Hey, You’re a Pastor’s Kid – Why Aren’t You Crazy?

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.

References

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

  • Hey Folks…
    Scott’s description of his boys is not an empty boast by a proud father. I have met them. ANY father, pastor or otherwise, would be proud to have these kids under his roof. Hats off to the Thomas family for pointing the way on this. BTW, Scott… I have two gorgeous granddaughters who are just about the right age and love Jesus. Hmmmmm…
    Phil Spry

  • tim shoemaker

    When my mom led me to the Lord one night, my dad was downstairs in our rescue mission preaching to men off the streets. My parents served for 30 years trying to reach men off the streets..But i barely knew my dad..So here is the question i ask myself: what doth it profit a man if he save the whole world, but loose his own children. Dad put his ministry before his family; it is an absolute miracle that his marriage lasted 53 years before he went to heaven to get his just rewards. I quit..i quit working with other preachers who to me, were out-and-out-snakes..Now i focus on my family.

  • Cassie

    Well this is just a wonderful article! “Hey, 80% of PKs end up depressed, but instead of really addressing that problem, I’m going to tell you how MY kids totally aren’t depressed. Hooray for my ministry.”

    And yes, I am the 80%.

    • Scott Thomas

      Cassie,

      I am so sorry for what you are experiencing. All of us live by the grace of God. I pray that you can draw from the Savior who excruciatingly died to share in your suffering (2 Tim. 2:1-2). I pray that no matter what you experienced, you can forgive and can experience the peace of God, not as the world gives peace {free of problems}, but His peace in the midst of pain (John 14:27).

      Love,

      Scott

  • One simple and biblical solution for helping to balance the life of Pastor/Dad is plural leadership. As a PK looking back and as a Pastor/Dad looking forward, it might just be the only way to minister.

  • Thanks for writing this, Scott. I hope it gets distributed widely. My kids were, at various times, PK’s and MK’s (missionary kids — and some people think PK’s are crazy, MK stories are legion). They paid a price for my calling, but I thank God they both follow Him as adults. It is also worth saying that many PK’s and MK’s are exceptional adults, and their background contributes to that. As one friend of mine said before I even had kids, “the only way to raise your children is on your knees”. It proved to be good advice, as is your son’s. Grace, indeed. Thanks again.

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  • Daniel

    80% here. I’m happy that your ministry is going well. Not so lucky for me, had to see psychologist to deal with anti-social and over achieving issues. My dad built a church in old folks house area when I was a kid. I went through Sunday school being the only kid at that place with the Sunday school teacher which is my mom. Then we went through a lot of trouble to move to a new place in which my dad run a church at the church owned hospital when I was a teenager. I went to more funerals than relatives gathering; I saw dead people more often than I saw my cousins. He is a selfless man for the 20 plus year I know him inside and outside work. Not only does he ministry he also is the driver, the visitor, parcel deliver, and random things from informal financial advising to computer trainer. I have no idea. People seems to call the pastor before they call ambulance when someone need to go to the hospital. He is usually exhausted when he comes back. He can fall asleep in a min. He woke up instantly when phone rang and say ‘ hello I’m paster xxx’ without any sleepiness in his voice.My dad was very easy on me except 1 time I say I don’t want to go to church on Sunday morning, he used his father authority for the first time and the last time to command me to go. I can saw his eyes turn red filled with guilt and heartbrokeness. At 18 i picked a university across the the country even though I could have went to denomination owned university which is cheaper. It makes me so sad especially today is father’s day.

    • orchidplast

      80% percent here, I would have to go to a church denomination owned college soon… my mum is using her “mum authority” to get me to church these few months *sigh*

  • marichu flor lauta

    THank you so much for sharing your testimony… its such an encouragement to read it as one of the pastor’s kid and a future mother of a pastor’s kid Lord willing..

  • Jake

    80% here. At 18 years of age I can say I have experienced what most teens shouldn’t. With my parents calling to the ministry before I was even born I have lived a troubled youth. By the age of 14 I experienced depression and my parents never realized it until I was about 15 when I attempted suicide. Then they got me the help I needed. By the age of 17 I was deep in drugs, alcohol and a whole lot of smoking. Since I was 14 I had homosexual tendencies and I was forced to come out at 16 because of issues in church. This only made thigs worse and I am still getting “help”. Through out my whole childhood if you can even call it that, I was left fatherless, I have never had a relashionship with my dad and we barely even speak. It pains me to know that I have a father even though it seems like I don’t because instead of spending time with the family church was always more important and so were other peoples problems. I was outcasted, judged, rejected and any other ostracizing word you can think of from the same people that my dad ministers too. With the congregation being large in size this only makes things worse with eyes peering in to see what else they can all comment and gossip about. Recently a 2012 graduate I am ready for college, and its sad to say that the only thing I will miss will be my sister who is going through the same situation and my mom who has been there for the most part.
    New pastors out there be considered of your children because they didn’t choose this life.
    PK out there you aren’t alone, hang in there.

