Saturday, April 5, 2008

What you might not know about your pastor’s kids

(This is the 3rd in a series that I hope is enlightening to the Christian community about your pastors and their families. You can find the previous posts here and here.)

I know about pastor’s kids. Growing up, I was often friends with my pastors’ kids and spent time in their homes. During my college years my own dad entered the pastorate, so while I’m not a pastor’s kid, my youngest two brothers went through adolescence in a pastor’s home. And of course my own children have for most of their lives been pastor’s children. So I am somewhat of an expert, for what it’s worth.

Pastors’ kids are kids. Like their moms, they didn’t receive a call from God to their lot in life growing up. So they have no choice in the matter. But, you might say, neither do any children. Kids don’t determine what their parents do career-wise. Yeah, but most careers don’t put their children in a fishbowl, either.

They don’t want to be looked at differently. They just want to be treated as normal kids like everyone else’s. That shouldn’t be too hard. But for some reason in many churches it is.

They aren’t perfect, so don’t expect them to be. Hey, they’re just like your kids. You’ve heard the joke. Why are preachers kids so bad? Because they play with the deacons’ kids.

Unless they are your children they’re not yours to discipline. And if you do see them truly misbehave, tell it to their parents, not to other church members or to “the board”. It’s not their business. Give them the same respect you expect. Take them out from under the microscope.
In many cases they likely carry some resentment toward the church because of a number of things. Typically…
  • Dad can’t attend their ballgames/dance recitals/camping trips, etc. because he has to take care of the church. Yet other church members have no problem attending their kids functions. Kids aren’t stupid. They see the inconsistencies and unfairness.
  • They have to attend church every time the doors are open. Sometimes because “we have to set the example”. But they don’t want to be the examples. They want to be normal. Remember, it’s not their “calling”.
  • They hear the criticisms of their dad. This one really stinks. No kid should hear another adult or hear of another adult blasting their parents, even if the criticism is warranted. But it happens way too often in churches. Adults can handle that stuff. Kids shouldn’t have to.
  • They see the stress at home that balancing ministry and family causes his parents and their relationship. Again, pastoring is a 24/7 job. See my previous posts on this subject.
    In most cases (I say most because I talk to lots of pastors across this country) their father is overworked and underpaid. So they don’t have the income to take the nice vacation or buy the better clothes or get the latest gadgets for Christmas. Sorry, but it’s true.

That’s enough. You get the picture.

Just because dad’s a pastor doesn’t mean they want to be one. In fact, depending on how the church treats their dad will largely determine their relationship with the church as an adult.

Just because dad’s a pastor doesn’t mean they are believers. And if they aren’t, they have to put on the act. And that makes them dislike themselves because they know they’re pretending. Treat them like any other child who needs Christ – with love.

If you give them their space and privacy they’ll like you a whole lot more. And they’ll like the church, too. If they don’t feel like oddballs because dad’s a pastor, they could turn out normal.

Most pastors kids are genuinely caring children who want both to please their parents and their God. They’re not super-spiritual, but can be spiritually dynamic people if they get the same chances to just be kids like everyone else. There are some great success stories of pastor’s children who go on to accomplish wonderful things in life through whatever careers they choose. But because they are who they are, so much is made or broken by how dad’s church(es) treat them and their parents.

Having said all that I think my three children (and they’re free to respond here) have no regrets from being reared in a pastor’s home. They’re all three healthy and committed to their families and are all active in their churches. My son is a full-time worship leader working with me. My first daughter married a youth pastor and is in another state. My youngest daughter and her husband are nearby and are great volunteers in our church. I’m not bragging- just saying being a pastor’s kid doesn’t have to be negative or stressful. But I also give my church credit for allowing my family to just be a family, and for praying for us over the years.


Lisa said...

I'm a pastor's kid and you totally nailed it on this subject. Well said. My family & my dad's church is praying for your family daily! God is good (all the time).

Disney Scrapper said...

I am forwarding this to my three kids. Thankfully my childrn are all adults, and my husband is just now entering into the pastors stage of life (so we have been able to do things with them that would not be possible now that he has the responsibilty of a church). But with the exception of a few years when they were very young they have always been "Preachers Kids". I think we were more prepared then most because we both were raised by preachers so I had the benefit of knowing what to expect early on. No they are not perfect angels ( neither are their parenst for that matter). And through God's grace we have always been in a church where our children were nurtured, but every once in a while someone would remark on what they thought or children should be doing. Our response has always been come to us first, if they were being disrespectful then we wanted to know. Our first line of defense was that it was our job to discipline our children and if they were wrong about something we made them say I am sorry. But we expected the same from those who were accusing if the situation turned out to not be so. My husband has always said how ironic it is that church folks like to hold the "pastor" accountable but do not see that they should be accountable also. The last time I checked we all worked for the same guy (lol).

speckledpup said...

