Seven Things Pastors Would Like Church Members to Know about Their Children

I was serving a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, when it hit me hard. One of my young children had playfully fallen on the floor in the foyer after a worship service. A deacon in the church came up to me and spoke forcefully: “You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors’ children aren’t supposed to act that way.”

My internal emotional reaction was carnal. I’m just glad I held my tongue. I was really mad. I can still remember my thoughts: “How dare this man hold my young son to a standard different than other kids! My boy really didn’t cause any harm. He was just being playful.

I recently conducted a Twitter poll of pastors and their spouses about this very issue. Though the poll was informal and not scientific, the responses were nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency. A representative comment or combined comments are given with each of the seven.

  1. Don’t expect more out of pastors’ kids (PKs) than any other kids. “My children need to have the same expectations as the other children in the church. They are not some kind of spiritual superstars because their dad’s a pastor.”
  2. Please offer encouragement to my children. “It’s not always easy to be a PK. The glass house thing is real. I am so thankful for the church members who go out of their way to encourage my children.”
  3. Realize that they are kids. “I know a few church members who seem to think my kids are miniature adults. They expect them to act like a 40 year old instead of a 4 year old.”
  4. Please don’t call them “PKs.” “Their identities should not be based on their father’s vocation. They have their own unique and special identities.”
  5. Please pray for my children. “I am blessed to have this one lady in my church who prays for my three children every day. She knows the special challenges of being a PK.”
  6. Our kids see and hear more than you may think. “After one particularly tough church business meeting, my seven-year-old boy asked me if I was going to get fired.”
  7. Don’t make me choose between my kids and the church. “Too many PKs have grown up bitter and disillusioned about the church. Dad gave more attention to church members than his own children.”

What do you think about these seven challenges? What would you add? What have your experiences been?

Posted on June 5, 2013

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Eric Benoy says on

    While I have not been blessed with a family (though I am still hoping for one), I might add the following to your list : Do NOT talk about the pastor and/or his wife (unless you are bragging on them) if their children, or any children, are around; (1) some will take it personally and dislike/distrust you for talking about their parent(s); (2), some will internalize it and affect their behavior and that will cause problems ; (3) kids repeat a lot you don’t want ever repeated — gossip is a sin, but even worse in front of children who have not the capacity to process and deal with such things

  • Jeff Parks says on

    My Daddy always said preacher’s kids acted the way they do because of playing with deacon’s kids. 😉 There were times growing up that I got tired of being called “Preacher’s Kid”, but now in retrospect, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything. Thank you, Daddy, for raising me the way you did!

  • Carlene Knights says on

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of the comments, all of the offenses, and I can identify with most of them since I don’t remember a time in my life, until now (my father’s now deceased), when I wasn’t a PK. There are a lot of things you have to gracefully accept, some things you have to stand up and fight, and you have to be strong enough to be your own person. It took my younger brother almost forty years to get back to the church after all of the things that we suffered as PK’s. He’s now a pastor, something he never expected, but that’s why we need to go into ministry, we know the pit-falls, and we know that our first ministry is to our family, then the church. My Dad learned that the hard way, and though he loved us, we felt cheated by all of the time he gave to ministry.I promised I would never marry a minister, and so, I’ve never married, but I know that I’d be an awesome pastor’s wife, cause I know how, my Mom was a great example. There’s so much to be said when we’re talking about the Pastor’s kids, that’s the topic of my next book. I’d like to get the imput of everyone who blogged, both positive and negative.

  • I’m totally with this post. My dad was a pastor when I was a kid and these are definitly things church members need to think about. When you’re a PK you’re essencially raised by the church, and You’re parents may have slightly higher expectations for you but that doesn’t mean that other church members should have those expectations or be making decisions about how you should be raised.

