I’m talking about the event I referenced in my last post, where I get together with five of my closest colleagues for a week to map out our preaching for the year. The difference was that this year we brought the kids. They were sitting at the breakfast table on that first morning still rubbing the sleep from their eyes when I said, “Welcome to Preacher Camp, boys and girls! When breakfast is over we’re going to have Bible study, then take a nature hike, and then go to crafts. We’ll follow that with lunch and rest time, and then we’ll all go down to the lake for a swim. Sound good?” I got a lot of blank stares in return, and only after several minutes did three-year-old Adam say, “You’re teasing, right, Mr. Jim?”
Yes. I was teasing. But while the preachers sat at a table on the side porch and had Bible study (working through every Sunday of 2011) the children read books and drew pictures and played ping pong and took a hike, and after lunch and naps we all went down to the lake for a swim. So, in many ways, it was like camp, especially the last night when we built a campfire and sat around it singing silly songs and roasting marshmallows.
What I learned is that this collection of preacher’s kids is sweet, smart, kind, and funny. Five-year-old Audra Ballenger was full of interesting questions and comments, and one of my favorite pictures from the week is the one of her delivering a long lecture to Russ Dean as she sat on his stomach while he lay on the couch. Eleven-year-old Bennett Dean came into his own on Thursday night, busting some sweet moves at a spontaneous dance party and encouraging the rest of us to toss inhibition to the wind. My own daughter Catherine (the oldest by far at nineteen) was sweetly patient with an adoring “fan club” of small children and happy to engage in conversation with their parents while sunning on the dock.
Unlike some of the warnings you hear about “preachers’ kids,” these were the kind you would want to spend a week with. It makes me think that this generation of preachers, or at least the ones I hang out with, have given up on the idea that their children will be neatly dressed and perfectly behaved at all times, that they will know all the books of the Bible and want to come to church three times a week. They seem much more willing to let their kids be kids, and that’s not a bad thing, especially if they are the kids of people whose relationship with God and whose saturation in his Word has led them to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. The fruit of the spirit is evident in the lives of their children, and the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
So, this is an expression of appreciation not only to those preachers’ kids I spent the week with, but to the preachers who are raising them. Thank you Don, John, Russ, Amy, and Dorisanne—for being the people you are and for passing so much of that goodness along to the next generation.
The world needs people like your kids.