Normal Pastor’s Kids

I appreciated this post by Southern Baptist pastor Thom Rainer who informallyBen Jay Libby black white asked pastors what Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors.  I’ve been thinking especially about #7:

7. Show me how to help my kids grow up like normal kids.  “I really worry about the glass house syndrome with my wife and kids.  I’m particularly worried that my children will see so much of the negative that they will grow up hating the church.  I’ve seen it happen too many times.”

My spouse and I are both pastors so our three kids are double PKs.  Their experiences  – like other Pastors’ Kids – are unique for several reasons:

  • Most kids don’t go to work with their parents and watch them do their jobs in a variety of settings including a pulpit.
  • Most kids do not get exposed to meetings where a gathering of people discuss and vote on how much money their parents will make, how much vacation they will get, or whether or not they deserve a sabbatical.
  • Most kids are not as exposed to birth and death on such a regular basis.  Another parent asked me on a playground once if I was a funeral director.  “Your kids are always saying that you have another funeral.
  • Most kids don’t witness the meanness of adults who work with their parents so up close and personal.  Our children once witnessed an angry church person storm out of a pizza restaurant rather than eat in the same room as The Pastor.  They’ve watched people yell at their mother because she was The Pastor.
  • Most kids are not exposed to the physical health and mental health issues of adults who are not members of their families.  A troubled church member once shared with our 8 year old over the phone that she wanted to kill herself.  True story.

As far as being “normal” though,  there are benefits to being a PK:

  •  A Pastor’s schedule is flexible enough to go to afternoon soccer games, especially when there is a meeting that night.  A Pastor can choose not to officiate at a wedding on her daughter’s birthday.  
  • Some people have special affection for our children just because they are the Pastors’ kids.  
  • Pastoral ministry offers excellent opportunities to teach children very directly about hospitality, pastoral care, and Real Life.  Although our kids didn’t know the confidential business of our parishioners, they were aware that people were in the hospital or going through a divorce.  They watched me weep when people died.  They asked where ___ was when they noticed he was no longer participating in church anymore.  They watched parishioners become grow old.  They welcomed new babies like cousins.
  • PKs are exposed to a wide variety of people: black, white, Asian, African, European, gay, straight, very young and very old, homeless people, mentally ill people, ardent Republicans and yellow dog Democrats.  They got to know people they never would have known if they hadn’t been part of the church, and because they were usually the first to arrive and the last to leave any church function, they got to know these people pretty well.

As a mom who believes in the flinging-the-doors-open style of parenting, talking about everything as it comes up in an age-appropriate way, it was wonderful sharing professional ministry with our kids.  Because of the way they were raised, they are savvy and solid human beings.  

And if I may say so, we have really normal and happy kids.  Most of that is sheer grace.

But if you are reading this and you are not a Pastor, but you have a Pastor and your Pastor has kids, please keep this in mind:

  • Don’t expect more from PKs than you would expect from other kids.
  • Please don’t believe you can reprimand or offer commentary to our kids in ways you would never talk to or about other people’s children.  (Yes, I’m talking about you Smiling Mean Person who used to criticize our daughter’s soccer uniform during the Passing of the Peace.)
  • And please encourage your Pastors to go to all Parent-Teacher conferences, PTA meetings, their concerts, plays and games – even if there is a church meeting that night.
  • Please understand when your Pastor doesn’t want to schedule your daughter’s wedding on her daughter’s 16th birthday or your husband’s funeral on the afternoon her son is singing a solo at the school concert.
  • Please be the people you profess to be as followers of Jesus.  Believe me, PKs in particular notice when you are mean or rude or selfish.

Thank you.

Image is of our trio of PKs when they were 2, 4, and 6 years old.

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11 responses to “Normal Pastor’s Kids

  1. Love this—I remember when Fred brought Libby to work with toys, packnplay, the whole 10 yards. We all enjoyed having her. Not often, but when he had to…..Reminds people that pastors are human, too…..

  2. Great post. I agree that as a PK I benfited from a behind the scenes look at a lot of things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Most adults in my hometown went out of their way to be nice to me because I was the preacher’s daughter. But in school, I sometimes felt singled out, not in a good way, by the other kids. “You can’t say that in front of her…her dad’s a preacher!” and stuff like that…from the time I was 5 until I graduated high school.

  3. Kristi Mitchell

    I appreciate your article as my husband and I have been in full time ministry for 21 years. One thing that has been tough on our kids, yet has been a blessing in their development is that they have moved 4 times. We now live in Canada which has broadened their world view. They know there are people EVERYWHERE that need Jesus and except the mission as their own. I’m proud of the way they allow God to mould them, but I worry too about how it will affect them in the end! They are 20, 15, 14 and 12.

  4. preacherswife-NOT

    Good article except the supposed benefit of “some people offer special affection for our children just because they are the pastor’s kid.” In our experience, that has felt creepy. Treat all kids in the church the same, and we’ll get along just fine. 🙂

  5. On behalf of all the double-PK’s out there, THANK YOU!!

  6. Jan – I’m sending this to my daughters for their comment too.

  7. Thank you. My wife and I are both Pastors and have two children (third on the way). I deeply appreciate you giving voice to our struggle and our joys as parents committed to both the ministries of the church and the ministry of parenting.

  8. I love this Jan! It almost made me tear up a little bit just thinking about the future for mine and Andy’s children…many, many years down the road. I can only hope that our kids turn out as cool as yours!!

  9. Thank you Jan, one of your best posts. I greatly appreciate the wisdom and insight as a pastor and dad.

  10. Jennifer Andone

    Great article. My husband and I are a clergy couple with two boys, 16 and 19. I resonate with so much of what you have shared. I, though, have had to endure questions from SPR committees about where my children are going to church and what activities they would be involved whereas my husband did not. What is illegal in other settings appears fair game in the church.

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