    Especially when you’re small, you spend a lot of time at church, you get very comfortable being there. In fact most of the time you spend at the church, in my experience, isn’t when you’re dressed up and on your best behavior. You’re there after school, very early in the morning, and sometimes rather late at night. A kid can get confu
    sed about how people expect him to behave if he’s allowed to run around and play one day, and has to sit through a service 2 or 3 times calmly the next.

    It’s not their job, it’s their dad’s . And some kids easily fall into the “PK” position rather comfortably.
    I always loved having intelligent conversations with adults. I was a talker. I would talk to anyone about anything they wanted, but my sister was not that way at all. She had a small number of people my parents were close to with whom she was comfortable, and that was it. And I think there were a few people who were not too thrilled about that and tried to get her to talk, but she was selective. 🙂

    Anyway, let PK’s off the hook. They totally deserve it.

  • 4. Please don’t call them “PKs.” —> Most of pastor’s children I know likes to be regarded as “PKs”. For the privilege and for what their father’s influence can give and benefit them.

  • Roosevelt says on

    As Pastors, Christians a like we should not be blind to our kids are. They be one way when they with you, and another way when they with everybody else, or even there is a third personality. They are still children, and they will act like them and understand like them and prayerfully they will put away childish things one day.

  • These points are well taken. Absolutely we should pray for the children of pastors and be a family-friendly congregation that doesn’t make our pastors feel they have to choose between their spouse and children and congregants. However, my experience has been that the children of many of our leaders (including our pastors) are not well-behaved in many instances. And when I have tried to address it (hopefully gently) w/them I get told that my own kids are just “naturally good-natured” (I am the Family Life Pastor so my kids are pastor’s kids too). I don’t like the insinuation that somehow my husband and I had nothing to do w/shaping their obediencee and respect for those in authority over them, and care and compassion for their peers. It’s as if they are dismissing my plea to partner w/them to help their children grow in responsibility and maturity, by saying I’ve had it so much easier so how could I possibly be of any help? Congregant-parents are often more humble in receiving the truth spoken in love, and help/coaching offered in love to them as parents. So the “pk” syndrome becomes almost an excuse for misbehavior. At least in my experience…

  • I grew up as an Missionary Kid with parents who took us on numerous short term missions around the world. I remember one day when my older brothers were being particularly more active outside playing football before evening worship service and one woman said that she expected the missionary kids to be more spiritual. This woman was married to the local ER doctor and her children were known to be less than ideal. My mother responded by saying “Do you expect your son to know how to respond to a crisis situation?” The woman immediately responded “No, he is just 15.” My mother said “My sons are 16, 12, and 8 and people expect them to know the Bible in and out because their parents serve as part-time missionaries. How is that a fair expectation.” From that day forward that woman was always a little more generous with grace toward my brothers and I.

  • Michael Fuller says on

    One more that should be added…..
    8. Don’t make my kids “preach.” They say what pastor’s want to say but can’t.

  • I am a pastor’s kid and 15. The worst thing is when people talk about my siblings and what they do that they should or should not have done. They say things in front of me even though they would never say them in front of my parents. It really bugs that they feel comfortable saying these things without ever even trying to figure out what is going on in their lives.

  • Thom- Growing up in a Pastor’s home, I greatly appreciate this post. I’m now out of the home and in my mid-20s and recognize this role in leadership differently than others in my church. I think I’ll write a post that is titled “Seven Things Pastor’s Kids Would Like Church Members to Know about their Dad’s”. Thanks for the post!

  • I love those seven comments, because I remember feeling all of those feeling growing up with my Dad as Pastor! Now that I am a preacher.. I would just add to say, help PK’s develop their strengths along with all the kids in the church. Do not treat the PK any more special than any other kid. Every child deserves to grow in the gifting that God has given them. Develop all of the children the same: as far as give them all opportunities to open up and be themselves. Some kids believe that they are worthless because their gifting is not popular. But, we must let those children know that God chose them for a specific and special job. Love all, with no respect of person!

    Love in Christ,
    John C. McMahan

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