I grew up as a preacher’s kid. Most of the time it was not something I thought about. Our family was – our family. When I went to Bible camp or some other special event, the label was attached to me. I didn’t have a problem with it; rather, I thought it was something special because I was proud of my father and his work as a gospel preacher.
Preachers’ families often have some unique challenges when it comes to raising their children. I’m going to mention a few and if you would like to add to my list or share some of your own thoughts, please do!
First, there is the tendency on the part of some preachers to be so busy tending to the needs of the congregation that the needs of their own children are neglected. I am so thankful that my father and my husband have been sensitive to the needs of their children and have chosen to spend time doing things with them. The needs of our children – physical, emotional and spiritual, ought to be on the top of our list of priorities. That doesn’t mean they are to be used as an excuse to slack in congregational work, but it does mean taking their needs seriously. What good would it be to set out to save the souls of others, while at the same time, losing your own children?
Second has to do with the idea of expectations. Speaking in generalities, preachers’ children often have the reputation of having less than exemplary behavior. Further, there is a pretty high percentage of preachers’ children who grow up to be unfaithful to the Lord. Obviously each individual, as he or she reaches adulthood, is accountable for his or her own actions. However, in many instances the parents simply did not have sufficient expectations for their children. This may or may not have had anything to do with the father being a preacher, but the bottom line was that the children were neither trained nor restrained. What a serious indictment if the Lord were to say about us, as he did of Samuel “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” 1 Samuel 3:13.
The other end of the spectrum is that sometimes preachers and their wives tend to set unfair expectations for their children. There was never a time, that I recall, in which my parents told us children that we had to do or not do any certain thing “because your Dad is the preacher” or “because you are a preacher’s kid.” My parents taught us to respect and obey biblical precepts because that’s what God expected, not because we were the preacher’s family. As a second generation preacher’s family, my husband and I have made great effort to train our children in the same way. Our child training has had nothing to do with what brethren expect from us as a preacher’s family, but it has had everything to do with realizing our responsibility as parents to train our children “in the way they should go.”
Additionally, well-meaning people can place unfair expectations on your “PK” children. I remember a time when I was 9 or 10 at the most and one day we were at the church building doing some work. Another church member happened to be at the church building as well, and I was practicing reciting some memory verses, John 3:16, if I recall correctly. He proceeded to chide me about knowing that verse, and yet not being a Christian. At the risk of stirring a hornet’s nest, why on earth should a person try to put that kind of a guilt trip on a 9 or 10 year old child? I did not believe it then, nor do I believe it now, that 9 and 10 year old children will be eternally lost.
On another occasion a number of us were doing some door-knocking, inviting people to attend our VBS and also trying to set up Bible classes. I had not yet obeyed the gospel and one of the brothers in the church asked if he needed to set up a Bible class with me. Both of these brothers, well-intended as they may have been, were out of line. I was not a “delinquent preacher’s kid”. The only thing they accomplished was my desire to avoid them. On yet another occasion a girl younger than myself was questioning me as to why I had not obeyed the gospel. Her reasoning was: “you’re the preacher’s daughter.”
Most of the time, these kinds of comments will not be made within your earshot. It is vital that you and your children have a close, communicative relationship, so that they will feel comfortable talking to you about issues on their heart, including telling you about comments they receive from others. Our children need to know that our love for them, as well as our expectations, have nothing to do with their father being a preacher. Instead, we need to cultivate in the hearts of our children a desire to please and obey the Lord because of their love for HIM. Our children NEVER, NO NEVER should be guilt-tripped into obedience because of their father being the preacher.
As the preacher and preacher’s wife, we have a weighty responsibility towards our children. Like every other parent, we must train our children to love God and create in them a desire to serve Him. We also have the responsibility to impress upon them the positive attributes of the church, even though it’s made up of imperfect people. Far too often preachers’ families (our family included) tend to dwell on the problems in the church rather than what is right with the church. If our families have a steady diet of negativism, how does that encourage our children? Our children need to see in us the same grace and mercy towards our brethren as we wish God to extend towards us.
Let’s show our children, through our words and our deeds, the joy of serving the Lord in this special way. Help your children understand what a wonderful life we have, because Daddy is a preacher.