    • Serra

      Jake,
      I feel your pain, thank you for writing.

  • Still Hurting

    Thanks for this very interesting…the internet is amazing. Nice to know it wasn’t just in our house. Part of the 80% right here. Depressed lonely never knew my Dad. My sisters and I all suffered depression and went off the rails to the disgust of our FAther and now my Dad doesn’t even follow Christ anymore…It was all so important more than us and now he has the nerve to say he gave us freedom growing up. How is that I wonder? He was always locked in his study too busy for us. Years later I’m just now funding my way back to Jesus. Who knows if I will ever find my true DAD.

  • Serra

    Im part of the 80 percent right here as well, It has become astoundingly difficult for a parent daughter relationship. I was always rebellious when in reality all I wanted was him to be that dad when I was really little. WHo had all the time in the world for me. He used to take my siblings and I to family trips all over, fishing and all kinds of stuff. My younger 2 siblings in the house, he doesnt do that stuff with. It seemed to all change when he decided he was going to be a pastor. Now he is so focused on his congregation, he doesnt seem to care about his daughter. Now if I even question the bible or faith he jumps down my throat, I assume because he thinks I have no business even questioning anything. However, why cant he just treat the question as if I was another member of a church since he insists on pushing me so hard to be perfect. I am tring to be closer to God and lead my family of 4 children and a husband who wants to grow in faith as well. He is always on my case about missing church or not forgiving someone else, etc yet he has the same struggles. Sure, if he is worried about my spiritual well being why not talk to me when I am trying to come closer to god. No, instead, we fight over it. He is suppose to be living by example not telling my brother and I all what we are doing wrong and then doing the same things himself at times. Not forgiving.I feel I have lost my dad and am losing him as a pastor. I am contemplating not only switching churches but also switching denominations. Its sad. All because I think he has forgotten he is not on the level of God. He is still below God just like the rest of us. So,we are not on speaking terms, I assume he is waiting for me to apologize but I am just as hurt, I think forgiving is something he should analize himself to, after all, he IS the example I should live by. My family is all watching him and seeing how he has been acting right now.
    Painfully dealing with it
    Serra

    • I am so sorry, Serra.

    • I am so sorry, Serra.

    • calvin

      Dear Serra,

      Being a pastor is such a difficult and high pressure job. Pastors have many people breathing down their necks. I am really sorry to hear this. Looks like your dad really needs a holiday, time off.

