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.