I was never a PK. A Pastor’s Kid. But I did grow up with a number of them, and I was often horrified by the impact of the pressure they felt being a PK. For some it was pressure put on them by the church their dad pastored, for others it was a pressure that they presumed and placed on themselves. For some it was a mix of both. But the results weren’t always pretty and some have been long lasting in terms of open rebellion, resentment for the church, and tragically a confusion of the Churches treatment of them with how Jesus would treat them. We need to ask ourselves not just how we care for our pastor and for his wife – a good question to ask and maybe I’ll blog some suggestions on ways we can care for them well later. But we must ask ourselves how do we as a church and as individual parts of the body care well for the pastor’s children?
Their dad’s calling wasn’t theirs. We mustn’t expect too much of pastor’s children. We must just expect them to be children with everything that entails. They will mess about, be mischievous, rebel. They are not mini pastors, or sermon illustration fodder (Dad’s don’t do it!). They certainly shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than any other child in the church. They are not role models and please don’t refer to them as such – they are just children.
They are not model children, so don’t treat them as such, or expect the unobtainable. Now I know this may seem like it flies in the face of 1 Timothy and Titus and Paul’s teaching on elders managing their families well. Listen carefully. The call is for the elder to manage their household well, not for their children to be perfect examples of Christian childhood. It is perfectly possible to be managing your children well but for them still to be children who act up, are too loud, run around in church, defiantly stamp their feet and say no over coffee, and even reject their parents faith. The issue in 1 Timothy and Titus is not perfection in offspring, but a trajectory of godliness, and parenting with grace. Let’s not expect more perfection of pastor’s kids that we do of any other children. Instead the question we should be asking is are they being moulded and changed over time as they see grace and love day by day?
Recognise that it’s costs them. Pastor’s kids pay a price for their dad’s calling and service. How often is their dad out when they are home? How many Sunday’s is dad emotionally and spiritually drained by preaching and pastoring? How many events do their dads miss because of a pastoral crisis? One of the best ways we can care for PK’s is by ensuring their dad, though he works hard, is not too emotionally and spiritually drained to have a good relationship with his children. Don’t phone him on his time/day off/holiday because you want the children to know you value their time with their dad.
They also often pay financially. Many pastors could have earned far more had they stayed in their secular job, especially when children are teens they realise this and there is a danger it breeds resentment, While wealthy friends jet off to Florida they are off to Bognor Regis. It can be hard to feel like the poor relative in church. It can be the same when it comes to present time too. But pastor’s we need to be honest with our kids, sometimes we play the pastoral salary card when it is unhelpful, we also need to teach our children not to idolise stuff (If you’re a church member and you thought that’s what the pastor should be doing – teaching his kids not to idolise stuff. I hope you’re teaching your kids the same lesson in the same way you’re expecting the pastor to). But churches also need to ask are we paying the pastor fairly? Is he able to care for his family?
Pray for them. Pastors children see the good and bad of church, they experience the highs and lows and their children spot that. They can grow to resent it. Pastor’s need to try to protect their children from that. But so do church members. Guard your conversations when the children of the pastor are around, it’s so often the things they overhear that do the most harm, sniping about another person at church, criticism of a sermon by their dad, grumpiness about this or that, grumbling about things that are inconsequential, a feeling of frustration that their family sacrifice, or seem to, more than anyone else.
Befriend them. One of the things I love about Grace is the great relationships and friendships our kids have with people of all ages in the church family. They do need peers, yes. But they need a wider network of church family. Before you church hop or move, think about the cost for a pastor’s kid, are you taking away their friends? Can you care for the pastors children by deliberately investing in and discipling them?
It is a privilege to grow up a PK, though we can make it feel like a chore. A church family is a gift to our children if it engages with them, values them as individuals. It can be a thrilling place if they are allowed to explore faith in Jesus without pressure to make it their own or imperil their dad’s position. It can be a great place to be discipled – yes pastor’s kids need that too. How well do you care for your pastor’s children? What unhelpful expectations do you have of them and how can change that?