According to several sources (Pike, 2009, Calvin, 2008, Montgomery, 2006, et al) eighty percent of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression. Pastor’s kids rarely stay in the church or keep their faith. Eighty percent of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents. Larry and Lorrie Russell through Shepherd’s Heart Ministry, hear the painful stories from pastors. Larry shares some insight in an article on Crosswalk.
“We’re seeing more pastors’ children in deep depression and becoming prodigal with no resources for intensive counseling. The kids say, ‘Ministry has taken over our world.’ External, performance-oriented affirmation becomes the basis for self-esteem and kids rebel against that. They want discipline to be worked out within the family structure. They want parents who will say, “We don’t care what anybody else thinks. We will manage our family in the way we think is appropriate and we will take the fallout’” (Montgomery, 2006, par. 11).
Those statistics scare me. My sons are grown—for the most part. They are 19 and almost 23. Both of them are very active in their faith and in the church, they love their parents—mostly their Mom, they are responsible, and they have never rebelled their entire lives. They are not perfect, but we continue to have a healthy, growing relationship as we all mature in Christ. My youngest son just left with my wife to an out of town playoff basketball game at his alma mater. My oldest son texted pictures to me from his Valentine party last night and today he texted with his Mom about solving a need in his apartment. Nothing overly exciting, just making ourselves available to each other. I told him last night that I was proud of who he had become. He retorted in typical snarky fashion (gets it from his Mom), “Would you be more proud of me if I could dunk a basketball? I would.” We practice these things as a family not because I have to appear to be a biblically qualified pastor “managing his family well”, but because we want to simply be their parents and more than ever we absolutely love being their Mom and Dad.
My oldest son wrote down his thoughts about being a Pastor’s Kid (PK) and shared them with me. I hesitate to share them, but I think his insight could be helpful for other pastors. My wife and I talk often that our boys turned out way better than we raised them. God’s grace greatly overshadows any effort we exerted. Here is my son’s insight as a PK. He gave his permission to share this.
The number one question people ask me is, “Hey, you’re a pastor’s kid—why aren’t you crazy?” I’ve given several different answers to that question over the years, but one of the red threads in my thinking why I am not a rebellious, spiteful PK is that I am not really a PK. I am just a guy whose Dad also happens to be a pastor. Sure, having a pastor-dad is different, but I think one of the biggest reasons PK’s get so rebellious is that they don’t really have a Dad—they have a live-in, full-time pastor who treats his kids more like a member of his congregation.
Everyone needs a father. And despite my Dad spending massive amounts of time and energy investing in leaders and congregations in ministry for my entire life, I never felt like he neglected me as his son. In fact, on the contrary, I felt loved by him in a way that a father ought to love his son, even as he loves others as their pastor. I am glad my Dad is a pastor, but I more thankful that he is always just my Dad.
The glory belongs to God. I hope other pastors are as encouraged by the gospel’s work in your life as a Mom and Dad as we are.
Pike, P. (2009). Pastors, Wimps or Endangered Species. http://www.christiantimesnewsletter.com/christian-news/pastors-wimps-or-endangered-species.html
Calvin. (2008). Pastor Statistics. Ventilation Pastors Kid http://ventilationpastorskid.blogspot.com/2008/12/pastor-statistics.html
Montgomery, R. (2006). Pastors and Wives at the Breaking Point. Crosswalk. http://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/pastors-and-wives-at-the-breaking-point-1391565.html