Much of my life was spent looking over my shoulder. Have you ever had that feeling that you’re being watched? No matter where you go, how you try to isolate yourself, or do the right thing, somehow there’s always someone watching you, analyzing everything you do. Many pastors’ kids (let’s call them PKs) feel this way at some point. This article is going to be geared toward giving you a sense of what PKs might go through, but it certainly isn't everything they go through. Hopefully this is a condensed version that gives you an idea on how to care for PKs at Restoration Church.
My dad has been in ministry for most of my life. He was a youth pastor, a worship pastor, a youth pastor again a couple of times, then a lead pastor until I left the house. I really don’t think it matters if your dad is the lead pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, or simply an elder in a church, they are all considered PKs. And they may feel an immense amount of pressure from people to be on a much higher level spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.
In my experience, living with this pressure has contributed to a serious anger problem, and a people-pleasing attitude that has followed me into adulthood. I was always fearful of stepping out of line, which sometimes kept me out of trouble. But when I made mistakes or got into trouble, it was often exaggerated because I was held to a higher standard as a PK.
Sadly, there are many PKs that I know who walked away from the faith, and though there are various reasons why they did, I can't help but think that the pressure they felt from the church and surrounding community could have contributed to their spiritual deconstruction. Maybe they felt the pressure to grow up too quickly as a believer in Christ when they never really believed in him. I certainly wouldn't want to blame the church for some of my PK friends walking away, because we all decide individually whether to follow Jesus. However, a congregation can have assumptions about PKs that are unhealthy, and these assumptions may contribute to their abandonment of the Christian faith.
The beauty of grace in my life is that God chose me. Despite my hard experiences, despite my sin, despite me choosing other things for righteousness and satisfaction, he chose kindness towards me. He could have let me wallow deeper in my sin. Instead, he chose to reach into my angry, fearful, and desperately sick heart and change me from the inside out. I was able to experience peace. I could exercise forgiveness. I could live life with a hope that tries to see beyond my past experiences and lean on Jesus for godliness and satisfaction.
To be quite clear, I didn't get to see for myself the extent to which God was faithful to my family growing up as a PK. I can point to a few people I remember that cared enough to pray for me when I was struggling and cared for my family in special ways. I'm certainly thankful for God placing those people in my life. Also, I can be thankful that God hasn't soured my view of the church. I still see the beauty of living life within the body of Christ. I still choose to follow God's plan for my life and serve the body of Christ in leadership. I also still choose to raise my kids in the church, despite the risk of them feeling how I did. By God's grace, we can make Restoration Church a place for PKs to thrive alongside their peers.
All of this said, pray for your PKs. This includes the children of elders, youth pastors, worship pastors, etc. They may feel more pressure than you think. Don’t be so quick to speak ill of or look down upon their parents when these kids sin or make a mistake. Pray against the anxiousness that comes with feeling like they must reach a certain level of undefined holiness to be accepted. Pray against the pressure of needing to be more spiritually and emotionally mature than others in the Church. Most importantly, please, do not forget them. Don’t forget that they need discipleship. They need adults who come alongside and encourage healthy growth in their life. They need your presence, support, and understanding.
Pray for all your pastors’ kids.