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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505 Comments

  • Wendell Bishop says on

    Greetings!
    The subject of the clergy family is very dear to my heart. Being a pastor and having raised four children in the ministry context has been very insightful. In addition the title of my Doctoral Thesis Project was “The Fight For The Family.” The core of the project was a survey of 130 adult PKs. Hopefully soon this project will be in book form. We have done a great disservice to the PKs. Although some have had awesome experiences, many are hurt deeply. We can do better than this. Our kids are not just hazards of our calling to preach the Word of God! We can do better and we must!

  • Wendell Bishop says on

    Greetings!
    The subject of the clergy family is very dear to my heart. Being a pastor and having raised four children in the ministry context has been very insightful. In addition the title of my Doctoral Thesis Project was “The Fight For The Family.” The core of the project was a survey of 130 adult PKs. Hopefully soon this project will be in book form. We have done a great disservice to the PKs. Although some have had awesome experiences, many are hurt deeply. We can do better than this. Our kids are not just hazards of our calling to preach the Word of God! We can do better and we must!

  • I’m a 17 year old PK and it’s hard. But I am so thankful for such Godly influences and such a loving family. This is something I would love everyone in our church to read. I would also add that I have parents. I don’t need everyone else in the church to discipline me and act like my parents. Even though they are busy seeing everyone else and don’t always have time, they are still my parents. I love everyone in the church and I love that they care about me so much, but just love me. Don’t try and act like you’re in control of my life. I have the most awesome parents. Some people in the congregation I am close enough with that their discipline is good, but others feel like it is also their place to do the same when it’s not. Also I would add that I am an influence not an example. Not kid should have to have the pressure of the whole church and community expecting them to be the perfect example, no one is perfect.

  • Claiming your 6 year who prayed to received Christ is a spiritual prodigy solely based on the fact the (PK) being 7 years and not praying the sinners prayer.

  • I think this is good stuff. I would simply like to state that there should never be a choice between a pastor’s kids and the church. Some like to pressure pastors into making this choice, but a pastor should decide before ever entering the church that their family is their first ministry. The call of fatherhood trumps the call of church ministry. I would add to the statement, “Don’t make me choose between my kids and the church because I will choose my kids every single time.” Of course, I understand that this concept must be understood in context and I also understand that 99% of situations will allow for a healthy balance between the two.

  • Shelley Jamieson says on

    I have great memories of growing up as a P.K. Overall it was a positive experience.

    A story: I was sitting with a friend during a church service when my father was preaching when I was four or five years old.. My mother was the pianist so was sitting on the front row. My friend and I found something extremely funny. My father suddenly stopped his sermon and said, “Mrs. Palmer, you need to take care of your daughter.” Which she proceeded to do. She lead me all the way down the aisle, out the back door to the side of the church where she applied anti-laughter swats. I made sure everyone heard my cries. After the church service, some of the members almost flogged my mother because they thought “little Mary Shelley could do no wrong.” In other words, I was mostly petted by our fellow church members.

    This is one of the stories from my book about growing up as a P.K. in rural Mississippi and Alabama in the 1940’s & ’50s.

  • #8 Do not say to a preacher’s child that which you don’t have the guts to say to their father.

  • Scott MacFarlane says on

    If this is the church I think it is .. I understand been there (and have a few shirts to prove it ) My youngest was bouncing between to posts while a deacon was speaking to my wife and I and all I could think was please don’t turn around… But my boys have really over came a lot of stereo types and I think created a few more for them as we go !
    Great article Thom!

  • Janet Brent says on

    I was a Pastors daughter for many, many years. Most of this time was during the 70’s and 80’s and later as well. Being a Pastors kid or or P.K. as we were called had its perks granted but, at the same time it was something that was hard to live through. Add to this that I was an only child and it was even more stressful. I had to act like a miniature adult at all times, my childhood was basically gone by the time I had gotten out of high school and into college before I could be myself and act like a human being and not be afraid of what the deacons would say if I messed up at all. I love what you have written here – wish that it had been written when I was growing up in the P.K. light then I don’t think that it would have been as rough.

  • I was always proud to be a Preachers Kid, even Made tee shirts that said “PK Power” on them. Here is my thoughts on all of this…….First every Preacher that has a child is responsible to God for that child. I believe that where the problem comes in for most PK’s is that many Preachers become so involved in Pastoring the church, they slack on being the farther God called them to be.
    I was Blessed that even as my Dad was a Preacher, he was a very Godly Man and always found time to be our farther and to explain why he chose to live as he did both in statement and by example in his daily living.
    In Ephesians we are told that we are not to expect things of our Pastors, that we are not already doing ourselves….This is where the problem of living in a Glass house comes in. And that people forget Preachers are human too.
    Now having said this…..Let me say that Preachers are called by God to lead the Church, but they have to answer the same as any other ‘Dad for their leadership over their Children, And should be allowed the time to be the farther God calls them to be and not put the demands of the church above their family. We as a Church should raise up and support our Pastors, Love and Encourage them. Lift them up……..Allowing them to lead by example of how God wants our families to be. When the church places such a high demand on a man of God that he doesn’t take care of his family, Then we the church our failing our God and Sinning. Just as some choose to use this as excuse not to be the family Man God called them to be and are sinning also.
    This is just my opinion…….But do not call me complaining when me Pastor takes a day off to be with his family!

  • I haven’t read all the responses, and someone may have said this already, but here goes. I would like to add a facet to this discussion of being a pastor’s kid (I really was one.) Someone asked me if I felt neglected because my dad spent so much time and energy on the church and its activities. My answer was absolutely not. When we had church services I was there. When we had “fellowship dinners” I was there. When we had weddings in our living room I was there.

    When my dad preached I heard his inmost thoughts and dreams in a way that many young people never get to hear there parents. I probably knew him better than most kids know their dads – and I valued what I knew.

    So, although the goldfish bowl is real, there are many benefits – friendship, recognition (even when I didn’t remember their names), willingness to be helpful (when I got married the “ladies of the church” decorated the church for me, happily), and prayer, I’m sure.

  • I agree with all those points about the kids and think they also pertain to the pastors spouse. During a Church interview for my husband we were told we weren’t perfect enough, and everyone expected us to be on a pedestal. It’s amazing how many church members put the kids, spouse and pastor on an amazingly high standard that is impossible to meet.

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