How to Help Kids through Changes in Church Leadership

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We moved into a new house a few months ago. My youngest sat in her new bedroom, and the smell of fresh paint was as vivid as the tears on her face. She told me she was crying because, “I miss the good old days when I was young and we were in our old house.” 

My eight-year old missed “the good old days.” When she was young. Of course.

She had a similar response when I put a plate of scrambled eggs in front of her one morning. On most mornings, my husband makes her over-easy eggs, but on this particular morning, I put scrambled eggs in front of her: “What is THIS? This is not an egg! What is happening?” 

 So, I explained what was happening. What was happening is that she was going to eat the EGG that was in front of her. What was happening is that she was going to learn how to make her own egg. Like tomorrow. She slumped down, folded her arms across her chest and asked if we could “just go back to the way things used to be.” 

 To the good old days, I presume, when dad would make an over-easy egg. When she was young.

Oh, brother.

The truth is, no matter how big or small, change can be hard, but change is a reality for our kids as they grow and mature. One of the areas in which change is particularly difficult for kids is in church leadership. We want our children to love and serve in their local churches, and the more connected they are, the more difficult it will be to navigate through the inevitable change amongst the leadership. The answer is not to keep them from getting “too connected,” or to allow them to become stuck in memories of the “good old days,” but instead, here are three important truths for them to remember:

Why We Come

A while back, a friend asked for advice on how to handle her son who was battling going to church because his closest friends did not attend. She felt bad for him, so she was considering letting him stay home to “take a break” since he was not happy at church. The problem is that she was encouraging her son to believe that the joy available in coming to God’s house was found only through the people.

There is a similar temptation when it comes to the way we think about our pastors and leaders in the church. The relationships we have with our leaders may motivate the attendance of some, and that is a good thing! But it can’t be the primary motivation for coming to church; otherwise, our joy for worship will too easily wane if a leader is no longer present. There’s no doubt that leadership change in a church will have a significant impact on us and on our kids, but the primary reason we gather in the house of God is to worship our Creator. We have to battle against Satan’s temptation to believe that our joy for worship comes from the people, including the pastors. Instead, the deep joy and satisfaction comes when we look forward to worship in God’s house…because of Him. Our tightly folded arms of frustration are calmed when we enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. When the leadership in the church changes, our joy for coming into worship should not.

What We See

 When my husband was in college, he faced several weeks that were very difficult emotionally and spiritually. In the College’s chapel is a large and beautiful stained-glass window that depicts the story of the Bible from Creation to Revelation.  During those difficult days, a professor pointed out to my husband that if he stood right in front of the stained-glass, he saw merely glimmers of fragmented color and light. It’s not until he stepped back that he saw the breadth and beauty of the story.

Change is not always easy, but our Sovereign God is in complete control of every piece of the beautiful story, even when it doesn’t seem clear. Our own kids have had to say good-bye to youth pastors and wives with whom they had grown close. For a while, their faces were naturally stuck in front of one color of the stained-glass, arms folded, lamenting over the “good old days.” So, we give a little tug back to help them see what is happening. And what is happening is that God is continually providing, putting together a beautiful, redemptive story for all of His children.

It’s Not About Me

 If I were to ask my youngest to tell me what she thought of the last wedding she attended, I would likely hear quite a bit about her awesome dance moves, the large amount of cake she consumed, her fancy dress and fabulous shoes. The irony is that the last wedding my daughter attended had nothing to do with her! It was about the bride and groom. But some kids have a similar mentality when it comes to pastors, and especially youth pastors, transitioning. We have the very difficult task of teaching our children that it’s not just about them. These changes are about what is best for the leaders, for the church, and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria is a phrase not just for grown-ups. We must be teaching our kids that GOD receives the glory in all things. It’s not to us be the glory, or to our friends be the glory, and it’s not even to our pastors be the glory, but all glory and honor and praise is unto the Lord. That is true when our circumstances are difficult and confusing as much as it is when they are easy and predictable. There is a time and place to mourn these changes, and we need to allow our children that space. But there is also a time to help them lift their head, unfold their arms, and look forward from the “good old days” to the Lord’s provisions.

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