I'm a PK, the daughter of a PK who was the son of a PK.

Lovely post. Spot on. So much to say on the subject.

But let me say that for all the inconsistencies and the unfairness of being the Preachers Kid...not many kids see God work through their parents the way we do. I cannot remember a time that no matter how bad I screwed up that I didn't see love and compassion in dad's eyes... that wasn't him, he had a quick temper and was tough.. it was Jesus shining through.

I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything.

I would have NEVER married someone who planned to go in the ministry because of it. Yet the lord has used me again and again because I have a tenderness and an understanding for the pastor and especially his family.

My upbringing is not something for me to whine to Oprah about.... no sir. I'm proud of my godly heritage. I come from strong prayer warriors. Those who knew how to touch the throne. Those who knew the key to the mercies of god were to praise more, give more and sacrifice of the body, the pocketbook and human interests.

Thanks for a great post.

Anonymous said...

I'm a pastor's kid and pastor's wife.

Well said. So very, very true...all of it.

A Dusty Frame said...

Another PK chiming in.

All of my siblings and I are serving the Lord and turned out pretty awesome;).

As another commenter said, yes there are negatives but there are some wonderful positives too. For example, I got free tuition in Bible college! We were always being given things or taken out to eat. We were taken under the wing of people because we didn't live by our families.

I am not married to a pastor, but my upbringing helps me to be compassionate to our Pastor and his family.

Thanks for your series.

Bre said...

I've commented to you before. I'm a PK, and had to go through one of those situations where some of the elders in the church expected my brother and I to be perfect. If we weren't the whole church heard about it, and my dad got insanely angry because they then were breathing heavily down his neck. NOT a fun situation to be in!! I never understood why the expectations for us were so much different than they were for the other kids in the church; until I got older that is.

I definitely do not regret living in a house with a pastor as the head of our home. As a family, we actually stood in our home, in a circle holding hands, and asked God to let us know if it was time for my dad to resign from that position. It wasn't my dad's decision, or just my parents decision. It was our whole family's decision; a decision in which we all prayed about and watched God lead us down the path He wanted us to go.

I'm glad I grew up that household because I had a greater appreciation for things, and now I am able to have a strong grounding on where to start with raising my 1year old. But, there were times that I didn't enjoy being a PK because of those parishioners who loved to watch my brother and I mess up then call us out. Those are some times I'll never forget.

I really enjoy your posts, and love being a "part" of the journey of Nate, Tricia, and Gwyneth. You've got a pretty awesome son, Mr. Lawrenson; and I can only imagine how proud of him you are. I definitely would be. Their story is amazing, and it is all a true miracle. It's such a wonderful thing to watch. I'm continuing to keep them in my prayers, and am excited to see the new chapters God has in store for them!

Brianne, VA

the add youth pastor said...

If the pastor's son has ADD get off his back! ;)

Good job Ricky. You nailed it but you were much nicer on a few point than I would have been.

One thing that has puzzled me is how professing Christian church members could treat their pastor like dirt and don't seem to even have any quilt over it.
Something ain't right there.

PK's Unite!

Missy said...

thank you for your sharing. i remember in high school not knowing exactly how i felt on some topics, especially religion and what role God played and was about to play in my life. i had several PK's as friends and i often found myself having to be someone (at times completely) different when in their homes vs out in "the world". looking back, kinda strange, but my first crush was a PK. ha! here's to our children discovering themselves and never being ashamed of us parents or the choices we've made on their behalf in raising them up... take care!

Lisa said...

I am a pastor's daughter as well, and agree with everything you said. I still live in the area of my dad's 1000+ member church but my husband and I do not attend there. It was too difficult with everyone knowing me, and almost hounding me the second I walked into the church, and everyone knowing my husband and him not knowing anyone from Tom, Dick or Harry. He always felt as though he should know who everyone was, because they knew who he was. It was just too awkward. So now we are attending a smaller church in the next town that reminds me a lot of my dad's church 10 years ago. It is still difficult because I compare everything to his church.

I also just heard about an hour ago that a 28 year old pastor's son from our area just committed suicide yesterday. The pastor actually recently had an affair with his secretary, and left his wife of 30+ years. The devil is at work there, and is infiltrating their lives. It's a sad story considering how alive in Christ these people could be.

Thanks for your thoughts on the subject. I think pastor's and their families need lots of prayer. We are humans too and the devil likes to attack us more than anyone else!

I've been reading Nate's blog since Gwyneth was about a week old.

Rebecca said...

Rick, THANK YOU! My dad is a pastor (retiring this June), and it is NOT EASY being a PK. Period.

