Updated: Aug 27, 2020
If you are in ministry or have a family member who is, you know the amount of responsibility and dedication that is required. After accepting the call of God on your life, you generally prepare yourself in order to minister effectively. Some attend seminary, while others learn under a spiritual father. And some are thrown into the fire and have to learn while on the job, forcing them to seek God Himself for the wisdom on how to appropriately minister to people.
But there's one group of people that many pastors and ministers are not prepared to minister to: their own children.
So, being a pastor's kid myself, I've compiled a list of things that I believe all first-generation pastors should know about raising their children. There seems to be no guidance for the minister-parent and honestly, I feel that many current pastors are repeating the same mistakes that pastors in the past have regarding their children.
So, the 5 Things All First-Generation Pastors Should Know About Raising Their Children:
Your children will feel like they were "born into ministry" before they had a chance to become "born again".
If you are heavily involved in the weekly operations at a local church, there's a great chance that your children are too. Most pastor's kids find themselves singing on the worship team, running the media team, or doing some other ministry...many before receiving salvation for themselves!
Now, I'm not saying that you can't have your kid help you during the service if there is a need. What I am saying is, that your children will probably end up feeling like they did not have a choice. Your children did not decide to be in ministry...you did. But many PKs feel like they were involved in ministry their entire lives, which causes some to confuse serving in church with salvation in Christ. Others may reject their own call to ministry, while many resent the Church.
Many pastors in the past have tragically forced their children to fill vacant ministerial positions. The humanity of these kids were not seen, thus the emphasis shifts to what they can provide.
It is important for the children of pastors to become mature believers in Christ before they are thrusted into ministry, just like any other person.
2. Your children will feel like they are not allowed to make mistakes.
Most PKs feel as if they are living a life "on display" because everyone seems to be watching their every move. Not only do you, the parent, monitor what they are doing, but the entire community watches and sees their every move. And the community tends to be quick to run and tell when your kid does wrong.
This places emince pressure on the PK to be perfect, which of course they cannot measure up to. Instead of having a safe environment to make mistakes and learn who they are, PKs tend to feel condemnation from their parents and those around them.
It is necessary for pastors to protect their children by covering them in their failures. Children need a safe space to mess up, so they can mature in obedience through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not condemnation.
Side note: please don't use your children's failures as examples in your sermon. I know it may relate to what you're talking about, but exposing your kids' sins without permission is not from God. This is unfortunately something that is not uncommon for PKs to experience.
3. Your children will feel pressured to become just like you.
Many PKs are told very early, either by other people or by their parent themself, that they are called to become a pastor, too. Or that they are called to do something within the Church.
But all PKs may not be called to ministry. Your son may be passionate about web design, instead of desiring to take the church after you retire. Your daughter may not want to be a singer, evangelist, or Pastor's wife. She may feel called to own a business.
Children of pastors should be encouraged to explore the unique characteristics that God placed in them, and allow them to seek God on what His plans for them are. Some will discover that they are called to ministry, but others will discover a purpose outside of the traditional church structure. Both callings can be used by God to fulfill His purpose in the PKs' life.
4. Your children need you to take a vacation from ministry.
Pastors tend to have busy schedules. And because of this, family time sometimes get thrown on the back burner. So, to prevent your family (and yourself) from suffering, you need to take a vacation.
And no, a trip with the church to visit another church does not count.
Your children need for you to consistently plan a day, weekend, and week to spend with just family. This may be a family vacation or just a Parent/Child day.
Many PKs say that the main source of their resentment towards ministry was because their parent "chose the church over them."
Your children need you to not always be in pastor mode.
If you do not make spending time with your children a priority, then your children may end up being bitter towards ministry and you.
5. Your children see your flaws, which can become confusing.
All pastors are human. All have made mistakes or have sinned. And all have done this in front of their children.
This can be very hard for children to reconcile. Children typically struggle with seeing their parents as flawed individuals, but PKs have the extra weight of spiritual expectation attached. Seeing their a parent sin, who preaches against sin, is a difficult concept to understand. Especially if the sin is a weighty, ongoing sin.
PKs can harbor bitterness toward their parent, particularly if there is an extreme emphasis of obedience on the children.
Pastors should be even more cautious of what they say and do around their children. And if they do sin in a way that negatively affects their children, please allow them to meet with a professional therapist. Having a front row seat to something like that can be pretty traumatic.