  • Happy

    I’m a PK too, but thankfully, I’m not part of the 80%.
    Not because my family is luckier, Not because I’m more special than anyone else, but because i know that god loves me, and he helped me alot 🙂
    My parents both came from a broken background and family, and have experienced endless hardships themselves when they were just teenagers.
    But now, they became Pastors and love god wholeheartedly in which I am glad and I am grateful for. If they haven’t met God, I really don’t know how they will turn into.
    I’m still a teenager right now, and there was this time when I dreaded going to church. I’m scared to approach people and I lost all my confidence because I’m afraid if I talk to them, they would start judging me. So I decided to not associate with them, and everyday after service, me and my sister will go and sit in the car or just sit by ourselves.
    It was like we dug a hole and jumped into it. I was horrible, horrible and horrible. At the time, I was growing even more distant with my dad because he started to train me in running, and he has a quick temper and is really stern and well, let’s just say that one harmless sentence can get him to yell at me.
    At the time, my diary was filled with swearing, cursing, and all kinds of resentments about my dad. I didn’t like dad back then and I certainly didn’t like myself.
    And also, because I have a different background from all the youths in the youth group, i felt left out, judged and it was like I can’t be myself in front of them. They will ask me questions and stuff like “You’re wearing a bracelet? I don’t think you’re allowed to.” and “I’m surprised you don’t sleep at 7pm.” It was questions as simple as that which made me lose all confidence.
    One day, I told God that I’m sick of it, and so, I then forced and pushed myself to talk to people, even though it’s really hard, I pushed myself.
    It felt awesome, having to break through that hole with the help of god, it was like i could breathe again and I started to enjoy going to church. It felt like I had wriggled and tore myself through a spider web, and that time was hard, but it was worth it.
    Being a PK doesn’t mean your life is going to be all gloomy and sad. Sure, my dad is in his room everyday preparing sermons and my house is always filled with people and my mum’s always consoling other people.
    Sure, on sundays, I go to church at 12:00pm and leave church at around 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Often, I need people from church to drive me home because my parents are going to other people’s houses or is busy in church and they come home at 10:00pm or sometimes even late into the night.
    Sure, I get judged, I feel left out, I locked myself in the toliet and cried.
    But if I think about it, I’m not the ones running to and fro, busy to the core. I’m not the ones under constant pressure and even if they get hurt, they can’t do anything about it.
    I have my parents to blame if I feel like being a PK is unfair but what about MY parents? They suffered more than us PK and here we are nagging about how unfair it is when they’re serving God.
    We should be grateful to grow up knowing god, we should be encouraging our parents instead of finding faults in them. We want them to change, but shouldn’t we change first? How are they supposed to get closer to us if we distance ourselves from church, their job, and from them? Don’t you think they are tired enough and deserve encouragement from their FAMILY?
    Compared to the kids who had parents working outside, we are SO much more immature. It’s the same, really, kids who has parents working don’t see their parents often too. Their parents go on business trips, they work until late in the night and I heard complaints from PKs more than from them.
    I think PKs should be more grateful to their parents, and yes, I am talking about myself, I have thought really nasty things often, and I also need to change.
    And we can’t change by ourselves, the only way to actually get “freedom” from all this PK stuff, is actually GOING to church and EXPERIENCING God. Not hiding in our own little word pitying about ourselves.
    Right now, it’s 10:00 pm and my parents are away, celebrating a person from our church’s birthday and I don’t feel resentment. Instead, I feel happy that my parents are willing to share their time and energy with others.
    We should learn from them, and not find faults in them. Just because they’re Pastors, doesn’t mean they’re not human. Same as just because we’re PKs, doesn’t mean we’re not humans.
    Since we’re humans, we need God.
    SO, smile PKs, coz we are really lucky to be PKs 🙂

  • Kristin

    I was not a PK, but I work at my church as a kid’s ministry teacher. There are a couple PKs in my class. I was wondering if anyone has any advice in how to, at least, not *add* to any of the bad stuff PKs experience? I attend a small church and I do notice that a lot of the members feel it is there duty to verbally chastise the PKs for acting out when their parents aren’t around (stupid things, like climbing on chairs, etc… the kids are only 4 and 5). It bugs me. I try to treat them like all of the other children, point them to Christ and steer from the Christless morality that is so pervasive in church culture. What can do I do help these kids?

    • Demonstrate the gospel to them that they are loved in spite of their actions. We love him because he first loved us. So many PK’s are loved (or tolerated) when they act better than the other children.

    • Demonstrate the gospel to them that they are loved in spite of their actions. We love him because he first loved us. So many PK’s are loved (or tolerated) when they act better than the other children.

    • Calvin

      Treat them the same and tell others to back off, praise the PKs when they do good, put them in a positive light when appropriate so others may follow. Tell others they are just like other kids, they were never called to be PKs.

  • You’re a good man, Scott Thomas. The fact you care and are worried about this shows you have nothing to worry about. Though a good solid punch in your sons’ arms don’t hurt either.

    • My son gets married tomorrow. Perhaps I will pronounce them husband and wife and punch him in the arm while he kisses the bride! 😉

  • Musicbabe_22

    I’m writing an article about pastors kids I would love feedback from any pastors kid willing to speak.. Please email me your feedback will remain anonymous
    Blessings!
    Email:[email protected]

  • justgotyelledatbymypastor/dad

    I am 20 years old and living with my parents. So I stopped going to my fathers church because I am bored at church. Today like always I get yelled at for making him look bad and not going to church. Well Mr. Thomas what do I do about my dad (other than pray) yelling at me ALWAYS and ruining my mood. I am annoyed by him that drives me to just not come for days and is ruining my grades.
    (Please do not give me an answer from a Bible point of view because I can just ask my dad then. )

    • justgotyelledatbymypastor/dad

      to just go out and not come back home for days and this is ruining my grades.*

    • I am so sorry for what you are experiencing. This is not uncommon. You are a young man under the care of your parents and the transition between childhood (they’re responsible) and manhood (you’re responsible) is a delicate one. It’s hard for parents to trust their offspring to make choices without offering opinions (at various decibels). When an offspring, especially a son, grows up, they repeatedly second guess their level of interaction and you ALWAYS second guess their level of interaction. You want independence; they want dependence. So goes the daily battle.

