Pam and I are not parents, so I’m always hesitant to write about parenting. Nevertheless, I want you to know what I hear anecdotally about the difficulty of raising PK’s today. At the end of this post, though, I’m also asking pastors to let us know what’s worked well as they’ve parented their kids.
- The local church often still implicitly expects the pastor’s kids to be almost perfect. Nobody I know would say it that clearly, but they sometimes act that way. They hold PK’s to standards they’d never require of their own kids—and they blow the faults of PK’s far out of proportion.
- Social media has made stupid decisions a lot more public. And, even PK’s in their youthfulness sometimes post things they come to regret. The problem is that the Internet makes it possible for others to magnify and distribute their mistakes.
- The Internet has sometimes exposed PK’s to painful internal church conflict. More than one pastor has faced opposition spread through the Internet and social media. No matter how hard pastors try to shield their families, it’s almost impossible to protect them completely.
- Pastors and their families tend to be isolated—even at times from their own congregation. When pastors isolate themselves, they move away not only from potential friends, but also from others who’ve already walked in their shoes. That is, they distance themselves from veteran parents who can help them in our own parenting.
- PK’s have ready access to temptation and sin via the Web. Our generation faced similar issues, but the access to trouble seems much more available now. Now, it’s almost as if temptation chases us without our even intentionally looking for it.
- Many churches give children and teens few places to ask honest (but hard) questions of faith. That’s largely because churches haven’t created good discipleship pathways that provide a place for honest discussion. And, PK’s who do have those kinds of questions are often afraid to admit them or ask them anyway, lest they bring embarrassment to their parents.
- Increasingly, cultural changes compete with church attendance and participation. Gone are the days when sports and school events were never scheduled on Sundays, and pastor families must make hard decisions when their children are left out of some of these events.
- Preachers are much more accessible now via email, texts, etc.—which only creates more tension with finding family time. We pastors have always been “on call,” but it used to be that people had to call us on the telephone to reach us. It’s still our decision when we respond to emails and texts, but it’s tempting to let continual electronic conversations get in the way of focused parenting.
Pastors, help us here. What steps did you take/have you taken to parent well?
I don’t know if i was a good parent or not, but there was one area where I really messed up; I expected to much out of my own children as PK’s. I still grieve.
I’m a senior pastor (17 years) who first served as a youth minister (additional 17 years). My two sons are now young adults. I think the reasons listed are legitimate. And I think some churches are more difficult than others in this area. I was blessed to be in churches that were very understanding overall. What helped parent well as a pastor: Staying very relationally involved in their lives through sports and other activities. Relationship is everything. It’s impossible to completely shield our children, but to the degree that we are deeply involved in their lives, we can help blunt some of the silliness. Add to this lots of prayer. But one additional “take” on this: Be wary about your kids using their “PK Status” as an excuse. LOTS of people told my kids how hard it is to be a PK. Being the smart young men they were, in some cases, they started to blame their poor decisions on being a PK. Nay, nay! No excuses for poor decisions! There IS a sacrifice for all members of a pastor’s family. We should be sensitive to our family’s needs. But at the same time, some of this goes with the territory.
Very good article and comment above. One question I ask sometimes is, “How do I handle this as a Christ follower, not pastor?” Then I explain to our kids that the majority of decisions we make we would make whether pastoring or not. We give conscious effort to not saying to our kids that they represent us, but that they present Christ. Relationship, grace, and good resources and podcasts are our friends. Thanks for this help.
I have been in full time ministry for 32 years (12 as a senior pastor) and have 2 adult children, a 31 year old and 26 year old. I have found that all Christian parents struggle and need God’s grace and wisdom to raise and shepherd their children’s hearts. I have always rejected the fish bowl mentality for pastoral ministry(it’s not about my ego/pride or performance). I have always tried to live an authentic life of integrity at home or work, where what you see is who I am. All Christian parents who are Christ followers struggle with these issues. At home I have tried to model a loving and intimate relationship with God, to unconditionally love my wife, be available and spend time with my children, and work hard in ministry. Yes, ministry can be ugly…I have been slandered, fired, been through a church split, betrayed, and after 32 years have realized some people just don’t like me. Through it all, God’s grace is amazing and if it were not for my personal relationship with the Lord, I would have quit ministry many years ago. By God’s grace my two adult children love and serve the Lord, are married, and my wife and I are anxiously awaiting Grandchildren. One key to parenting I have found is to focus on the heart, not performance…just how God parents us! God is good, faithful and able!
