There are plenty of stories of pastor’s kids who didn’t enjoy their Christian up-bringing. This isn’t one of them. Tune in to hear Pastor Cliff’s son, Tim, describe his family and church experience as a pastor’s kid and glean some wisdom to help you bless your child’s growing-up years.
Derek: Welcome to With All Wisdom, where we are applying biblical truth to everyday life. My name is Derek Brown and I am here today with Cliff McManis. We are both pastors and elders at Creekside Bible Church in Cupertino, California and professors at the Cornerstone Bible College and Seminary in Vallejo, California. Today we have a special guest who I will introduce in just a moment, but before I get to our guest and our topic for today, I want to encourage you to check out WithAllWisdom.org, where you will find a large and growing collection of written and audio resources that are designed specifically to help you grow spiritually in your walk with the Lord. And we’ve added a few new regular features to the website. I want to draw your attention to the fact that we’ve added weekly devotionals. We’ve also added a regular feature called “Great Quotes from Great Books,” which gives you a few sentences or a few short paragraphs from a book for your edification, and also exposes you to good Christian books so that you might purchase those books and grow from reading them.
Now on to our guest and our topic. Our guest shares the same last name as Cliff, because we have the privilege of talking to Cliff’s son, Tim McManis, today. And we want to talk specifically to Tim about his experience of growing up in a Christian home—and not just a Christian home—but a pastor’s home. But before we get to our topic, Tim, can you tell us a little bit about yourself—where you graduated from college, what industry you currently work in, your favorite basketball team, what you like to do in your off-hours? Things like that.
Tim: Hi, thanks for having me on the podcast. First of all, I’m Tim. I went to The Master’s University, and graduated a couple years back with a degree in business and an emphasis in accounting and finance and management. So now I work at a CPA firm in San Jose, and I’m living at home and it’s been great. And in terms of my favorite basketball team, I grew up as a huge Spurs fan. In high school, I kind of transitioned to an OKC Thunder fan. And then as soon as they traded away all their future MVPs, I stopped following them. And now I pretty much just follow players.
Derek: Gotcha. Any favorite players right now?
Tim: Right now? It’s gotta be Luca [Dončić]. And obviously Kevin Durant.
Derek: Cool. Well you may not remember it or maybe you do—I’m not sure if you do, Cliff—but a few years ago Barnabas Piper, the son of John Piper, wrote a book called The Pastor’s Kid. And in it, he talked about the joys and trials of growing up in a home and going to a church where your dad is a pastor. And I read and reviewed that book for a journal when it first came out. And while his experience may have been generally positive, he drew from pastors’ kids whose experiences were not altogether good. Throughout the book, he does provide quotes from pastors’ kids who spoke of their dads’ hypocrisy or unbalanced commitment to the ministry over their families. Some kids talked about how hard it was to live up to people’s expectations or the double standards they put upon them as pastors’ kids. And I’m not disputing any of those statements. I trust that they are all true and direct quotes from actual pastors’ kids. I’ve also personally heard stories from pastors’ kids that are similar to the quotes in Barnabas Piper’s book. Some kids who grow up in a pastor’s home would attest that their upbringing was challenging. But you have a slightly different story. Tim, can you tell us a little bit about your experience as a pastor’s kid?
Tim: Yes. I think for me, it wasn’t challenging, looking back. I never felt external pressure or anything like that. I actually don’t recall anybody ever making any comments to me about my role as a pastor’s kid or holding me to a different standard. I don’t have any experience with that. And I think part of that just has to do with the fact that my parents raised me how they were supposed to. I think there is a biblical way to raise your kids. It’s throughout the Bible. The Bible talks about parenting and it commands fathers and mothers to treat their kids a certain way, like bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, discipline them properly, obviously spend time with them, be around them, provide for them—things like that. So I think my parents definitely did that for me. I just never really thought about it being a hard experience. And also, I guess I don’t think pastors have an inherent tendency to raise kids who are misbehaved or who walk away from the faith. I think that that just kind of happens no matter what your job is. If you’re a firefighter, you might have issues raising your kid. That just happens to everybody. For me, it was an easy, good childhood.
