I picked up a good piece of advice at a Pastor's Seminar in Dayton, OH back in 1975. Actually I picked up a lot of good advice, but one piece in particular that has had a practical influence on my personal life and even my ministry. The speaker, whose name I don't even recall, hit an important note in my heart. He warned all of us who are in ministry about the importance of spending time with our children. "Sometimes", he said, "The most important spiritual thing you can do is just go fishing with your son."
Wow! More spiritual than preaching to hundreds? More spiritual than hospital visitation? More spiritual than sermon preparation? More spiritual than discipleship training or premarital counseling?
Those of us in pastoral ministry have tremendous demands on our time. Now I know many of you think we only work three hours per week, but ask one of our wives. We are on call 24/7 for all manner of congregational needs - some mundane - some urgent - some tragic. In the midst of it all, the pastor has responsibility to his family (second only to his responsibility to his God). He also needs time away. That is why, in 1975, I determined to spend time with my children and to be involved in the things with which they were interested.
Even though I'm not a fisherman or a hunter, I tried to do just what that seminar speaker had suggested. Spend time with the boys. Encourage them, support them, and gain the joy that comes with that quality time. Through roughly thirty years of bi-vocational ministry I desperately tried to budget my time to be part of their lives. I'm sure that it had an impact on Jay and Ben, but the greatest benefit may have been my own. Time was always at a premium, but the hours I managed to spend involved in their activities were special. Coaching their little league teams, carrying band equipment, announcing baseball, football and basketball games, and involvement as a band parent, and athletic booster were some of the things we did. Linda did the team mother thing when they were young, band parent activities for Jay, and Momcat projects for Benji and his teammates. One of the bonuses from being with the boys was also getting to know their friends. We gained an even larger extended family.
As we all know, time flies. I'm a grandfather now, and while I am not as likely to serve the grandsons as a coach, (that's my son's job now, and he is doing it well) I do enjoy the quality time one on one, and I hope I can help make a difference in their lives. Grandfathers have a special bond with their grandchildren. I have the joy of sharing their lives and teaching them spiritual truths in quality time. However, I do gain great joy from every opportunity to be in the bleachers, cheering for the grandsons. Benji's older son, Will, is naturally athletic, and has been playing in organized sports since he was five years old. It's basketball season now and he is playing in two leagues. He plays Upward Basketball at First Baptist Church of Ashland, KY (one game a week) and more competitively in Mark Cisco's Key Player League in Kenova, WV. It is a great joy just to be there and watch him play.
Will's 3 1/2 year old brother, Asher, desperately wants to play too. He has spent hours restlessly pacing the sidelines, coveting the idea of being part of the action on the court or field of play. Well, come January his long wait is over. He'll be playing on one of the preschool teams in our Upward League at Westmoreland Baptist Church. He can't wait to get that uniform and hit the court. No matter that he will be the youngest player in the league - just "give him the rock"!
I thank God for so many blessings. One of the greatest joys I have is to simply watch the boys play. I am so thankful God has spared my life long enough to be the grandpa in the bleachers.
Life is good!