"Some of the worst kids in the church are PKs". I couldn't believe my ears as my girlfriend cavalierly vented those words.
I glanced down at my latte as she continued to drone on and on about her church's children church - and the PKs that were making her life miserable every single Sunday. I was hoping the subject would change, but it didn't.
Looking me straight in my eye, she shook her head and said, "Teri, I just don't understand why pastor's kids are always so ...so...bad".
Waiting for her to read my facial expression and remember my kids are “pastors' children" too, I looked away. She never quite caught on to what I was feeling and I didn't say anything. Do you want to know why? It was because I sort of agreed with her and nodded my head in agreement; a gesture that felt like betrayal to all the pastors' wives in the universe.
I, too, often wonder why so many pastors’ kids are so “bad”. When you think about it, it really doesn't make sense, does it? Those little buggers actually live with the pastor and his wife, right? They have access to the church's undershepherd 24 hours a day. How could so many of them be such hellions? Seems some holiness would rub off just by association, right?
Wrong. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that simple?
What’s with me?
This is oddly personal for me. Aside from being a mom who happens to be married to a senior pastor, I'm not sure why I take this topic incredibly personal. It's bothered me for years that so many “PKs” struggle with their faith. I just could never quite understand it. Growing up, I remember being almost jealous of my pastor's children.
"Man", I would think to myself: "I sure wish Elder Cofield was my dad".
My own father was a remarkable parent, but he couldn't preach, tell great jokes and wear a robe on Sundays the way Elder Cofield did.
The mind of a child, huh?
My theory about PKs.
As you know, our children’s first “love” is us - their parents, right? Even before they can verbalize it, they yearn for us. They crave our attention, praise and time.
With that in mind, what if both parents are consistently consumed by ministry work? What do you think happens? Well, it’s only logical the children would resent the very thing that pulls their parents away.
That family structure (a child's primary nucleus) becomes unreliable and unstable when we don’t nurture personal connections and meaningful relationships with our children.
In my work for a national youth development organization, I’ve learned children tend to “act up” when their core developmental needs are not met.
How does that relate to us as ministry parents and our children?
If love isn’t provided for kids at home, they seek it in other ways. They may elect to trust someone [completely opposite] of their parents to supply the love they don’t' perceive they are getting from home.
If a sense of belonging isn’t provided for them; they search for it outside the home. The crowd they create to satisfy this need may not be a safe or healthy one.
Finally, if they are not getting the attention they need, be sure of this: they will find outside ways to get it. Young people will ensure their needs are met - either by us, their peer group or from other adults. When we "drop the ball", they find ways to pick it up again. These are not always healthy or desirable ways.
In all fairness, I know each child must, at some point in his life, choose for himself whom he/she will serve - the God of their parents or the world. Please do not think I’m asserting kids choose wrong paths exclusively based on parents' performance. No way!
Still, allow me to be harsh and assert: emotional neglect is neglect -whether it's for the church or not. Children need stability and attention- plain and simple. It's our responsibility to supply it. They can never feel that the most important people in their lives don't love and esteem them above all else, right? That means we have to esteem them above the church body’s needs. That means, we must delegate and equip others in the church to meet the needs of the church. It can’t all fall on our shoulders all of the time. We cheat our children when we carry that burden.
Sure, we should serve in the church, but...
I'm not advocating for us to avoid serving in the church. However, "works" should never usurp family commitment to its detriment.
In the end, God will hold us accountable for how we handled these little human beings. After all, they didn’t ask to be born and definitely didn’t ask to be ministry children. We have to give them the grace we give others and keep their needs paramount.
You know, I honestly believe I will stand before God and be judged - not so much for my work at the church, or for my efforts in the community but for my ministry to my family. Sure, I think He’ll judge me on those other things. However, I believe how I cared for those closest to me will carry a much heavier weight. What do you think? May I never allow the care of others to take preeminence over them. That would make me nothing better than an infidel.
I always say my church will never get a “no” when I’m able to serve. That means, if I’m needed, I will always do my level best to "show up" and serve the Body of Christ. It also means I'll need to creatively find ways to serve that don't require copious amounts of time away from my children. It may mean I take a vacation day from work to serve. It may mean I use my lunch hour for a hospital or nursing home visit.
In the end, I want my children to know they are our priority and that we will supply their needs for love, safety and affirmation. They needn’t look anywhere else.
The next time I hear anyone else slam PKs, I hope to introduce a different perspective and remind them how difficult it can be for children whose parents carry the burdens of souls.
But, you and I, let’s be intentional about keeping our children first, ok? It’s a tough balance for us all as ministry couples; nonetheless, with God’s grace and a little creativity, we’ll manage it.
About the Author:
Teri Brooks is a consummate lover of people. She refers to herself as a “forced extrovert” who loves meeting new people and reflecting God’s love and acceptance.
She came to know the Lord in 1987 after hearing a sermon preached by her uncle. Since that day her life has been a journey in God’s faithfulness.
An innovator at heart, Teri inspires hundreds of women a day on her blogs GodsyGirl.Com, MarriedtoaPastor.com and TeriCBrooks.Com. She even blogs about getting older on My40somethinglife.com.
She is a graduate of the University of Missouri at Kansas City and enjoys working as a training manager for a national nonprofit organization. Almost twelve years ago, she married a senior pastor of an urban ministry of about three thousand members. Her husband has pastored the church for nineteen years. They have two sons and reside in Missouri.