By Lisa Whittle
As I rounded the corner of the worship center with my giggling girlfriend, I heard some of the most familiar words known to the child of a pastor.” That’s the PK, you know.” I didn’t bother to stop and ask whether the woman who said it meant it in a positive way. From the disapproving look on her face (and the fact that I had been running in the church), I had a pretty good idea it was not exactly a compliment.
Though my childhood “church running” days are well behind me, I can still recall the feeling of growing up in the wonderful, wild world of a ministry home. So many years later, my heart still beats lovingly for ministry kids who are just like me. Normal. Rambunctious. Fun-loving and spirited. And quite literally, born with a job to do.
Sometimes that “job” brings perks and pleasures, and sometimes it brings frustration and fears. Regardless of what feelings it incites, being the child of a pastor is a unique and interesting journey. It brings with it some specialized needs that every ministry kid has…and every ministry kid needs to have met.
1. They need to develop a personalized faith.
Because church and spiritual things constantly surround ministry kids, it is vitally important that they develop a faith of their own. They need to know that, though their parents’ morals and beliefs have helped to shape them, their relationship with God is both personal and individual. Recognizing that their connection with Jesus Christ does not come through spiritual osmosis from their parents will help ground them in their relationship with Him. A personalized faith will help them to separate church and religion from a relationship with Jesus Christ and, in so doing, will guide them to be better able to cope with the hurdles and hurts that may come up along the way.
2. They need to feel valued, but not entitled.
While some ministry kids are stereotyped as rebellious, more often than not they are held up to a higher standard of conduct and behavior. Being children of a pastor carries with it an instant “celebrity” status of sorts, as pastors’ kids often are given preferential treatment. This priority status can lead pastors’ children feeling a sense of entitlement, which is not a healthy mindset to have. It’s important that they realize that, though they are significant and loved, they are not entitled or have a higher level of importance than their peers. Otherwise, their way of thinking can create a dangerous spirit of arrogance and lead them to believe they have a free pass to behave any way they want.
3. They need to be individuals with their own identities.
Like all children, ministry kids need to know that it is not what they do in life that gives them identity, but who they are at their very core. They also need to recognize as well that their parent’s job is something they do to serve the Lord, but it is not what defines them or makes them who they are. If this need is not met, if there comes a time when their parents leave the church, goes through a significant ministry storm, or even loses their status in the ministry altogether, they will be left searching for their identities. Helping them recognize who they are outside of the church walls will further facilitate a healthy view of their heavenly status in and through Jesus Christ.
4. They need to feel normal despite their role.
Ministry kids have an intense need to fit in and feel normal. Because they are usually being categorized or treated specially, they often want just to be like everyone else. During my pre-teen years, one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to attend a convention with other pastors’ families from around the country. I loved it because it gave me the rare opportunity to be with other kids who were just like me! I needed and wanted that interaction and level of understanding. Whether in action or in attitude, people constantly remind pastors’ kids of who they are and how they should act. In order to balance those reminders, it’s important for their parents to allow them to feel and be “normal.”
5. They need to see church through a healthy lens.
Children typically see the church through the eyes of their parents. Parents and adults within their family circle will likely shape their mindset. With ministry kids, the health of their relationships with both the church and God will often be determined by the actions and attitudes of those with the greatest influence on them. While they do not need to be sheltered from every issue, they should be reasonably protected from major conflicts within the church body. Ministry kids need to see the church as a place of refuge and worship, but also as a place where they can be real and genuine in their faith. They need to know that the people within the church are not perfect, and that they can expect them to make some mistakes!
Though bringing up good and godly kids in a ministry home may present some challenges, it is also a fertile environment for developing healthy, well-adjusted, spiritual champions for Christ. While the task may seem daunting at times, know that the Lord is your greatest advocate in nurturing children who will grow to love and serve Him. That makes raising godly ministry kids an exciting “kingdom call”!