Derek: So I came to know Cliff in 2003, which was nineteen years ago. So you would’ve been how old nineteen years ago?
Tim: I would’ve been five.
Five. Okay. Because Cliff was my supervising pastor, we quickly became friends. I had kind of a front-row seat into the McManis family, and it just always seemed like a fun family. Honestly, that was my first impression—that you guys knew how to have a lot of fun. Later on, I remember I think you [Cliff] showed me pictures from a time you took some of the guys like Tim and Rustin—your other son—and a few of the other guys out to Chuck-e-Cheese. And there you are at Chuck-e-Cheese with a stack of commentaries, working through sermons while the guys are having fun. I just love how you integrated the fun of being with your kids with the pastoral life. I would assume that that played largely into Tim’s positive experience.
Cliff: Yeah. We have many fond memories of Chuck-e-Cheese. [Laughs]. I’d bring a bag of commentaries because I was a pastor and had weird hours compared to your average, nine-to-five business guy. I had some flexibility, so I could take the kids off mom’s hands and maximize that time. And then I was able to spend quality time with my two sons or my daughters as well. A frequent stop was Chuck-e-Cheese, and they’d play and I’d study. We’d do that at the McDonald’s Playhouse as well. So that happened frequently. Just enjoying and maximizing family time.
Tim: Yeah. That’s a good study environment.
Derek: Yeah, of course. Tim, do you have any particular fond memories of growing up as a pastor’s kid or just in the church? Anything you remember that your parents did particularly well that you appreciated?
Tim: Well, I think growing up, anything related to family. We always enjoyed being together as a family and having everybody there—it was all-inclusive. All of our siblings liked to hang out with each other. We all got along and family vacations were just so much fun. So pretty much every year we would try to get one of those in, for a summer or something like that.
Cliff: Let me interject there, Tim. Because you mentioned how—and I think it’s really important—there’s this stigma that if you are a child in a pastor’s home, then you’re more vulnerable than anybody else to becoming disillusioned or regretting being a part of the church or whatever else. And you made a great point that that could happen in any home, regardless of what your parents are. And I think that’s true. And then you made another good point that God has given us a model of how you’re supposed to raise your children, and those principles are the same for a pastor and his wife as they are for the Christian firefighter or businessman. Those are fundamental principles. God knows what’s best for children and how they’re supposed to be raised.
And you mentioned several of those, Tim. One that we should add to the mix is to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, which is the positive part. But Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4 say similar things: do not provoke your children. Do not exasperate your children. Colossians 3:21 says, “do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart.” It’s a rare word, meaning broken in spirit, or disheartened. Another way to say it is, don’t be harsh in how you raise your children. I think that was clear in my mind and in my wife’s mind—that God has given us four kids and we need to do what God said, which is raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And at the same time, we needed to refrain from doing the negative, which is provoking them and disheartening them and being harsh. And we were able to try to hold each other accountable to not do that. I guess my number one goal was this: we want our four kids to look back, years later, at their family life and say that they just thoroughly enjoyed being a part of our family. And part of that would be them thoroughly enjoying their church experience and growing up in the church. We wanted them to look back in their thirties and think, “Man, I loved growing up in the church.” I had some good mentors who helped prepare me for that very deliberately.
I know you mentioned that book from Piper’s son. I remember when that book came out, and I heard him being interviewed on a Christian radio station at the time, and it sounded more negative than I would’ve expected.
Derek: Yeah, the review that I wrote on his book kind of concluded that he tilted in that direction.
