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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  • I would just like to say that being both a pastors daughter and the daughter of a teacher Fatima private church run school, I could never never escape the constant judgement of others….kids, parents, church members, other teachers , administrators. Let it also be noted that my parents choice of professions was not a option for me. I had no choice as to this new role I was thrown into. I was in 4th grade when my life changed and they uprooted our family to follow “God’s” will. We had to get rid of our family pets, sell our house never to be able to own another one again, and became drastically poor for the rest of my life with my parents. When I got married to a “nonbeliever” the shit really hit the fan and my father chose the church over me and wouldn’t walk me down the isle. It’s been 21 years and we are happier than ever but I will never go back to such a judgmental group again. I’m done attempting to live by some one else’s standards that are never good enough.

  • Sara Bartlett says on

    This was great, thank you!!!! I just did some research on this very topic. I would like to add that there are also Mommies who are Ministers. Their children should also not be defined by that role.

  • Peggy Adkins says on

    I was a Preachers kid….and I am sure that I had a few moments just like this pastor’s kid did. But I think parenting should be left up to that parent regardless of their vocation. God chose this pastor to raise this kid so let him do it without judgement. If he is not doing it right God will show him….not you.

  • SunnyFlorida says on

    I do believe that NO child should be treated differently, no matter their place in the church. Unfortunately, I have seen this too many times, but in the opposite way. The children of Pastors and other leadership were allowed to do things that other children were publicly reprimanded for. Children who rode the bus/van to church were punished over and over in Sunday School classes for the same behavior as the Pastor’s grandchild, sent to sit in the sanctuary and miss being taught a lesson on his or her level, shunned by the ushers and other adults that were called upon to “take care of them” during service. “Regular saint’s” children had to sit quietly after service while the aforementioned children of the leadership ran around screaming, getting into things and often ran into elders trying to walk to the door because a game of tag had gotten out of hand. I know that the church that I grew up in is far different from most, but sad none the less. In my personal experience, the “PKs” that I grew up with at camps & district meetings (not just my home church) were the most spoiled and entitled children of all. It’s only fair to address this side of things as well as it is a very real thing. I have since moved from this church and district & my husband and I are privileged to be in the ministry so our kids are being raised on the other side of things. My husband and I were not from minister’s homes, so I am seeing things from a different vantage point when it come to raising my children. However, I can honestly say that my children have never been treated unfairly, given special privilege or held to a different standard as outlined above…because we do not allow it. Just because your parent or grandparent is in the ministry does not give you special rights or make you better than anyone else. We are all loved by the Lord the same, and all have a place in the body.

  • If the kid ends up as an adult getting into trouble of any kind- legal, marital, addiction, etc- do not assume that means the pastor in question didn’t raise them correctly, or isn’t a good enough christian, so it rubbed off on their child.

  • The responses in your list seem to imply you only polled male pastors for their opinions:

    “…because their dad’s a pastor”
    “…based on their father’s vocation.”
    “Dad gave more attention…”

    Were any female pastors polled? If not, I wonder if the results would differ in any way?

  • I know one preacher who was asked to resign from his church because his daughter made a mistake and got pregnant.

  • I was/am a PK. It wasn’t always easy. People hold preacher’s kids to the standard of their parents. As an adult I have been asked by younger ministers how best to handle their children and this situation. My response is always the same, “Just remember that you were called into this life and position, your child had no choice & they are no different than any other child in the church.”

  • I’m a preachers son. I’m not my father! Don’t ask me to pray over the family functions!

  • Rev. Michael R Scudder says on

    So often these type of comments are made by people whose own children are NOT in church. Mine are there. Doesn’t excuse any rude behavior, but they are there! Had a member complain once that my oldest would always get up and leave during the sermon hymn. Well, he would, right at the beginning. He’d be gone a verse or so (depending on the hymn) but would return in time to hear the sermon. What this disgruntled member didn’t know was that my child has some allergy problems and liked to clear his nose before the sermon. “Trust me,” I said, “you don’t want him blowing his nose in the sanctuary!”

    • Sarah Joy says on

      That’s funny-I have a couple with allergies, and one of them is particularly explosive during the sunflower season. She would have to go out also, and still managed to make a good bit of noise after stocking up on kleenex for the sermon. (I’ve done my best, but I don’t know how to teach a nine-year old how to wipe a very active nose discreetly.) I just ignored the few disapproving glares. It’s either that, or keep her out of church for three months out of every year. I’m sure those dear people will eventually grow in grace.

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