I am a Pastor Dad.
Now, at first glance, you might think of that as simply describing reality. I am a pastor who happens to have two children. By any basic definition, that would make me a pastor dad.
But a Pastor Dad is something much different.
Being a Pastor Dad is about being a pastor and a father of two children with special needs (autism and speech delay). Being a Pastor Dad is about being a pastor who is open about the challenges my family faces in society. Being a Pastor Dad is also about advocating for a more inclusive church and society for individuals with invisible disabilities. It means equipping the small church on how to create a loving place for children and adults who need extra help.
Being a Pastor Dad is about being true to who I am in my calling to love God and to help all people to see the love of God in their own life.
From the outside looking in, someone might think that being a pastor with two children with various needs would be too difficult. How can you lead a congregation while running from one therapy or doctor’s appointment to the next? How can you lead when you must fight against the marginalization and injustice that individuals and families with invisible disabilities face?
I get similar questions a lot, and honestly, it is a valid question. If you have not walked in my family’s shoes, you might think only of the challenges and difficulties that come from what we live with daily. You might only see the complexities of balancing a highly stressful calling with my highly stressful family life. I’m not going to lie and deny that it is not challenging. But, when we only think of the challenges we miss the blessings that come in seeing the ways God works within the moments.
I am a better pastor by leaning into who I am as a Pastor Dad.
Being a Pastor Dad has allowed me to find my way as a pastor. It has given me my pastoral identity. When a pastor begins their ministry, they are tempted to model their ministry after a trusted mentor or leader. It is a temptation I faced within the United Methodist Church throughout the arduous ordination process. Before steering into my calling a Pastor Dad, my ministry could easily be described as “don’t offend anyone” and “make everyone happy.” It gets you liked as a pastor, but it did not honor the presence and calling of God in my life. I was the Great Value version of several pastors put together. I was not being true to myself.
What being a Pastor Dad has done is that it has reminded me of my passion for those ignored and excluded in society and the church. Yes, it comes from a unique perspective of my own family’s experience. We have been ignored, excluded, and misunderstood in the church, our denomination, and society simply for having children who need extra assistance. I know the pain of my family being marginalized and having to smile as if nothing bothers me. That experience has reminded me of one of my joys in life. I prefer to relate to people who feel left out by the church than those who believe the church is a Christian version of the local Rotary Club.
It has given me a place to speak that our “welcome” in the church often excludes people we think we welcome. Being a Pastor Dad reminds me when we say “everyone is welcome” that not everyone is actually welcome. Sometimes our words or tone dismisses people from our communities. Sometimes, too, we do not consider how our well-intended actions may harm someone that may need extra help or prevent them from entering our worship spaces. It has allowed me to speak with love and authority because I know what it feels like to not be welcome by a church. I know what it is like to see my children struggle. I know we have work to do to be the welcoming people as a witness of Christ we all, myself included, desire to be.
Being a Pastor Dad is not a burden. Being a Pastor Dad is not too challenging. It is not a task too hard to bear for someone who proclaims the love of God.
It is a blessing. It has given me opportunities to speak, engage in conversations, and think about those often excluded from the table that we do not often consider.
Being a Pastor Dad is a joy, and I am thankful for this calling and journey.