I would like to link to this post on my blog, if that's o.k. (You, of course, would get full credit.)

Rick Lawrenson said...

Link away.

swahilimama said...

Thanks for writing honestly about the struggles of a pastor's family. My husband is in the ministry, but has never pastored. He left the local church when our kids were 6 months and 4 years to go to the SS Board of the Southern Bapt. Convention. We were there 19 years, so by the time he went back to being on staff in a church, they were in college. One thing he did, however, when he has served on a church staff is to make it clear that the church is not hiring me. (I know you addressed that issue in an earlier post.) Thanks for your insightful posts. I always enjoy reading them.

Andie said...

Pastor Lawrenson, I have thoroughly enjoyed your series on pastoring. May I please link to each entry from my blog. I cannot say anything better than what you have already written. Thanks-Andie

MilePost13 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Hallenbeck's said...

Thank you for this series on Pastors, their wives, and their kids. My husband has been a Pasotr for a little over two years now. When we first arrived on our current field we actually had people get mad because our kids were quiet and didn't talk much to them. We had to remind them that our kids didn't choose to leave all they had ever known to go to a "foreign" land. Uprooting them was the hardest thing we ever had to do to follow the call of God. I wish I could anonymously send this series to several people so they might understand more. Again thank you and God Bless you and your family as you serve our mighty God. We are continuing to pray for Nate, Tricia, Gwyneth and the rest of the family.

JoAnna said...

Funny how many PKs responded.. here's one more. I'm a PK married to a pastor. This is great. Thank you. Raising our kids (3 & 4 years old) is already interesting. Our church is small, and most everyone is refreshingly real and treat our children like everyone else's. I find that its my own expectations of them that I get frustrated with. Even as a PK, I have always LOVED worship and don't get the attitude that pops in the second church starts.

God has truly blessed though. My brother is a full-time missionary. My mom was in ministry, herself, before meeting my dad... as was the same with my husband and I. We are a team - which brings new dynamics to the field like both wanting/needing to be off somewhere and yet be with our little ones too. :)

gracerev said...

Well said! I just wanted to add that although it may not be a part of your particular faith tradition, there are many places where the parent that is a pastor is a woman - that presents another whole set of challenges. I think that raising a family in the fishbowl that is clergy life is a very difficult thing - kudos to you and your wife for your great work!

Mandy Farris said...

thanks for that. i am married to a youth minister and so i know how this feels with 2 boys of my own. it was beautifully written.

Kupiec Baby Blog said...

Thanks too for being such humble and gracious examples of what true
Christ-followers can be like. There are many of us (fellow Christ-followers) who so distort what it's supposed to look like to follow Him, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of others. But the taste you leave is rich and flavorful and inviting. I should imagine it is even a greater joy to know and interact with you all personally.

Kari said...

I really enjoyed your post as a PK. Thank you so much for your honesty! I am also so enjoying the discussion of the PKs.

PKs unite!

Stacy said...

Thank you so much for posting this...some serious food for thought! I think this every Christian should read this disclaimer~ pastors kids need a chance to just be kids!

Michelle said...

Thank you for this series. My hubby is going into the Pastor internship at our church and I'm glad I'm reading your series, its preparing me for better service to my family.

Megan said...

Thank you for writing this. It is very important for those of us in the church family to remember.

I am a teacher's kid and I found it interesting that almost all of the points you made applied to TK's as well. :) I always hated to hear..."Do you know what your mom did to me today?" Very frustrating to have kids complain to ME because they got in trouble for something they deserved.

TerryKM said...

Good post Dad. I enjoyed all three of them.I have gone through being a pk, am now a p wife...thank God I will never be the pastor! Two is quite enough! lol
Love you,

Mariahs Mom said...

Great blog! I was a pastor's kid growing up and I totally agree. Would you mind if I put this on my blog (of course giving you credit) and share with friends. Thanks


elj377 said...

Well someone who grew up in the fishbowl I almost was afraid of ministry because of the pressure placed on me. I have enjoyed these posts on the pastor, his wife and his kids...though I did enjoy stumping all the preacher boys in Bible College

BethPie said...

Thank you for sharing this - being a PK comes with some pretty unique issues! I'm a PK and both my parents were, as well. I can't imagine growing up any other way, but my experience was certainly more positive than that of some other PK's I've encountered. I feel so, so blessed to have been in some really loving and supportive churches. The church members who loved on us so well have definitely set an example of how I should treat our pastors' families.

CJolly said...

For what it's worth you guys have three great PKs!

ajc4ever said...

I'm a PK and you really hit the nail on the head. I am impressed. :-) One more thing that was frustrating for me. When I was a teenager sometimes in youth group the teens would get in discussions about frustrations with their parents. Invariably they would then turn to me and say, "You're so lucky. Your Dad's perfect." Uh...I beg to differ with you. lol I love my Dad to pieces, but he is not and was not perfect. I never felt free to discuss any of my frustrations because of that and because I was always so scared of hurting his ministry.
Anyway, I loved this post. Thanks.

