I believe I got the idea from R. Kent Hughes. 1Whenever I’m getting ready to go to a ministry function in the evening or whenever I’m leaving the door to head to our building to preach, we tell our kiddo: “daddy’s going to work.” We purposely use the word “work,” not the word “church.” Why?
Here are two simple reasons.
First, using the word “work” instead of “church” gives Christian parents repeated opportunities to teach children that the church is a people, not a building. Although there is widespread disagreement among well-meaning Christians about who is formally a part of the church and who isn’t, in general, we mostly agree that the specific references to “the church” are the people of God.
This is why church planters, for example, shouldn’t feel inferior for meeting in a middle school or the local YMCA. Once a church planter gets an official building, it’s not like he now suddenly has a church. He’s had a flock as long as he’s been a pastor, regardless of where his people meet on Sunday mornings.
Usually, we need to hear a fact dozens of times before it sticks. Few of us learn profound truths the first time we hear them. Hence, why the gospel must be present every Sunday and why it takes unbelievers months if not years of hearing the gospel before converting (if God grants regeneration).
So using the word “work” instead of “church” is a discipleship opportunity. It provides recurring opportunities to teach children about the nature of the church.
Second, using the word “work” instead of “church” helps prevent children from feeling like dad loves the church more than his family, and is a reminder that daddy, like most other dads, has a job. Yes, pastoral ministry is a calling and not a career. But it is — I hope this doesn’t sound anti-spiritual — a job.
Kids are curious, aren’t they? They ask a lot of questions and pick up on small details, even when they don’t give the impression that they do. If they hear, “Daddy’s going to church” or “Daddy’s at church” hundreds of times over the span of several years, it may cause the child to feel bitter. Why is dad always at church? Does he love the church more than me? Saying “work” instead of “church” is a subtle way of helping children not feel bad that dad has to occasionally be gone on a weeknight.
These are two simple reasons why we use the word “work” and not “church” when I go to our building for work-related matters. This is not a hill to die on, but if you’re a pastor or a pastor’s wife, this may be worth trying on your children to see if it helps at all.