I am the daughter of a pastor. I’m also friends with many other pastor’s kids. Once a pastor’s kid, always a pastor’s kid. If you’re a pastor’s kid, whether your parents are still in ministry or not, people still look at you with a certain standard or even certain stereotypes.
In his book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Barnabas Piper speaks of the stereotypes often associated with pastor’s kids. He explains how they are typically left between a rock and a hard place, between being considered rebels or being overly legalistic which leads to identity issues and scrutiny. People tend to (often unfairly) project these expectations on children of pastors.
So how do these expectations compare to what pastor’s kids are actually going through? From my experience, here are 11 things you may not know pastor’s kids are thinking about their relationship with their parents.
1. “You Put The Church Over Me.”
Pastor’s kids feel that the mission their parents are pursuing in the name of the Lord gets put above their own needs. They feel that the love of the church and the church community is more important than being there for them.
My dad wasn’t perfect, but he did make a concerted effort to attend every single one of my soccer games. He also reminded me often that I was important to him. This helped reassure me that I was a priority in my dad’s life, and that he would carve out time away from ministry to give me the gift of his time.
2. “Don’t Expect Me To Be Perfect.”
We are all imperfect sinners. Pastor’s kids might not be straight “A” students; they may not say all the right things; and they may make irresponsible decisions. It’s not fair to expect them to be perfect. It’s best to treat them as normal kids, expecting great things but allowing for mistakes and failures.
3. “I’m Scared Of Making Mistakes.”
It often feels like pastor’s kids are scrutinized through a magnifying glass, with people just waiting for them to slip up. The fear of making a mistake will only deter them from pursuing dreams and fulfilling their potential. They are scared to make the “wrong choice.” Mistakes help them develop into who they are, so it’s best to react with forgiveness rather than disappointment.
4. “I Need One-On-One Time.”
One-on-one time is key to healthy relationships. Pastor’s kids may have other siblings and have to split time with their brothers and sisters. Prioritizing one-on-one time with your kids will build trust and provide time to discuss in depth about what they are facing daily. Every child is different. Their interests are different and their struggles are different. It is important to connect with each child on an individual level in order to help them discover who God created them to be.
5. “I Need Affirmation.”
Words have so much power. Pastor’s kids, like all kids, need words of affirmation and encouragement. The words “I am proud of you” are such strong and influential words. Pastor’s kids are scared to fail and worried that love could be conditional. Affirmation will mean more to them than you could ever know.
6. “I Don’t Want To Go Into Ministry.”
Many people assume all pastor’s kids want to go into full-time ministry. However, not all of them want to and that’s okay. The Lord can use anyone in any occupation. If ministry is not where they feel called, give them the freedom to pursue other career paths. It is important to make sure they know they can follow God wherever He leads rather than forcing them to pursue something they are not gifted in or passionate about.
7. “I Don’t Always Have the Capacity to Serve.”
Sometimes people aren’t in a place where they can serve in the church and the same goes for Pastor’s kids. If they aren’t in a place to serve it doesn’t mean they don’t love the church, but it does mean they need a break. Just like pastors should take a sabbatical every now and then, pastor’s kids also might need breaks from serving.
8. “I Need You To Show That You Love My Mom/Dad.”
Some pastors fear showing affection towards their spouse, because they worry it will affect the way people see their leadership. If pastors do not speak highly of their spouse or show them visible affection in front of their children, it can affect the children’s future relationships. Children tend to build their view of what relationships and marriage should look like from what they see in their parents’ marriage.
9. “Don’t Make Me Volunteer For Every Activity/Ministry/Event.”
Burnout is real. Don’t expect pastor’s kids to volunteer at everything. There are so many activities and events and ministries throughout the year, so give them a pass every once in a while. This will encourage them to continue to love serving rather than losing the passion they have for the church.
10. “My Shortcomings Are Not Always A Reflection Of My Parents.”
Pastor’s kids make mistakes. It’s inevitable. When they do, they need grace. Pastors also need grace when their kids make mistakes. When pastor’s kids show their weaknesses, it doesn’t always mean their parents didn’t do a great job raising them. Rather, it reveals their humanity and displays the amazing grace of second chances to learn from mistakes and work through them.
11. “There Is A Difference Between Being A Pastor And Being A Parent.”
Pastor’s kids usually love that their parents are in ministry helping people. However, it doesn’t mean that they want the lines to be blurred at home. Every kid needs parents who are present and not stuck in their church roles. When an accountant comes home from work they should avoid talking strictly numbers with their children. Likewise, when pastors come home, it is important for them to compartmentalize and be present with their kids and avoid bringing work home.
“EVERY KID NEEDS THEIR PARENTS TO BE PRESENT AND NOT STUCK IN THEIR CHURCH ROLE.”
What is it that pastor’s kids need and want? They crave the same thing ever kid wants, to be unconditionally loved and cared for.
If you’re a pastor, how can you improve your relationship with your children? If you’re a church-goer, how can you better serve and understand your pastor’s kids?