It was a typical Sunday morning in the church foyer. My older son was hiding behind my dress as strangers tried to compliment him. My younger son ran up to a kind older lady and kicked her in the shin. My infant daughter, strapped onto my chest with a stretchy baby wrap, spit up on the inside of the baby wrap. I froze while curdled milk dripped down the front of me.
Ladies and gentlemen, the pastor’s family has arrived!
The truth is pastors’ kids are just regular kids. They give grief. They sin. They must be taught to treasure God and love his Word. They do, however, have unique pressure placed on them that often leads them to begrudge the church. As parents, then, we should put strategies in place to help our children love the church rather than resent it.
Though still a work in progress for our family, here are five strategies we’re employing toward this end:
1. Focus on God and pray.
Our ultimate focus should not be on our church or our children, but on God. While both the church and our children have great eternal value, being awestruck by God will speak volumes to our kids as they try to navigate through life as pastor’s kids.
We must devote them to God in prayer. He is the only one, after all, who can give our kids a heart to love his church. And we should teach them to discern God’s weightiness and goodness.
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5).
2. Love and embrace the church.
Our own hearts must love the local church—and we must vocalize that love. Parents, our church-related frustrations spill over to our kids more often than they realize. Sure, there will be difficult times in the trenches, but we should generally save discussion about such issues for after the kids are in bed. Sure, it’s healthy to have some conversations about the imperfections of your church. We must be careful here, though; kids tend to imitate their parents. When our kids hear us consistently and passionately expressing love for the church, they are more likely to follow.
We can also help our kids embrace the church by encouraging friendships within it. Our children shouldn’t feel special or “above” others. And they shouldn’t feel they don’t fit in because Dad is the pastor.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10).
3. Love our kids more.
As much as we love our church, we must love our kids more. Church and children are not in competition. We are called to love and shepherd our children first. In fact, according to Scripture, a man must be a good father before he’s even qualified to be an elder (1 Tim. 3:4–5).
Our kids must know they are deeply cherished and valued. One way we can show them love is through regular undivided attention. How sweet it is to see a child’s face light up when their pastor-dad looks away from the crowd in the church foyer and calls them over for a hug.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (Ps. 127:3).
4. Give freedom.
One potential contributing factor toward pastor’s kids resenting the church is that they’ve been forced to serve in various roles they don’t enjoy. We should give our kids freedom to decide how they want to be a part of the church body. A forced cookie-cutter pastor’s kid will likely grow to resent the church. On the other hand, a pastor’s kid who joyfully serves where he or she is gifted will better understand how the body works together for God’s glory.
Another part of giving our children some freedom is encouraging friendships outside the church. This can help grow their identity beyond “pastor’s kid,” and they can benefit from having friends who don’t see their dad on stage every week.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Rom. 12:6).
5. Lead graciously.
We must remember that our kids are kids. Among other things, this means showing them tremendous grace and giving them room to make mistakes. When they sin, we get to lead them kindly toward repentance. Slapping the title “pastor’s kid” on a child doesn’t mean they’ll automatically act like a Spirit-led saint who obeys with a happy heart.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him (Ps. 103:13).
Bury Your Pride
At the end of the day, we must bury our pride and accept that our kids are not on display to show that ministry parents make the best parents. They are not here to make us look good. They are God’s image-bearers with infinitely precious souls, and we are given the responsibility to lead them. What a glorious opportunity we have to pass down joyful affection for Christ’s blood-bought bride.
“You may speak but a word to a child,” Charles Spurgeon remarked, “and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian church in years to come.”