More Than Leftovers

Chuck Schwartz is a graduate from The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and faithfully served as an ELCA pastor.  He was at Prince of Peace in Clifton Park, NY where he retired from full time parish ministry but still keeps active leading worship, and preaching.  He blogs at The Isaac Papers.
Daddy, I had no idea that you were this much fun!” Those words pierced my heart and out flowed guilt and remorse for what should have been. The words were not meant to elicit such pain but were simply the honest reaction of my 13 year old daughter, Carla. It was her first time to attend a youth group activity that I, her Dad, was in charge of. Almost every Sunday evening of her life she had watched me leave the house to go to youth group. She had heard stories about the crazy activities that took place and she observed the positive relationships that I had with many teens. On this night, she was finally old enough to be involved in this important part of her father’s life. After arriving at the church she went off with her friends and I took on the energetic, enthusiastic, and fun loving persona that I had developed over the past decade of doing youth ministry.

As we got in the car to drive home, I could tell by her smile that she had enjoyed the event. Then she spoke those words that changed my life and approach to ministry. Was it true that I had given my best to others and not to my own children? I prided myself on giving 110% to the youth I worked with. Was I giving less than 100% to my family? I realized that I put more planning, energy, and patience into my ministry with youth then to those I loved the most and who loved me.

The temptation is to take the love of our own children for granted. To expect patience and understanding from then because of course, they know that you love them. They know that you work hard and often come home exhausted from giving so much to others. The result is that our children get the “leftovers” and not the best of what we can offer.

Following that fateful night at youth group I promised to always remember my daughter’s words and to share my “fun” side with my children. Overwhelmed at times by the demands of ministry I have not always kept that promise but I’ve tried. Our children are the greatest gift that God has given us and they deserve the best of who we can be. They deserve to experience the fun of being with Dad.

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