Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of coaching many dozens of pastors from a wide variety of churches. In almost every case, the word pastors use most often to describe their ideal church is family. So if we truly believe that a family is the ideal for your church, we need to shift our mindset away from professionalism to spiritual parenting.
Spiritual Parenting – Natural and Spiritual
As a pastor, you are called to be a spiritual mother or father who raises up spiritual sons and daughters who will develop much like a natural family. In a biological family, people are born undeveloped, but there is a process of development by which they become who they are ordained to be. We see this clearly in the natural family. The responsibility of a mother and father is to take a child and help him or her grow. Relationship, love, tenderness, cuddling on the couch—all of these things are very important, but we also help our children grow by teaching them to clean up their toys, make their beds, and do their homework. Why? Because our ultimate goal is not to raise children. Our ultimate goal is to raise adults who can live fruitful, functional lives. If we want them to be mature at 21, we have to start when they’re 3 years old as we teach them to clean up their toys.
In our world, there is strong sense of spiritual orphan-hood that has produced a deep hunger for the “Father Heart of God.” This desire has been answered in recent years by dozens of books and conferences that address this topic and seek to heal this problem. Unfortunately, this has led some to “romanticize” the concept of God’s Fatherhood and spiritual family in an unhealthy way. People come to church and ask, ‘Will you be my spiritual parent?’ thinking it will make up for all that was lacking in their past. We have to work against romanticism as we seek to institute family in our churches. Otherwise we run the risk of cultivating a demanding attitude or a sense of entitlement in our members that will eventually lead to a critical attitude when expectations are not met.
The Goal of Maturity
Family and spiritual parenting are supposed to be fun and fulfilling. In every family, there are times when we cuddle-up-on-the-couch, tickle on the floor, and times when we connect to one another deeply and relationally, but family isn’t only about Disneyland, vacations, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Those experiences, although wonderful, are only a small part of what family is all about. Family is also about sharing your toys, making your bed, taking out the trash, and learning how to drive. In other words, a significant part of family deals with growing up and learning about responsibility.
As we’ve discussed, family is God’s methodology for extending His Kingdom throughout the earth. The ultimate goal of family is to reproduce new families. We do this by raising up sons and daughters into mature adults, who in turn raise up sons and daughters and so on. For this to happen, we need to set our sights not merely on raising children—but on raising adults. That is true spiritual parenting.
My Children’s Children
If my goal is only to raise a child, I will begin to lose interest in the teen years. However if my goal is to raise an adult, I won’t be content until I see my children’s children. The same is true of spiritual family. If my goal is only to birth new converts (versus raising leaders), my church will stay a spiritual nursery forever.
In the upcoming series I will lead an in-depth exploration of what it means to be a spiritual parent.