Cliff: Yeah. So I was discouraged for a few years, because it didn’t resonate with me. I’d be really discouraged if my son who was 25 or 30 years old was writing this book from the same perspective. So I took note of that, and I didn’t want my kids to have that experience. So we were just very deliberate in trying to implement biblical principles in our family. God knows best. Let’s give them a full Christian experience, a loving family, and also allow them to enjoy life as they’re growing up. Let’s let our kids be kids. And I think we saw that.
Another thing you mentioned, Tim, was that, you know, we had four kids—so you had three siblings—and it was like the siblings were best friends. Growing up, and even to this day. Here you are twenty-four—your siblings are twenty-nine, twenty-eight and twenty-one—and you guys still would rather hang out with each other.
Derek: That’s really encouraging. Tim, any comments about your church experience specifically? I mean, you’ve been at a few different churches. Cliff’s had roles at different churches in different parts of the country. Any thoughts about any particular experience that you had in the church?
Tim: Yeah, I think growing up at a smaller church—GBF [Grace Bible Fellowship] originally and then even Creekside Bible—one of the best things or the fondest things I can look back on is just the people, the friends, that I met at church. And just being immersed in that environment was good for me. I also went to Christian schools my whole life, which I look back on and I’m grateful for that, too, because I just met so many good friends who I’m still friends with to this day. Some of them even still go to the same church as me. I have a lot of good experiences with them in the church. And the opportunities that came up in terms of missions. I was able to go on plenty of missions trips as a kid, like Ghana, several places in Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, and more.
Derek: Oh wow.
Cliff: If I could chime in there, Tim. So before I had children, I remember Chuck Swindoll, who was a pastor in southern California who had several kids, wrote a book on parenting and pastoring. And one thing he said for pastors to do was to use their vocation as a pastor to provide unique experiences for their children that they’ll fondly look back on. For Tim, I think that was providing missions opportunities. Tim loved basketball, and I was a basketball coach. And Tim was gifted at basketball. I thought, “Let’s use this for God’s glory. How can we do that?” Well, we started doing evangelistic basketball camps. And from the time Tim was in seventh grade, he was helping me in youth camps for kids, which were primarily evangelistic basketball camps. We did that locally, and then God allowed us to do that around the world. We did it in Ghana for a week, just Tim and I, when he was 16. It was just an incredible trip. Then we went to St. Petersburg, Russia, and did a basketball camp for college students there. We also went to Mexico together. So he had unique opportunities that not a whole lot of people have, just in terms of that exposure worldwide and using one of your greatest desires for God’s glory. That was really special.
Derek: And you involved him in ministry, but in a way that was that catered to his skills and abilities and desires. So it wasn’t just you saying you’re going to come along, but also thinking specifically about the gifts and talents that your son has.
Cliff: Exactly. And that was deliberate. And I got that from Chuck Swindoll, actually. He quoted Proverbs 22:6, which says to raise up a child in the way that he should go. The Hebrew there means to raise up a child according to his bent, or in keeping with the way God made him. Accentuate, incubate, cultivate, and expand on his DNA and hard wiring and the things that he’s passionate about. I knew early on that Tim liked music and sports, and so I thought, “Let’s fan the flame. Let’s explore those opportunities.”
Derek: That’s excellent. Tim, I’m a pastor here at CBC and I’ve got young kids, and I anticipate, Lord-willing, being a pastor for the rest of my life. But I am concerned about my kids and their experience in the church. I have a wonderful wife who is very in tune with that idea of making sure your kids have a wonderful church experience and family experience, and so I’m thankful for her. But what advice would you have for me and my wife, as a pastor and a pastor’s wife, about raising young kids in the church? How can I make that a good experience for my kiddos?
Tim: Well, that’s a great question. And as my dad was just saying, I think there’s probably stuff that my parents did intentionally in raising me that I don’t even know about, all of which was beneficial to me and helped me grow in the long-run. But I think looking back, just one of the main things I think of is doing your best to keep your family tightly-knit together, and just making sure that your kids and all the siblings enjoy each other’s presence. Some of the older ones are going to be more influential to the ones that are more impressionable, so it’s important to make sure that they can remain leaders to their younger siblings. I also think praying for them is a big one, because there are things you can do as a parent, but you can only do so much. You’re not going to ensure their salvation. Eventually you have to let them make their own decisions and walk their walk on their own.