      What I would suggest is a mature (on both sides) interdependence on each other. This takes humility, courage and perseverance with both parties involved. You need them and they need you. Interdependence. Approach your Dad with humility and respect (even if he hasn’t earned it). Talk to him like a man. Don’t mirror any reactions he might have (for example, anger, sulking, sarcasm, disrespect, etc). Stand up, look him in the eye, stick out your chest and talk to him man to man. Mom’s are great, but don’t talk through her to him. Talk to him like a man. Ask him to listen when he interrupts. Tell him that you are taking responsibility for your spiritual growth. Tell him you would like to explore other groups of people to help spur you on in your faith. Tell him that you are sorry for not being forthright about your feelings. Tell him that you want to have a mature relationship man to man. Be honest.

      This is not your opportunity to fix him. This is your opportunity to display the gospel to him; to exercise grace and love to someone who sometimes yells at you. Christ forgave those very people who were abusing him. Your Dad is hurting–most pastors are. They struggle with insecurity and they need strong support from their family. Your Dad was probably more hurt that his own son didn’t want to go to his church than your inactivity “made him look bad.” Longtime church members often discard and abandon support of the church. It’s never fun and it always hurts. Sometimes it comes from the least likely people; from leaders or staff. So, it hurts a Dad/Pastor when he perceives his son has entered that category of those who get mad and leave. Try to see it from his point of view. He needs you right now. More than you know, he needs you. Tell him where you are sincerely proud of him. Tell him that you love him and will always support him as his son, but not always as a church member.

      Young men need to communicate and to display that they are taking responsibility for their life: spiritually, personally and missionally. To display this, a son must use their room as a place to sleep (no more than 8 hours a day) and to study–nothing else. Then they must take responsibility for their life and contribute to the family in every way that they can. They show responsibility by physically doing things for their mother. Young men need to contribute financially to family needs where and when they can. They must serve others and participate actively in a faith community.

      You are man now. Step up like a man. Speak like a man. Take responsibility like a man. And don’t expect your Dad to reciprocate immediately. It will take time, but he will soon embrace it.

    • Susie

      I am very literally in the same boat. 20, living at home, yelled at all the time, etc. I don’t want to go to church. I have no desire to be a part of it because I hear preaching every day at home. I’m getting married in a year and (hopefully) moving to another state. However, he keeps saying things like “what does God say?” “did you ask him if you should get married?” “you’re not listening to your spirit.” “your actions aren’t God lead.” etc. I’m so sick of it being shoved down my throat. I want to want to go to church again, but right now I just want to run as fast as I can because he has made it something I have to do rather than something I want to do.

      • Calvin

        I really encourage PKs to try find another church where their parents are not the pastors. Find a church where you feel comfortable, where people care and love you for who you are. And you don’t have to tell people that you are a PK.

        I wonder if you can share your feelings and tell your parents that you would like to try going to another church, maybe one you have friends at? I am a PK and I enjoyed church much better as a young adult going to another church.

      • Olivia

        Susie this sounds exactly like my dad, Christianity and church are not my choice they are something that is expected of me no matter what

  • As a PK I started to document my experiences as a kid, and the more I thought about my childhood, the more I realized PKs are “crazy”. http://www.thepastorskid.com

    • Scott Thomas

      Calvin,

      Thank for writing your thoughts in your blog. I read most of them and you are not crazy. You experienced real feelings and you’re now experiencing real memories. Try to embrace that you are God’s kid first. He is the only perfect parent. He will never leave you even if you feel as though you are spiritually roaming the halls of that empty church building all alone. Forgive, restore, extend grace and most of all embrace the fact that you are a beloved son in whom God is pleased (through the imputed righteousness of Christ). Try to find your identity in your sonship with God. Listen to this message by John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/children-heirs-and-fellow-sufferers

  • Dalice

    I am a PK i have never been a part of the 80%. And i complete agree with your son’s comment. My mom has never not been my mom. to me she has two clear “modes”. Mom mode and pastor mode, and she is the best mother anyone could ask for. I love that she has a very good balances between her ministry and family, because if i didnt have my mom to help me through life, i would be in that 80%

    • Scott Thomas

      Thanks for that encouragement, Dalice!

