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4 Ways Pastors’ Kids Need Grace
Preachers’ kids face a unique set of pressures, but they are often misunderstood. Here are a few important ways the church can learn to understand and extend grace to PKs.
From Pastor Dave Bruskas: This post was submitted by a third-generation pastor. Raising your kids while pastoring a church is both rewarding and challenging. I trust the following will be helpful to pastors, their wives, and their children as well as to those who love them.
Mr. Connect lived about three blocks from my house, and across the street from our church. He was a retired man who loved to spend his empty days out on the lake fishing.
I grew up in Anaheim, California, where the only real lakes are usually man-made reservoirs collecting snowmelt from the distant mountains. But I loved fishing for some reason, and for some other reason Mr. Connect decided to make it his ministry to take me fishing.
Mr. Connect had no obligation to me, other than the fact that he supported my parents, who were in evangelical ministry and lived on missionary-type financial support, which was difficult in Southern California. I don’t know where this precious man is today, or if he is even still alive, but I do know that he is one of a handful of people who ministered to me as a PK (preacher’s kid).
It is difficult, unless you have experienced it yourself, to understand the pressures that PKs are under.
He had a lasting impression on me because he took the time to care about me and my brothers, even when we weren’t exactly the model of what people expected us to be.
The life of a preacher’s kid
Preachers kids are often and easily judged because of 1 Timothy 3, which says that a pastor “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4–5).
Though this passage is really an indictment on poor parenting (those in ministry should have their own house in order), it often seems to be used as a spiritual threat tool for kids in ministry.
If you want to minister to your pastor’s children when they struggle, pray for them.
It is difficult, unless you have experienced it yourself, to understand the pressures that PKs are under, and more importantly, the grace that should be extended to these precious young people. I would like to offer four areas of struggle in which every PK needs to be given grace:
1. Grace to struggle with the flesh
You may not realize this, but PKs have a sin nature just like other kids. My grandpa (a Presbyterian church planter) used to say, “Dentists’ kids have teeth for nothing, doctors’ kids get sick for nothing, and preachers’ kids are good for nothing!” Being a third-generation pastor, I know that all too many times people watch the pastor’s kids to make sure they are minding their spiritual Ps and Qs. PKs practically live at church, and all the time they are there they must “behave” like they are in church.
We have to understand that if a PK gets nothing but correction from the entire church body, then the church body becomes a third parent the child doesn’t need and certainly doesn’t want. This causes real resentment and angst against the church body.
If you want to minister to your pastor’s children when they struggle, pray for them, and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and opportunities to minister to them.
2. Grace to struggle with their faith
PKs must wrestle with and accept the faith on their own terms and individually just like everyone else. The worst phrase one can ever say to a PK is “you should know better.” We all should know better, and yet we all struggle with the same insecurities and questions about God’s love. PKs just have to live this struggle out in a more public setting.
Preacher’s kids have a sin nature just like other kids.
We have encouraged our own children to ask the tough questions, knowing that Jesus is big enough to love them through their doubts without doubting them. After all, their salvation was secured before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
3. Grace to struggle with finances
The life of a pastor or missionary is certainly a high calling, but we often don’t think about the fact that the children of pastors or missionaries weren’t called as much as dragged into ministry (sometimes kicking and screaming). My children didn’t choose to live with less, but rather must live with the consequences of their parent’s calling to ministry.
Other career paths provide less for those families as well, but PKs shouldn’t be told, “It’s a privilege to be in ministry” whenever they struggle with the frustrations of having less than their friends do. This is a very real struggle that draws an unmistakably straight line to God and the church, so the last people that need to “shush” these precious souls is the church. We know that God cares about, counts, and records every struggle these precious ones face (Ps. 56:8).
PKs practically live at church, and all the time they are there they must “behave” like they are in church.
4. Grace to struggle with forgiveness
It isn’t just the pastor who wears the weight of the ministry. It’s also carried by his wife… and their children. Church members sometimes don’t realize that the pastor’s kids are aware of the rants and raves of angry churchgoers unhappy with the pastor’s decisions or performance.
The pastor’s kids may watch these same people who just slandered their parents singing with hands lifted high in the worship service or teaching their Sunday school class. This is the second biggest reason why PKs don’t enter ministry (the first happens to be ineffective parenting; see 1 Timothy 3). PKs need to be given grace to avoid people they are struggling to love like Jesus, just like the rest of the church.
So what do PKs need? One word: Jesus.
They need Jesus and all that he offers, just like you need Jesus! They don’t need lectures, wagging fingers, shushing, or reminders of responsibility. They just need the grace of Jesus! They just need you to say “Hey, Jesus loves you so much, and I love you and am so thankful for you. You are special and important to God, not because of who your parents are, but because of who you are!”