A Guest Blog by Karen Kinnaird
Blessing or curse? Joy or pain? Good memories or bad? Spiritual soldier or spiritual casualty? If we were to ask 100 adults about their childhoods as ministry kids we’d likely get 100 different answers. One day, the ministers’ kids in your church will be adults. What will they say when they reflect on their time at your church? How is your church impacting your ministry kids?
Who Are They?
They are kids born to parents who serve in ministry but who are not necessarily called to the ministry.
Their identity is children created in the image of God and loved by God, not “preachers kids”.
They live in a “glass house.”
They are at the church a lot. Few see the inside of the local church as a pastor’s kid.
Their lives blur family, father’s vocation, and church life.
Their father is especially vulnerable to exhaustion, temptation, frustration, and loneliness.
They observe, hear and see more than you would imagine.
They are keenly aware of conflict and disunity.
They may live with unreal expectations which can lead to frustration and rebellion.
They are unknowingly in a spiritual battle in which they can be the prime target by which to bring down their parents and the church they serve. They don’t know they’re even in a battle, much less how to fight it. Many become casualties of the battles.
What could they be thinking?
“Being a pastor’s kid is one of the greatest gifts that God has given me.”
“I get to learn how to help people, make hospital visits, and talk about my faith.”
“Sundays are a workday for my family. Sundays are a long day for me. Sometimes we get there early and get home late. I am tired on Monday mornings.”
“I avoid people as much as possible because I’m not one that likes attention.”
“I get to hang out at my dad’s work - a lot!”
“I need to be perfect but I’m not, so I’ll just pretend to be. I know I can’t measure up. I don’t want to embarrass my family or church. I guess I am a hypocrite.”
“I get to spend time with missionaries and church leaders.”
“People expect more from me than they do from my friends.”
“My Sunday School teachers assume I already know what they’re teaching and that I have all the right answers.”
“Is it just me or is everyone watching me?”
“My mom is hurting. She’s trying to cover it up but I see the pain on her face.”
“Just when I get settled into a new home and school, we have to move again.”
“Do I really know Jesus as my Savior, or do I just know about Him?”
“If I died tonight, would I go to heaven? My dad is the pastor. Shouldn’t I have this figured out?”
How Can We Love and Inspire Them?
Let them just be kids. Not “pastors kids”.
Try to understand their world.
Allow them to be unique. Let them be imperfect.
Greet them by name and with a smile expecting nothing in return.
Praise them. Respect them. Respect their privacy.
Be patient with them and allow God to work in their lives to birth and mature their own authentic faith journey no matter how long it takes.
How Can We Practically Support Them?
Pray for their salvation. Pray that they would be spared from doubt and have an unwavering confidence in Christ.
Pray for them by name both individually and corporately that they’ll be protected from the schemes of the enemy.
Treat them like the other kids.
Give a sincere compliment about them to their parents.
Write them a kind note.
Take legitimate concerns directly and prayerfully to the parents.
Take interest in a pastor’s child with a specific interest or skill similar to yours. Consider mentoring them.
Limit church criticisms and complaints to private conversations.
Guard them from negative inner workings of the church. Anger and conflict can be perceived as hypocrisy.
Avoid comments and jokes about rebellious preachers’ kids. Jokes to some adults aren’t necessarily perceived as jokes to kids, especially when it’s about them.
How you treat your minister and wife will influence their children.
How many pastor’s kids grow up and don’t want anything to do with the church because they’ve seen the way their father has been treated? What do your ministry kids overhear you say about your church, about their parents, about others? What do your ministry kids hear and witness in business meetings? You may be watching and listening to them when in reality they’re watching and listening to you. Children who witness their parents being poorly treated by the Christian people their parents serve can profoundly impact their mental, emotional and spiritual lives well into adulthood.
This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly about the importance of October’s Pastor Appreciation Month. Your ministry kids NEED to know you appreciate the selfless work of their father. In turn, this will make them feel valued. They need to see that people really do appreciate their family’s service, and that it’s worth it. There are many blogs with suggestions for ways to appreciate your pastor. Some Pastor Appreciation Month gift ideas that include the family include an extra day or week off off to spend with the family or a giftcard to a family restaurant, movie theater, sporting event or family entertainment venue. A good friend of mine reflected on her time as a pastor’s daughter, “For me, the greatest gift you can give a pastor's kid is to Iove their parents well. It shows them their sacrifice means something. I am eternally grateful for those few who loved them well and set godly examples for me.”
What’s the Goal?
In How to Thrive as a Pastor’s Wife, Christine Hoover states, “The goal in raising our children is to cultivate a lifelong love of God, His Word and His church.” You have an influence on that outcome. Let’s use that influence wisely.
Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
Karen brings the vast experience of having served as a ministry wife for nearly 38 years. Her husband has served as a church planter, senior pastor, state denominational leader, agency specialist at NAMB, and Associational Missionary Strategist. Karen currently serves as the Executive Assistant for Forgiving Forward, a ministry dedicated to helping people experience the freedom of the Gospel through the power of forgiveness. Karen and Jimmy, also known as Gigi and Poppy, have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.