The Ways You’re Destroying Your Pastor’s Kid
There is a phenomenon that universally exists and may even be continued because of your own innocent actions.
Some time ago I had parents and students huddled up before we embarked on a weekend retreat. I gave the challenge that I typically give before a two-day trip of this nature; I prayed the prayer that I would typically pray as well. Everyone was all set to give hugs and part ways until I had one brilliant, last minute idea. I asked the group, “Did anyone forget to bring a Bible?” After a brief, semi-awkward moment of silence, one student sheepishly raised his hand and slowly moved forward to take one of our loaners.
I braced for it. I knew it was coming. And then, I winced while it happened…
“Nawww, look, it’s the PASTOR’S KID that forgets a Bible!”
I shot an unimpressed look in the direction of the heckler. I gave a sympathetic glance to our PK. And all of this happened while a subtle giggle shimmied through the crowd.
People moved on. I didn’t. And in some small way, I bet our PK didn’t either.
Nobody means ill-will with these statements. In fact, nobody really knows why we say these things. But the fact remains that there is a stereotype that we perpetuate, and it is at the expense of faith of these kids.
Here are the ways that we negatively affect the faith of our PKs.
We Increase the Pressure with Our Words
Pastor’s Kids feel the weight of being the model children for the rest of the church. Whether this is self-inflicted or accidentally transferred to them from their parents, each one walks around with an extra identity that they did not choose. After speaking with many PKs both past and current, all have testified that their parent’s profession creates an extra insecurity within themselves.
Now imagine what happens when the safe, caring church people not only affirm this insecurity but also highlight it and let them know that they are being watched. Our words can be so destructive by cementing lies within their soul, thereby destroying their confidence. Worse, it can warp their image of God.
Our PKs are looking to their church community to affirm the decision that their parents have made in leading these people. When we nonchalantly affirm the stereotype with our words, we do more damage than we know. The church needs to pay special attention to the target on the backs of these students and do whatever it can to preemptively protect them from internal pressure.
We Crush PKs with Expectation
Even though you would never want to hold a kid to a different standard than another, it’s quite possible that it is subconsciously happening. How many times have you roped a PK into helping you clean up simply because they’re around? Have you ever followed up with a PK when they missed an event with a joking-not-joking tone of “And just where were YOU?” Do you start each initiative roping in the PK because he/she probably can’t say no? Think over how these innocent actions can add anxiety to a kid who is just trying to be normal.
Our expectations of pastor’s kids create a lose-lose scenario. Check it out:
“Ohhh, of course the PK knows how many sons Jacob had.”
Oh great, now I’m the church mouse, just like they expect.
“Mm-hm, of course, the PK is the one goofing around in small group.”
Awesome, now I’m supposed to be the screw up.
Since they are the kid of the pastor, they ought to be the superstar. But when they mess up, they are acting like the rebels we know PKs to be. Where’s the win?
This double stereotype is especially disheartening because one paves the way for the other. The unattainable expectation to be the beacon of students has shipwrecked the faith of the students who are most engrossed in the community of God. Thus, rebellion ensues.
We ought to be expending extra effort to protect the faith of our most susceptible students. Here are a few ways that I have tried.
1. Acknowledge that they are not just another kid
Have a candid conversation about what it’s like being the kid of the clergy. Do they feel extra pressure? Do they wish their parent had another profession? Are other students looking to them to be the example more than they should?
Some kids handle it well and really don’t care. Some kids seem like they’re handling it well when they really aren’t. Very few are vocal about their contempt. Which one of these three is your PK? You’ll never know until you attack the topic head-on.
2. Acknowledge that they are just another kid
A PK wants nothing more than normalcy. While there’s no way to holistically offer this, make sure that the problem stops with you. You can be the safeguard against the pressures of the role. You can be the one to ask insightful questions and let him/her feel recognized. You can be the shred of authenticity your PK is so longing for.
Having this conversation has opened up avenues of ministry like never before. There’s no better way to build trust. Imagine concluding the conversation with this assurance:
“I know that you are under special pressure because of your dad’s job. I hope you know it’s not fair. But just rest assured that with me you will always be a teen who is allowed to make mistakes, wrestle with doubt, and goof around just like the rest.”
Give them normalcy to give them their best shot.
Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministries Director at Storehouse Church in Plymouth Meeting, PA. He lives nearby with his wife, Sarah, and two kids, Laelle and Levi. His almost ten years of ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary. It is Jonny’s hope that his efforts will help youth leaders all over the Philadelphia area operate as one unit. For more info, check out WWW.YOUTHMINLIFERS.COM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.