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I was serving a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, when it hit me hard. One of my young children had playfully fallen on the floor in the foyer after a worship service. A deacon in the church came up to me and spoke forcefully: “You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors’ children aren’t supposed to act that way.”

My internal emotional reaction was carnal. I’m just glad I held my tongue. I was really mad. I can still remember my thoughts: “How dare this man hold my young son to a standard different than other kids! My boy really didn’t cause any harm. He was just being playful.

I recently conducted a Twitter poll of pastors and their spouses about this very issue. Though the poll was informal and not scientific, the responses were nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top seven responses in order of frequency. A representative comment or combined comments are given with each of the seven.

  1. Don’t expect more out of pastors’ kids (PKs) than any other kids. “My children need to have the same expectations as the other children in the church. They are not some kind of spiritual superstars because their dad’s a pastor.”
  2. Please offer encouragement to my children. “It’s not always easy to be a PK. The glass house thing is real. I am so thankful for the church members who go out of their way to encourage my children.”
  3. Realize that they are kids. “I know a few church members who seem to think my kids are miniature adults. They expect them to act like a 40 year old instead of a 4 year old.”
  4. Please don’t call them “PKs.” “Their identities should not be based on their father’s vocation. They have their own unique and special identities.”
  5. Please pray for my children. “I am blessed to have this one lady in my church who prays for my three children every day. She knows the special challenges of being a PK.”
  6. Our kids see and hear more than you may think. “After one particularly tough church business meeting, my seven-year-old boy asked me if I was going to get fired.”
  7. Don’t make me choose between my kids and the church. “Too many PKs have grown up bitter and disillusioned about the church. Dad gave more attention to church members than his own children.”

What do you think about these seven challenges? What would you add? What have your experiences been?

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources and the co-author of Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.
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Mitchell Leonard

commented on Mar 5, 2016

Thank you Brother Thom. As usual, your words are right on the money.

David Henderson

commented on Mar 5, 2016

Having served in the ministry now for over 40 years, this has happened too many odd as it may sound i learned early in our ministry that it was necessary to speak up when this kind of foolishness started up. On one occasion a SS teacher told us that our son was rude and did not speak to her in the hallway at church. He was 4. ,

David Henderson

commented on Mar 5, 2016

Having served in the ministry now for over 40 years, this has happened too many odd as it may sound i learned early in our ministry that it was necessary to speak up when this kind of foolishness started up. On one occasion a SS teacher told us that our son was rude and did not speak to her in the hallway at church. He was 4. ,

David Henderson

commented on Mar 5, 2016

Sorry but my complete common is not coming through,

Michael Cooper

commented on Mar 5, 2016

Thom, it looks like you're right on point. Thanks for sharing.

Tina Kay

commented on Mar 6, 2016

Spiritual superstars made me chuckle, lol.

John W Carlton

commented on Mar 6, 2016

My wife was reared in a Pastor's home. She went to a Baptist college, and would not even date a pastoral student. We got married and God began working on me telling me that He wanted me to be in ministry. She sensed this before I told her. Unbeknown to me she went and talked with our pastor, sharing that she had had enough of the fish bowl life. God has used her mightily in my life and in my ministry. I can truly say that had it not been for her and her love and support, I would not be where I am today. BTW we had 2 children. Our oldest is very involved in his church as a Deacon and has served on several search committees. Our youngest is the wife of the Children's Minister/Church administrator of our home church.

William Anderson

commented on Mar 7, 2016

Someone once took it upon herself to tell my 5 year old daughter that she had to be an example to the other children in church because she was the pastor's daughter. When the woman asked my daughter if she understood what an example meant, my daughter replied, "yeah, that's when they make you pee in a little cup." Never happened again!

Gerald Graham

commented on Mar 8, 2016

Had a gentlemen once get on to me about my sons behavior and it was actually another child. I didn't get an apology. Instead I was told he was unfit for church service (lighting candles, ushering etc.). When I got visibly upset I was criticized for reacting to the unwarranted attack on me. Thank the Lord the rest of the body and leadership understand that all our kids are kids. They will be an example in their own time and under God's workmanship. We have some fine young people here.

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