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  • hiro

    (before I start. I am not trying to condemn Christianity. I’m just stating my point of view, from a PK, TCK, MK, stand point)

    I’m part of this 80%. all my life, it has been either missionary work, or church planting. I am 16 right now, but have been in the mission field for 14 years. before i begin, let me provide some info on myself. Ethnically, I am 100% korean , and adopted from there. but have lived in japan for half of my life. I am a US citizen, but consider myself Japanese American. Pretty weird, i know. I was adopted when I was 6 months old from Korea. my father is 3rd generation Japanese. my mother is american. I’ve lived in Japan, Shanghai, Israel, America, and Korea (if you want to count my birthplace). I have moved 23 different houses (I am 16 so remember, I’ve lived in a couple of houses for multiple years), and 6 different schools. I am currently entering into sophomore year.

    so here’s my story:

    Life has been rough you know? so much fighting between my parents. father is usually the one who decides where we go, where to start a church, where to preach the gospel, where to do almost everything. while my mother tries to put me and my sister’s needs first. because my father’s needs are in the church, and my mother’s needs are to create a stable life for both me and my sister, my father and mother clash a lot. for 14 years it has been like this. some times it will be a fight that lasts a week. some, maybe 1 or 2 months.

    It’s incredibly hard to live life without the fear of having to move again. whether it may be to a different house, school, or country. I am able to fit all of my belongings into 1 suitcase. 1 backpack. and 1 guitar case. that’s basically how i live. minimal, simple, yet. hard.

    in 1st-3rd grade, I moved from Japan to Israel
    I was in Israel for 4th grade
    in 5th-6th grade, i was in america for school

    in 7th-8th grade, i was back in japan.

    half of 9th i was in China

    the other 9th was back in america

    7th and 8th grade were the toughest years for me. i was the leader of church worship (my dad started a church, so i was the only one available, and ended up being the worship leader until i left). I knew what i was doing there. i was there to start a church, go to school, plan the songs for worship. what many people don’t see is, how much responsibility that takes. 1, to be in school, 2, to lead worship, 3, to be in 7th/8th grade doing this job, and having to put worship prep. before friends. my life then involved a lot of self harm (i have many scars that i regret), attempted suicide. i attempted 5-6 times. it was a naive move. self harm in any sort of way, is naive. and having matured over the years, i realize just how beautiful and valuable life is.

    to top that off, my father, being the pastor of that church, had put a lot of stress, and pressure on my shoulders. “we must be humble, and selfless. we must die to ourselves”. being a teen, the words humble and selfless do not really sound appealing to a kid who wants to look just above average, cares about his hair. standard stuff. i was pressured to cut my hair, wear certain types of clothes. i felt very controlled, and i still feel this way today. feeling of being controlled, without an escape. i guess that is what made me feel the need to test out self harm. i was very very depressed back then. i didn’t show it, but it was there. i had told my father about my self harm, and suicidal thoughts. i was genuinely looking for help from him. we got into an argument, and that’s when i brought up my suicidal issue. but he stopped. looked at me, and said, “son. this isn’t a movie. grow up”. and yeah. i mean hes a great father (no sarcasm). but you know. he’s really wacko. and… i guess I just need to feel more compassionate towards him, if this is how he treated me.

    my father controls practically everything i do, what i listen to, how i look. it’s very hard to live in this house, where i feel like i am being judged for things that are not even wrong. I’ve been going to church less, praying less, listening to God less. being under my father’s control just makes me feel like its not even worth trying in life anymore. like theres no point, kind of feeling. i get the feeling that theres no point in doing anything because i will feel judged anyway. i am currently entering into 10th grade. about to move again. so i decided to write this up. explaining things on my side. and how this article speaks so much truth. i didn’t think anybody else went through this until i read this article as well as it’s comments. to be honest, it’s heart breaking. through these expereinces, i have matured a lot. but it still doesn’t change the fact that i fall into this 80% of PKs.

    • Scott Thomas

      Hiro,

      My heart broke as I read your story. I am so sorry that you are experiencing these things. It sounds as though your father cares about you and loves you, but lacks the ability to express it properly and uniquely the way that you need. Most fathers lack in this area.

