The Pastor's Kid
I have three children.
None of their names begin with "the pastor's," nor are any of their last name's "kid."
I've had to explain this a few times over the years.
My church generally handles this well. Even though I'm on display on a platform every weekend, there are many people who "get it" and let each of my family members have their own identity off the platform. Sometimes they don't even mind when my youngest runs up on stage and plays with the drums after service.
DISCLAIMER: I do think the drummer minds it... just a little bit.
Sure, sometimes people get all of this wrong and enjoy the novelty (because that's what it is) of connecting with/about my kids:
- To me: "It would be great if your kids could take part in this... you know, since you're their dad. It'd show some great support for what we're trying to do."
- To my wife: "How do YOU handle ______ with your kids? What books are YOU reading to parent better? Do YOUR kids watch ______? What do YOU do to make such great kids? They are great, right?"
- To my kids: "Alright, so which one of you kids was that sermon illustration about? Your dad kept it anonymous, but I'm just dying to know who he was referring to."
- To others: "We're so glad that our kids get to be close with our pastor's kids. They've even spent the night at the pastor's house."
I'm paraphrasing actual conversations in each of those summaries.
I recently finished reading a book by Barnabas Piper, son of noted pastor John Piper. It's simply called "The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity," and he has penetrating things to say about his unique experiences growing up. As he puts it, being a pastor's kid can create baggage from "the reality of being a sinner on display in a ministry family.”
Thankfully, the main purpose of sharing this journey isn't to vent, but to heal others. The younger Piper's mission field is to reach other pastor's kids who deal with the "anvil-like weight" of being the best-known-and-least-known people of a church.
Think about that for a moment.
How many of us have struggled with what he refers to as a "false intimacy" of feeling close to God because he "knew all the answers" and could out-argue most Sunday School teachers? Where Barnabas has had unique experiences, such as publicly navigating through a process that ended with his brother being excommunicated from the church, perhaps we can offer more than empathy. What if a larger impact would be church attendees who become advocates not just for ministry families, but against the false "sliding scale" we presume about Christian parenting?
No matter who your kid is or what your job isn't, we all face the challenge of raw moments that defy the expectations inside and outside our homes. With pastor's kids, the hurdle is a kid's parent is given a microphone and a platform while being seen through a magnifying glass, which can make it that much more difficult to separate living according to the voice of God versus recycling the voice talking about God.
DISCLAIMER: My home has dysfunction in it, and I am as much the culprit as I am the recipient. I'd imagine something similar is true in your home.
For that reason, I'd ask you to pray for a moment for your pastor's kids, and the kids of every ministry leader in your church. If that doesn't apply, please pray for mine. Pray for all the kids of the church, and those not in the church for that matter. Kids need all the prayers they can get!
(If you're so inclined, perhaps write your prayer out in the comments so we can join you in it.)
As you do, be thankful for the Church, and for the embrace of it's own imperfection. Jesus created it for a reason, even though there will be some awkward components to it. I love what Barnabas Piper offers on this:
"There simply isn't a perfect church out there. But this is not a reason to give up on church. Because, despite its ugliness and brokenness, the church is the place where healing happens. Yes, it is also the place where much of our hurt happens, but isn't that just like family? They hurt you and you hurt them and yet you still love them and would do anything for them. The church is our family; it's the family that God gave us, so don't give up on it. There isn't a better place out there in which to be restored."
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