Derek: That’s helpful. Thank you. Cliff, as you are instructing me or giving me advice on these things, along with anyone else who’s listening who’s in my situation as a pastor with young kids, what should we do to help our kids have a good family experience and church experience?
Cliff: Well, I’m sitting here next to Tim, my son who is twenty-four, and I’m hearing him give those answers and I have to say, I have actually never talked about this stuff with him in this way. So it’s very cool to hear his insights and his thoughts, looking back. Those are great. And I would just piggyback off of what he said—keeping your family tight-knit, and making sure that you and your wife have a wonderful relationship, because that’s foundational for everything. The better marriage you have, the better parent you’re going to be, because your kids are watching. That’s one of the greatest impacts you can have on their life as you model godliness for them. One of the basic qualifications of an elder and pastor is that you manage your household well, and the way you treat your children is part of that. That’s mentioned in Titus 1:6, and then also in 1 Timothy 3. So that is critical.
So your marriage has to be your priority, and then your role as a dad has to be a priority. And that means quality time, spending time with them, and like Tim said, getting down on your knees with your wife and praying for them—that God would be graciously moving on their hearts from the time they’re young. And also just ensuring that your kids, as they are growing up, are just thoroughly enjoying the family and family life. They have a preference to be with the family over everything else. That’s one thing we were blessed with. I remember sometimes when our kids were in high school—and this was particularly true for my daughters—when it was a Friday night and they could do anything they wanted and they would want to stay home with mom and dad and watch a movie or something. [Laughs]. So that was cool.
I know, Derek, that you and your wife do a good job of that, and that the home is really central for so many things, and it’s even the hub from which you operate in ministry. So you’ve got to keep that intact. The tragic thing is that oftentimes when you hear of kids who grew up in a church or in a pastor’s home who are now disgruntled or disillusioned, you can take a closer look at their family life and see some cracks there, some imbalance or compromises or things that weren’t revealed at the time.
Derek: Yeah. Some guys probably find it easier to pour their best time and energy and creativity into their jobs. And in this case, being a pastor, they come home and they don’t expend that same effort and energy and creativity into developing a home life that the kids would really enjoy. And then that often leads to, like you said, children not enjoying their time together as a family as much and becoming disgruntled and disillusioned. And that’s just a reminder to me to put as much effort into making the home a fun and enjoyable place as I do pouring creativity and energy into work.
Cliff: Yes. Let me add one more thing. Because you’re a pastor, that often provides these unique opportunities for your young children to be involved in the church in a way that is their own. You want them to me able to say, “This is my church, not just my dad’s or mom’s church. This is my church family.” So even your young kids can get involved in ministry, doing something where they have ownership. That’s really important at a young age. You should be taking them to church events with you and having them participate at that young level. We did that with Tim and our other kids, and here’s Tim in his mid-twenties, and he’s still involved in ministry at our church in new ways. He’s now playing the guitar, and I never imagined he’d be doing that. He’s in discipleship groups and those kinds of things that he just did on his own later on. But you have to model that and be deliberate about that involvement in ministry, even when they’re six and seven years old.
Derek: That’s good. That’s really encouraging. Well, Tim, I want to thank you for being here with us and joining us, and sharing your experience as a pastor’s kid.
Tim: No problem. Thanks for having me.
Derek: And for those of you who have been listening, we thank you for joining us in this most recent installment of With All Wisdom. And again, just a reminder of WithAllWisdom.org, where you’ll find many resources, including these podcasts, where you can listen or read and hopefully find encouragement and growth in your walk with the Lord. Until next time, keep seeking the Lord in his Word.