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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  • Mark Ritchey says on

    My kids have grown up PKs, I have more than once corrected a deacon or music minister or member about my children’s growth as a believer. Tough is not even the word for children in ministers homes. The attacks are usually made by those who judge without consideration of circumstances. Our kids had to move and start over because of the ministry. My kids had to be scrutinized for their walk and no one else’s children were. Tough to grow up a PK, is an understatement. One of my kids is a Godly college student looking at life as a Christian. The other graduates High School this year, Amen. She will be challenged to bend to the world, we pray and and set a pattern I Christ, and we will wait and see. Long term both my kids will be loving staunch evangelistic disciples who want give up or give in because dad and mom loved them and taught them to stand fi in Christ.

  • Don’t condescend when my kid answers questions in Sunday School, saying “yes, we know your day’s the pastor”, as if that made her biblically literate. It was probably something her mom taught her at home because she’s a faithful follower of Jesus. Training your children at home is a mark of discipline parent, not the mark of pastro’s kids.

  • After being terminated by a new senior pastor who was told to fire me by a few guys who run things, my wife and kids were so hurt. I wish those power brokers in the church would consider the spouse and their children before crucifying their husband and dad because of disagreements over procedural issues.

  • My kids (four daughters) don’t have animosity toward the church because of two intentional behaviors on my part. 1) I don’t criticize people or other leaders. 2) I tell them often how special of a job their daddy has. They respect and love what I do.

    Now, having said that, I think some people in our churches need a reality check. I average 52-55 hours a week. I was confronted recently about not spending enough time in ministry work. When I told the gentleman my hours invested, he said (and actually believed) “You can’t count the hours that you work on Sundays, Wednesday nights or meetings that other people are attending.” Well then. SMH.

  • Jenn Taylor says on

    I remember my dad protecting us well from hurtful/ridiculous expectations. I overheard a dad asking my dad to not let my sister and I wear a specific shirt because he didn’t want his kids to wear it and if we were allowed they would make a fuss. I will never forget my dad’s response: “how about this…I’ll parent my kids and you parent yours.” He was my hero that day!

  • Great article (and great books)! I would add that I think we, as pastors, add to this problem when we take on the mantle of “Holy Man” and try to put up a front that is as perfect as possible. I do believe that we are called to a higher standard and that we live in the ministry as a family but we are all human and it does a disservice to both our family and our church to try to “keep up appearances” for the sake of the ministry. This changes the expectations for all concerned and, by the way, is not the teaching of the scriptures. We do too much of this within the church and we need to lead by example in all our imperfections. Then the people will follow this lead and not expect perfection from our children or each other.

  • Please don’t call them “PKs.” Amen. They are “kids” — just like the farmer’s kids, the banker’s kids and so on.

    I think preachers and not just church members are guilty of creating some of these problems. Don’t know if I was successful, but in my mind, at least, I tried not to treat my children as “PKs”, just kids. I also think when we (pastors, churches, etc) make a wide divide between the “clergy” and “laity” we play directly into this overall problem.

  • Pam Connolly says on

    Thankfully my churches just love to love my kids since there are not many there. Maybe we get more grace since Dad watches them before and after church while I do the “pastor stuff.”

  • I suffered a double whammy growing up. Preacher/Missionary Kid. I embraced the terms thanks to a father who allowed me to live with both the success and consequence of choice. I appreciate your article, although it’s one of those concepts that’s tough to convey to those with a pleasantly flowery perception of ministry. One of the church’s greatest misfortunes is it’s inability to be realistic. A gentle eye opening is needed, and I think your article is a step in that direction. Thank you.

    • Miranda says on

      Jared, I’m with ya on the double whammy. I was born a PK, then became an Army brat, then an MK, then a PK all over again. We’ve been in great churches/ministries and awful ones, and I’ve seen all sides. Now, as a staff member in my church, I see firsthand some of the things our PKs go through. Thankfully, we’re at a fantastic church, but things still come up. I’m grateful to have had parents who shielded me from what they could while still allowing me to see some of the difficult stuff, pointing me back to Jesus the entire time.

  • jonathon says on

    1: Pastor’s days (Plural) off are just that.
    The time for a pastor to spend with spouse and children.
    If a meeting is scheduled when they are off, do not expect them to attend the meeting.

    2: If a church member has an issue with where the kid wants to go to college take it up with the kid, not the parent.
    If you, a church member, are convinced that the kid should go to a different college, pay the difference between their choice, and your choice.

  • As a wife of a Pastor this is one that I am having an issue with currently, especially with two little girls. Just because you know who we (my husband and I) are, does not give you the right to assume you KNOW my children or my children KNOW who you are! And NO they DO NOT have to hug you! It really floors me how many people have to be all over my children and are appalled bc my child does not acknowledge them! They have adults trying to talk and touch them all morning, just give them a break! You aren’t at a petting zoo!

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