Written by: Rev. Nathan Hill
Have you ever wondered how to treat the pastor’s kids at your local church? This is not something that I have ever pondered in my life…although now that I am the father to a bunch of pastor’s kids (my own!) I guess this idea has been more pressing on my mind. So, when I was at Overflow Youth Convention in Waterloo, ON in May of this year, I spied a book written by Barnabas Piper, son of John Piper, called The Pastor’s Kid. I was intrigued and so I purchased it and read it. After all, I want to know how to treat the pastor’s kids at my own church…and my own kids as well!
When I started reading the book I was reminded just how hard ministry can be on children, not just their parents. Some pastor’s kids wrote that there was an expectation to always have the right answers, to always be present at all events, and to always dress and behave properly. Other pastor’s kids wrote that they became really great at looking great…while inside their faith was a mere shadow of what everyone thought it was. I must say at this point that my kids are blessed in our current ministry context, because I do not see some of these significant pitfalls at the present time…but my oldest is only 6, and so I am sure there will be a few tough seasons before they are all grown.
Here are a few of the thoughts that remain in my mind after I read the book.
1. Do not give your pastor’s kid special treatment. This can go one of two ways: you can be overly harsh on them or overly relaxed with them, and both situations are bad news. The kids who are constantly scrutinized wind up believing that church is an unsafe place, a place where they have to pretend. Being that authenticity is a big deal in our culture today, this will damage your pastor’s kids’ faith. On the other side, constantly giving the pastor’s kid a free ride on everything or always making a big deal of them (to the exclusion of others) makes them feel like they stick out or makes them entitled. Ultimately they will not find a church to sustain this pattern throughout their whole life and will become disenfranchised at some point.
2. Do allow your pastor’s kid the opportunity to speak for themselves. Do not assume that your pastor’s kid has the exact same views and opinions as their parents. This might be more important in the teenaged years during discipleship gatherings where lots of spiritual formation takes place (i.e., less important when they are kids). However, get to know your pastor’s kid for who they are and what they have to contribute. They are not carbon copies of their parents.
3. Do not assume that your pastor’s kid will become a pastor too. The whole field of vocational ministry and the discussion of a call to ministry brings with it subtle overtones that pastors cannot or ought not to do anything else with their lives. This is a whole discussion in and of itself, but the point here is that you should not assume the calling of one generation is automatically passed on to the next generation. Instead, allow your pastor’s kid to explore their own sense of gifting and vocation, fulfilling what God has given them to do both inside and outside of the church.
This and many more other great things are included within this great book, and it is a great read especially if you are close enough to your pastor’s family to make an impact on their children.
Pastors are human and so are their kids. Get to know your pastor’s kids for who they are and encourage them in the ways that God is blessing their lives just like you would your own kids!
If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)