podcast? Also, tell me just a little bit, give me some different snippets of kind of what you talk about on the podcast. That stuff would be great.
Daniel: Yeah. So, the easiest way is — our last name is two letters, I, M. So, it’s not in between, it’s IMBetween. So, if you look up IMBEtween on your podcasting app, you’ll see our faces. Otherwise, you go to just imbetween.org, and you’ll be able to find the podcast, the show notes, and all that stuff. But yeah, why don’t you share what our podcast is about?
Christina: Yeah. It’s about marriage, parenting, faith, and everything IMBetween. That’s sort of the —
Danny: I think it’s great. I mean, I was like, oh, that is beautiful. Everything is awesome.
Christina: Thanks. Yeah. And our hearts’ desire is really to give people the tools to build strong, connected, joy-filled marriages and families. And so, we do weekly episodes that drop on Monday nights to give you the tools to be able to do them.
Danny: Awesome. Well, Daniel and Christina, thank you guys so much. Thank you, listeners. And remember, if you have any questions, you can head over to chuurchplantersask.com and you can drop a question there. And until next time, keep asking those questions.