      I would recommend four things:
      1. Pray. The king’s heart is in God’s hands and He can change it.
      2. Talk to your father once again about how you really feel, what you need, and how you are experiencing feelings of depression. I know that you did this once, but part of “growing up” as your father desires, is expressing yourself clearly, concisely, and with conviction. A child just cries because it doesn’t know how to express its needs. A mature person stands up, speaks up, and takes ownership of their own life.
      3. If your father doesn’t listen, and he may not, take your case to your mother in a Matthew 18 process to seek reconciliation. Your mother doesn’t have to speak on your behalf, but she would want to hear how you express your feelings to your father. She can temper his response and she can advocate on your behalf when they discuss it later.
      4. Talk to a qualified biblical counselor about your feelings of suicide. Don’t dismiss these thoughts and feelings or try to stuff them below your father’s purview. You likely do not have a trusted adult that you can share this with based on your nomadic lifestyle, but there are many people both compassionate and helpful to walk through these issues with you.

      Praying for grace to fill your life,

      Scott

  • Rob

    being part of the 80% i currently still struggle with alcoholism and many different types of drugs. ever since i was little, my dad would always scold me using the bible. this started to make me dislike the bible as my dad would always use it to make me feel bad about myself. like some have said below, my dad has also looks down upon me whenever i fail to show that i am an exemplary model for the rest of the congregation. this constant attack on my self-esteem and pride caused me to become hateful at myself and in result intolerant of others in general whether that would be my girlfriend or friends. after a while i became completely dependent on the use of alcohol and drugs, i cannot bear going through the day without being buzzed off of a substace and/or a pack of cigarettes. i constantly pray and struggle to keep my faith. all i ask for you is to keep me in your prayers, thank you.

    • Scott Thomas

      Rob,

      I am sorry that you have that (not so uncommon) experience. So many men of all ages have father issues and it seems to be exacerbated when the father is in ministry. I am sorry that it is that way. I was raised in a performance-centered home, receiving affirmation only after I accomplished something. I could blame my parents for my proclivity for performance, pleasing man syndrome. I am choosing instead to take responsibility for my own life and my ever-present need to produce and my tendency to eschew love from others when I am not producing. I am resting in the fact that I am God’s beloved child in whom He is well pleased. God cannot love me any more than he loves me now. He cannot accept me any more than he accepts me now. I am His child and He is crazy about me, flaws and all.

      I would encourage you to read Barnabas Piper’s new book, Pastor’s Kid and John Lynch’s book, On My Worst Day.

      I prayed for you today, Rob.

  • Rilee

    I’m 13 and I’m depressed, it’s hard knowing this is true. I stopped being happy when my parents stopped being there for me

    • Halle

      I’m so sorry, Rilee! I feel you’re pain. I’m 12 and I’m a PK. Sometimes I get depressed because I want to want to go to church, but I never want to go. I will keep you in my prayers!

  • Lydia

    I have to say what he wrote is true. I am a PK and over the years I have met a lot of other PKs and the connection I have seen is that the Pastor was able to be a parent and not a pastor at home. My dad gave me great advice but he never preached at me or forced his faith on me. I saw my dad and mom’s love for God and that love led me to the relationship I now have with the Lord. To the other PKs out there who had a pastor parent that had a hard time seperating their profession from their home life. Try to remember they weren’t choosing the church over you, and when they preach at you it is them trying to show you love and share the amazing relationship they have with God with you.
    -Love a fellow PK

  • Calvin

    As a PK, I do get depressed and sad every once in a while because of what’s happening at church, you just know so much as PK. I get discouraged but hopefully not chronically. As a adult I still deal with it and I actually encourage PK to find a church that is suitable for them that’s not one that their parents are serving at.

  • John Crowe

    This a sad article about an issue that is not talked about enough. I noticed there are articles online about what we don’t want our children to learn at church. Having read that article and this one, I am working on an article about things we don’t want our clergy children to learn at church.

  • Merichel

    Unfortunately, I am part of the 80 percent. Fortunately, with a lot of prayers, tears, and faith, I am dealing with it day by day. I wouldn’t say that the fact I deal with depression has to do with my father being a pastor. At age 12, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and Asperger’s Syndrome. Both my parents and I had a strained relationship before we knew what was wrong, and when we did, they were very relieved and ready to face it head on. Of course, I was a teenager and dealing with these new diagnoses. I admit I made it a lot harder to be their parents than I should have. Thank God they never gave up on me.

