by Tara Johnson
We’ve looked at the ups and downs of PK life, as well as the lasting scars inflicted by cruel people in many churches. But don’t throw out your fish food yet. Some guppies have tried to swim through turbulent waters and floundered. Others have thrived, even in a tiny fish bowl with hundreds of eyes on them, just waiting for them to go belly up.
Tired of the fish puns? Me too. Let’s swim away and take a look at what we can do to help the preacher’s kids thrive. I should add that this advice doesn’t just work well for preacher’s kids. It’s a good way to treat all children.
- Pray for your pastor’s children. Lift them up the throne by name. They are under enormous pressure and need all the strength God can give. Love and pray for them daily. Do something special for them or surprise them with a gift every now and then. They need to be surrounded with thoughtful care.
- Love them for who they are. Don’t impose your own projections about who they should be. Just because the PK’s dad is the pastor doesn’t mean he enjoys speaking in front of people. Or that she can memorize verses fast than the other kids. Or that he can explain Ezekiel. (Consequently, pastors’ wives commonly complain that the first time they visit a new church, someone asks if they can play the piano. Why the two are always linked remains a mystery.) God made the pastor’s child with his own amazing set of talents and abilities, talents that may not fit the mold.
Get to know your pastor’s child and his or her unique personality. What are their favorite hobbies? Favorite movies? Ask questions. Show interest. A little attention goes a long way.
- Make sure to include them in social activities.No one likes being excluded. Be aware of any clicks that may have developed, whether by accident or otherwise. Pastors’ families have interests that go beyond church. They might love to fish, hunt, take fun vacations, enjoy a good barbeque or a night out bowling. PKs desperately need to feel accepted and included yet often they are not. I’ve even heard some folks say that they feel they can’t be themselves if they invite their pastor or his kids to an outing.
Let me add that if you feel you can’t be yourself around your pastor’s family, you’re probably living in a way you shouldn’t. If you don’t like to be excluded, they won’t either.
- Respect their family time. Many PKs fear the pastor, due to his highly demanding schedule, care more about the church than he does his child. It’s important that your pastor’s family has their own bonding time. A good rule of thumb is to call on the Lord more than you call your pastor. His family is a ministry too.
- Remember they are children. Children are not little adults. They are still trying to understand their world. Expecting them, even if they are the preacher’s kid, to be perfect is crazy. It can’t be done. No one can. They are going to wiggle in church, talk back, have cranky days and struggle just like all of us. The difference is they will have dozens of eyeballs trained on them as they try to figure it out. Be patient. Be kind. And don’t expect more of them than you would your own children.
A side note to the Pastor and his wife: don’t tell your child that they must behave properly or their behavior will ruin their father’s ministry. The Lord himself directs where the pastor and his family go. Putting such a burden on a child can crush him. Either that, or he will develop into a ranting and raving perfectionist, fearing nothing he does will ever measure up. No ministry should rise or fall on a child and his ability to perform.
A Final Word
Perhaps you’ve done everything right and your guppy is still swimming fast and furious for open water. If your child is rebelling and pushing God away, take heart. Their condition now may not be their conclusion. It’s easy to run through a list of “I should have been a better mother…”, “Did I do something wrong as a Dad?”…or the ever popular, “I failed my kid.”
Just because your child is running away from God doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Most people reading this article would agree that God is the perfect Father, yet His children rebel all the time. Pray, love, hope. Keeping feeding them. As long as they have breath in their lungs, there is hope.
Guilt won’t keep your kids in church for the long term. A sense of duty doesn’t always last , but if we teach our children to fall in love with Jesus, the chances that they will remain faithful to Him throughout their life skyrockets.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Loving people the way Jesus loves us never fails. It’s never in vain. Love those guppies. They just may turn the world upside down someday as a result of how they are fed now. Love well.