My wife and I are extremely blessed to have three grown children who are all in vocational ministry today and love Jesus and the church. They are far from perfect and still have some issues but we are grateful that they have never turned from the Lord. Some thoughts:A. Never talk about church problems in front of them. B. If you get any invitations to minister elsewhere use some of your honorarium to do something fun with your kids so that they can see the good side of ministry; C. Always take a family vacation no matter how simple it is whether you feel you can afford it or not …you cannot afford not to! D. When my kids misbehaved (fair amount) and people said, “and you’re the pastors son/dtr” we always took that off of them and never allowed that to be the issue. We reinforced that as young Christians they should obey mom and dad and do what is right in God’s eyes. E. Consistency of values between home, school, church and youth group was huge for us. They had some negative influences from neighbourhood kids but most of their time was in those four environments so we sacrificed financially to have our kids in a Christian school until the second year of High School then let them stream into public school and although it put us behind financially it put them ahead spiritually! F. Begin early to allow them to make choices for themselves on little things then gradually give them more and more choices as they get into teens. By doing this and then discussing outcomes, consequences they learn about good choices and bad choices. As a parent we want to save our kids from bad choices by making them for them but then you get adults who do not know how to choose well. G.Control all media carefully, there is technology available to help with this and make sure no one in the family brings their cellphone or tablet to mealtimes …including mom & dad. H. Pray with them and for them as much as possible. We found that in their teens they tended to open up late at night when we would just slip into their rooms before sleep. We could talk more openly and they were less guarded and we would use that time to just lay our hands on them and bless them. I. Lastly …sorry for the epistle… Always know who is influencing them and who they are hanging around with. One of our children tended to drift toward sketchy people and always pushed the boundaries in terms of the kinds of people to hang with. We tried not to over-react but make it a matter of prayer. This one maintained a sense of direction, did four years of Bible College but there were and still are a lot of scary moments. Parenting is likely the greatest challenge we ever face so we really need God’s grace and wisdom. Hope this helps someone!
As a parent of 6 kids (5 grown, 4 following Jesus) here are some steps I’ve taken (sometimes) to parent well:
1. Two words: I’m sorry! You WILL screw up with your kids. It’s humiliating to ask a child (especially an adolescent) for forgiveness. But keep short accounts with your kids (and wife) just like you should with God.
2. Turn off the TV! Or, at least when it’s on watch with an eye toward having worldview conversations with your kids.
3. Leave your phone in a drawer during dinner and after 8PM. (And make it a priority to be home 4 nights a week whenever possible.
4. TALK with them about God’s Word. Help them (make them) interact with it in a practical way. If our faith is of no value to our children on Tuesday evening or Friday morning it is of no value to anyone else any other time of the week.
5. Love their mother – IN FRONT OF THEM. Nothing will gross them out or make their heart warmer than planting a “wet sloppy one” on mom when you get home 🙂
6. Pray FOR them and WITH them. I wish I was better at this one. My wife is a champion here. Teaching them to pray and letting them watch you do it shows them how to interact with their Abba Father.
8. Ask others outside your church community to pray for your kids specifically. And.. be vulnerable with these “outsiders.” It’s often hard to be transparent in your own congregation, so make sure you have SOME place to be open.
7. Hang on for dear life – to your wife, but, first, to your God. He will NOT let you down. Trust Him with this most important part of your legacy and watch Him do His thing. And remember John 16:33 – “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (NLT)
Forgive the early morning ramblings of a sometimes successful pastor and parent who needs your prayers every day to follow the above list myself.