Dec 13, 2023

How Finding a Church Family Changed My Family

About a dozen years ago God called me to pastor a little church in the Northeast. We were living in Florida at the time, and we lived near most of our family members and their families. We moved with the comfort that my wife’s brother and his family would be living within 45 minutes of us. An added blessing occurred just after we moved in that my parents moved within an hour of us because of a job transfer. Even though we were in a brand-new place, it was helpful to know we had family close enough to see and spend time with, especially during the holidays.

By God’s design, we have been without family here in the Northeast for the last 5 years. My parents moved back south, and my wife’s brother moved several hours away. It now takes major planning and major expense for us to see our respective families, and with our parents getting up in age, we usually must do the traveling if we are going to see them.

Also by God’s design, we have a wonderful church family that has stepped into the gap as a surrogate family. My daughters have been “grandmothered” by Gramma Jean. She is a wonderful lady with a strong personality who used to run the school cafeteria. She cooks, sews, bakes, gardens, and everything else you would want a grandmother to have in her skillset tool bag, and she has taught all of it to my daughters. One of my daughters especially needed personal time and attention from her, and the days of Gramma Jean picking her up, taking her out to lunch, and then heading back to her place for sowing lessons have made a permanent and lasting impression on her life and development.

My son has a “funcle” (that’s a fun-uncle) named Chad. He isn’t really an uncle to my son, but he has served that role in his life. They launch rockets, they build forts, they shoot bow and arrow, and they go out and buy the candy with all the dyes and sugar that he isn’t allowed to have at home. Chad truly is the fun uncle! Without this godly man in my son’s life, he would not understand what an uncle is and can be.

The best part about Gramma Jean and Uncle Chad is that they teach my children about the love of Jesus and the Gospel Family found in the church. They can’t replace our blood family, but they certainly have helped our kids appreciate the church family’s role in community, connection, and care. My daughters are adult women now, serving as aunties to many of the teens in our church. My son, who is a bit younger, lights up every time Chad walks in the house or church building.

If you are like us and God has led you to serve in ministry in a place away from family, know that it takes work, but God can at least allow for fulfilling familial relationships within the church body for your kids. I can empathize with those in the church who tend to be hard on pastors’ kids, but my wife and I actively prayed that God would reserve a couple of special people for strategic familial roles in our kids’ lives, and that is what he did.

If you are a PK reading this, know that your church family can’t ever truly replace those cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. But let me encourage you: pray and ask God to bring special people in your church who will treat you like family, and don’t miss it when people in your church love you like family. That family connection is what the lost world is longing for.

By <a href="" target="_self">Rob Phillips</a>

By Rob Phillips

Rob Phillips has served in full-time ministry for over 20 years and currently serves as Lead Pastor at Broadalbin Baptist Church in upstate New York. He is also a camp and conference speaker who holds a degree in Theology from Trinity College of Florida as well as a Master and Doctorate Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.