    At this point, I am a 22-year-old college graduate living day by day wondering what to do next. My parents are very supportive, and for the first time in my life I can say with confidence that I know my father is not ashamed of me because of my challenges. He is just proud of what his daughter has accomplished, and he loves me. The most important thing my dad taught me was to follow Christ and love as He did. I’m thankful for that lesson every day.

  • Bethany

    Everybody seems to assume I ur a PK ur Dad is the Pastor. Imagine not only being a PK, but the PK of a divorced woman… The older generation don’t believe she is capable because she is a woman, and are just so condescending to her, and disapprove further because she’s divorced. And then I’m just there being the 80% of PKs… While my brother is perfectly secure I his faith, I’m not even sure if mine still exists.

    • Halle

      Im so sorry! I will keep you in my prayers!

  • Hudson

    My dad is a pastor and there are 4 of us kids all depressed. If only he had had one more kid, then one of us would be ok.

  • Engela

    Another PK here. Also part of the 80%. The trouble I have as a PK is that my parents neglected to teach me anything about life on earth, functioning in a professional environment, how to deal with conflict without praying for it to end. Everything was explained to me in “Godly” terms: whenever things didn’t go well in my life it was the devil attacking our family and I never got a real answer or solution to the problem. Today I am 27 and struggling in the work environment (but at least I’m learning). I am finally forming real relationship bonds with people – relationships that aren’t based on “we are one in Christ” or “love with the love of Jesus”. I still believe in God but I think He is not so much in the center of out daily lives as is often preached in the church. Hope my story can help others in the same situation. Xx

  • Halle

    I am the 80%. I am struggling with church feeling real. I see it turn on when people are around, but afterward, I see it turn off. It just feels fake to me because I see when people don’t really want to talk to you, but they’re pastors, so the do to be nice. They put on their fake smile. I’m 12, so I’m in youth group. That has also started feeling fake to me. I have seen my church attendance start to change, because it has become a chore for me. Whenever I don’t have to go to church, I chose not to. It has become more of a chore for me than a blessing. I am forgetting the real reason we go to church. It isn’t a show, it’s a worship service, but it feels like a show. I really need help. I am worried that because I already feel this at 12, when I am old enough to make my own decisions, I won’t go to church. I could end up in bad places. If you have any tips on how to make church feel real again and make me not be able to wait to go to church, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help me!!!

  • unknown

    hey Mr.Scott, I am a pk and I thought that I really really need some help. Though I’m
    not showing even a single bit of sadness and pain in front of everyone
    except my parent, I am really hurting.
    All this time, I told my parents that I was being so rebellious because I am in bitterness, because they used to beat me with a stick since I was a child (discipline). But I knew that it was not because of that. I somehow always want them to know that I am hurting. But every time I am telling them directly that I am hurt, they always say something like this; “When did I hurt you? When you want something, I always grant it for you”. I really don’t know how to reply to that. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about pk problems but none of it seems to be my major problem now.
    A few hours ago, I had a fight with my mom. I
    2.”Why are you always remembering me and your dad’s past mistakes (the beating), your dad is so kind to you and yet you still have bitterness towards him? you should forgive”
    3.”You always look for your parents’ mistakes”
    After hearing all that, I realized something. My problem is not about those things. I realize that I’ve forgiven them regards to those beating but why do I still insist to let them know that I am hurt? Is it because I hate them so much that I want them to feel bad? or is it that I haven’t forgiven them yet? I really am having a hard time on figuring out what my problem is.
    My mother cried most of the time after we had a fight, I knew that my words are causing pain for her. But what can I do? I really need to express my feelings and I wanted to be honest. Sometimes I thought about how things are so unfair. When my mom cried, I always feel really bad but why is it that when I cried because of their beating, they didn’t even bother to check my condition, like when I locked myself in the bathroom for hours, when I bury myself inside the wardrobe and tried to hurt myself, when I beat myself again with the stick that they used to beat me, until my skin bleeds, and when I cried all night inside my room alone..
    I told my mom that I want to change, and that I really want to be closer to God. I tried so much but in the end, it’s always the same. the fight happened all over again and it’s even worse. I sometimes felt like God isn’t with me and then I start to question my faith. I wanted to tell my parents so bad, but I am afraid that they will step back from their ministry due to the feeling of failure in children teaching. I really depended on my mom, I asked her to figure out a solution for me and I asked her to find out what my problem is.. But then a few hours ago, she said that I am the worse out of my siblings and she told me that she wanted to gave up on me, she said that I am not aware about how ugly my character is and she said that I am the one who doesnt want to change. I felt like crying, and I plead to God inside my heart I want to change.. I dont want to cause anymore pain or burden for my mother because I can see that she is hurting too. I am the type of person that can’t stand it when I cause inconvenience or sadness to someone.. So I just told her that I depended on her but she gave up, so I wouldn’t do anything.
    Mr Scott, can you please help me. I do want to change and I am sure that every single words of advice will be a big help for me.
    thankyou so much.