Caroline said...

I'm a PK - you summed it all up rather well!! I also said "I would never marry a Pastor"......mmmmhmmmmmmm....well, does God know best, or what? I am now a Pastor's Wife! (He told me he was going to be a solicitor/lawyer when we met.....I definately prefer the Pastor!) Being ina small Church at themoment, isn't too bad. BUT, I still feel my children are "watched". We also get some funny comments about home-schooling too, and how we raise our children.

However, we wouldn't change where we are - serving God like this is such a great calling!

Tracy P. said...

This series is wonderful. I linked to these posts in honor of my pastor and his family. I remember a church member asking me once (critically) about why our pastor's son hadn't been baptized yet. I was too dumbfounded to give any kind of an answer other than I don't know. Thankfully, that woman now has children of her own...with minds of their own. It's encouraging to see PKs commenting that though it was difficult, they do not regret their parents' callings and therefore their own upbringings.

Stephanie said...

I'm a PK too. Seems like lots of us are responding to this post. Maybe there should be some sort of support group out there for all of us! LOL! Like many have said, you hit the nail on the head. I'd like to point out a few things you touched on and add my own thoughts. As a PK, it seemed people always expected me and my sister to be either "super spiritual" or really rebellious. It sometimes felt impossible for us to just be "normal." When my sister began to rebel a bit, in the typical teenage way, my parents were asked by some to leave the ministry even though those peoples' kids, who were older, had been some of the ones to lead her astray.
Another thing: I never felt like I could rag on my parents like other kids did. I couldn't complain about anything they said or did because I was usually so busy defending them. Pastors have many critics, and hurtful words usually reach the ears of the pastor's kids. I new my dad wasn't perfect, but I didn't want to give anyone else any more stones to throw at him. So I just kept my typical teen complaints and anti-parentental opnions to myself.
The issue of a pastor's paycheck is another deal. It's usually not very much, and in a small town, everyone knows how much the pastors make. Even though it was a fraction of what my friends' paretns were earning, the dollar figure didn't bother me too much. We made do, and God provided. What really bugged me was the thing that happened every year following the business meeting. Someone would approach me to comment on the "raise" my dad had just gotten. It was usually only enought to keep up with inflation, but someone always had to say something. One year, when I'd reached driving age, the local car salesman approached me to say, "Since the church just gave your dad that big raise, don't you think he should be buying you a new set of wheels?"
I love the Church with all its flaws. The man I'm married to has been called to full-time ministry. The children we hope to have will be PKs like I was. For their sake, I hope many people read what you have to say. I know the "fish bowl" will be hard for them to avoid. But I want them to have a shot at a "normal" childhood, one without the hyped up expectations (positive or negative) of their father's congregation. One without the hurt of hearing terrible things said about their dad.
Thanks for your insights on this very personal topic.

Anonymous said...

As a pastor's wife, I'd like to thank you for writing what so many people don't understand. A friend sent me your blog and I'm grateful that she is one who "gets" it. I especially understand what you wrote about a wife that must "bite her tongue" when her husband is hurt, criticized, or misunderstood by people who don't see the big picture. I'm reminded almost daily that this is truly a spiritual battle; nevertheless, the wife hurts and cries alone on many occasions because she, too, sacrifices her life for the call of her husband.

Wendy said...

I, too, was a PK (although because my parents were in the Salvation Army, we were called O.K.s). I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything else, but like others, there are always pros and cons in the lives God has carved out for us. Perhaps in the Sal. Army, moreso than other churches, the entire family is considered part of the ministering team. We were often called upon to jump into leadership without a grumble.

No surprises, I wasn't perfect and most of my 4 siblings weren't (although the unexpected blessing - my youngest brother - did seem so, from afar).

I would agree with the comments of amazement at how oftentimes the church treats pastors with less grace than they wish to be treated. My parents left the ministry for 5 years, at the Lord's prompting, and I was in college and watched all the people second guessing what must be going on to cause my parents to step down (etc.). I had to hear the gossip. I had to field questions I was uncomfortable with. I felt a lot of resentment, at that time, that my parents had poured out their time, their lives, our lives, and now we were sort of kicked to the curb (although my parents would say that lots of people were kind and gracious during those years - and I'm sure they were, but my perspective was difficult).

If anyone ever finds a perfect church, it won't be full of people because people are imperfect. If anyone finds a perfect Pastor and family... same thing.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom on this subject - you obviously hit a nerve with a lot of us PKs. I have linked to you from my blog! God bless you and your family.