The Eagle Retreat

Our convention does a retreat every year for the middle school and high school students of ministers that serve in our two-state area. It’s called the Eagle Retreat. I’m not sure why. Even youths grow weary? Have to ask about that later.

Two of the three C’s are old enough to go and this will be the second year in a row for them. I was leery of the whole thing at first. Why?

Because Amy and I have tried to do everything in our power to raise our kids without the dreaded “Pastor’s Kids” moniker. We don’t use that term and we hate it when we hear it. We don’t parent worrying about what the church is going to think, we don’t use the church as a guilt tool or bargaining chip with them either.

We don’t make our kids go to church events or participate in programs just because I’m the pastor. We ask the question – would we do this if I did something else for a living? If the answer is yes – we do it. For our family – Sunday mornings and small groups (Connect Groups/Life Groups/Cell Groups) are not negotiable. We would go to church whether I was the pastor or not. We would be in or lead a small group regardless of my employment. So we do those things.

About the small group – we do that one for multiple reasons. First, it lets us get to know a smaller group of people a lot better than just showing up to church. Plus, I want my kids to be around people studying the Scriptures in our house. Some of my kids more trusted mentors they’ve met because of this. Can’t put a value on that. Priceless.

I digress…. a lot. At any rate, sending my kids to a retreat where the entire focus was “You’re a pastor’s kid”… I had some serious reservations. The kids had their own set of reservations.

We’d heard the nightmare stories of pastors that parent for the sake of their reputation, not for the betterment of their kids. They make rules for their kids not to protect or provide for them but to make the parents look good in public light. Of course, this isn’t just a pastor thing. Some politicians, business leaders, and community leaders do the same thing. It’s a horrible way to parent. And who wants to spend a weekend with a bunch of people like that??

The kicker of the retreat is they invite the parents to come worship with their kids on the Sunday of the retreat. That’s right. The convention has the audacity to ask pastors to LEAVE their church for a weekend service to come worship in a service with their family where they don’t have to do a single thing except show up.

Last year, we all decided it was at least worth one try. They knew a couple of people who were going so it was worth the risk.

I’ve never been so thankful to be wrong. Kids had a blast, found some great friends, deepened some mentor relationships. We did show up to worship together on that Sunday. Which was both a blessing and a curse. Blessing – what a cool time to sit and worship with my family without any responsibility. Curse – I sit through the service going – “I’d done it this way. That was cool. I’m stealing that. Oh – would have done that transition differently. That was a great insight. I’m stealing that idea too.” I can’t be alone in this.

This weekend is that weekend again and instead of dread, there is a sense of relief. As a youth pastor, I knew how important it was for teens to have a “third voice” in their life. Parents are one, peers are the other. That third voice is HUGE in helping them learn to hear the one Voice they need to hear – His. It’s why mentors and coaches and teachers and youth volunteers are SO important. That’s true for ALL kids – regardless of what their parents do for a living. So it’s cool to see it in action in my own kids.

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