    • Scott Thomas

      Please, you need to tell this to a counselor at school or a pastor who can work directly with you.

    • Anna

      I am not a PK but your mom and her actions seem similar to my mom’s when I was growing up. It’s likely that your Mom has personal issues of her own and is taking out her anger and frustration on you. Know that this isn’t your fault. Your mom may be an adult, but adults too have big problems they don’t know how to solve. Beating is a very common way to discipline kids in my culture, and it doesn’t mean that your parents don’t love you. Sometimes parents beat you cuz they want the best for you and don’t know how else to steer you in the right direction. I realized that my mom was unhappy in her life and marriage when I was in my mid 20s and it has helped me to understand why she was the way she was when I was young. Ironically, she was nice to my sister but evil to me, but alas, everyone needs someone to pick on – that just happened to be me! Now she is in a better place and we have a GREAT relationship.

      I hope this helps. And please do go talk to a therapist or school counselor – they can help.

  • Olivia

    Hey guys… I’m fourteen and I’m one of the 80 percent kids which gets depressed.. I feel like my parents don’t have time for me.. My dad is a buisnessman and my mom is the Pastor… They are always busy day and night and they never talked to me that much. Since my parents don’t really talked to me, they don’t really know the problems I face these days. So, I share my feelings to my church friend, that happens to be a guy (I am a girl). We sometimes share feelings through Social Media. He is like my brother and my best friend. When my parents found out that I got so close to him, they got angry at me thinking that I like him and I am dating him and also since we are close, my other church friends started telling things to my parents about me and him and to my shock, they believed in them and not me. They scold me for setting a bad example for the whole church.. So if anyone out there have a way out, please tell me..
    This is my email: [email protected]
    Thank you

    • Ernest Zenone

      Hi Olivia: I know about this from talking to others about the same disconnect between them and parents or leaders in a church. Why? No simple answer, but, I believe there is a self-righteous ‘pharisee’ mentality with many Christian parents and churches. If we admit our doubts or concerns, we are shut down. So, many just keep things to themselves and suffer. Why do I know? I was a leader (and elder) in Jehovah’s witnesses for over 24 years. I saw this same thing, not only with young people, but with adults, who became so afraid after being silenced or ignored that the just suffered inside. We lost a son to suicide because of the neglect in hearing our plea for help. I hope you can pray about this. I sure will. Pray that the Lord would open the eyes of your parents and church to stop being so judgmental and prove themselves disciples of Christ by the love sown to all. My experience as a JW leader also showed what control freaks people can be. Husbands to wives, or vice-versa, leaders, etc. It’s sad, but, our Lord sees all this. I pray this will not prevent you from trusting Jesus to get you through this. These things, as hard as they, are also have a good end, as they drive us to depend more on the Lord. He’s the Friend who never fails us. He loves you and you love him. The grace is to love Jesus more than anyone else. Also, not to give in to bitterness and sinful anger. I went through this after losing a son. I hated the JW leadership, but, then the Lord saved me and now I want the Lord to show the same mercy He has shown to me, to the JW’s who still hate my guts to this day, ever since I left the group in 1979. My wife remains a JW but, by Gods grace, He has preserved our marriage despite our division over my leaving. We have been married for over 53 years. People mean evil against us, but God shows a good end as with Joseph. Genesis 50:20 Jesus heals us.

  • Mike

    Most PK’s I’ve met are depressed (especially males). Hitting puberty and being expected to not have any hint of sexual desire is a large part of oppression and expectations that lead to depression. God says no sex outside outside of marriage but then gives you the ability to reproduce outside of marriage. Sorry, but the claims do not align with the facts. One more reason to drop Christianity for science and Humanism.

  • Sarah Smith

    Pastor Scott,
    Thank you for writing this article. I was able to find it through a google search for ministries that invest and help PKs. I am a 33 year old PK who works with the youth at my church. The Lord has put a burden on my heart for the health and wellbeing of PKs. I’m mentoring 3 PKs now and see I need more help. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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