How to Lead When Your Child Isn’t Thriving

Looking At Realities of Home and Ministry

by Casey Gibbons / November 9, 2017

What should you do when you are succeeding as a leader in your church but your own son or daughter isn’t thriving? In the past 20 years of ministry, Scotty and I have seen miraculous moments and progress within the church only to have our hearts burdened at home.

One of our children proclaimed she no longer liked church because we go too much. Another child struggled with sensory integration issues that caused major meltdowns in the midst of every large outreach. We also experienced a church transition and watched our older children struggle to embrace a new season of ministry. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, God has always led us in how to respond.

Here are four hopeful insights that can help you lead your struggling child:

1. Get to the root of the problem.

Talk to your child until you find out exactly what he/she is feeling or thinking. Don’t give up until you know the bottom line of what is going on. Go there with the child. Go deep. Listen. Let the child know you hear and want to understand. Approaching gently with an open heart will allow your child to be honest. If your child is very young, pray for insights or watch for behavioral patterns to discern the cause.

2. Disciple through it.

Your child may be sad because of a transition, angry because of your ministry responsibilities, hurt by a friend that attends church, frustrated with being the child of a leader, or simply tired from all the activities. Whatever the struggle is for that child, embrace it as an opportunity to disciple. This could be the perfect season for him/her to grow in God through the trial. The child doesn’t have to run from the issues or harbor long-term angst. Your time and dedication to walking alongside your son or daughter on the journey is crucial. How he/she views God and the church during this time will largely depend on how you lead.

3. Give some space.

Allow your child breathing room. While living in a ministry family is well worth the sacrifices, there is no need to feel confined. Consider allowing a child to take a break from certain services or activities. It doesn’t have to be a long-term plan, but having a slight change can offer some relief. For young children, they may genuinely need you to hold them in the main service or have a helper get them from class so they aren’t there for long hours. For older children, allowing them the freedom to adjust their level of involvement may be necessary. Yes, church is a priority and your family is committed, but there are days that changes may be needed for a child.

4. Reach out.

If a child has more issues than you can handle on your own, take time to reach out for more support. Go the extra mile until you have answers. Get the help you need for the child and for you. Talk about it to friends and family. Go to counseling. See a doctor. Get emotional or physical health at all costs so you can do what God has called you do. There is no need to feel alone along the way.

Your child may be struggling, but there are answers and hope for all situations. You can thrive at church and in your home. Just as God has given you wisdom and strategies for leadership in the church, He will give you all you need as you lead your family.