I am a pastor. I have never been a pastor's kid, and it is only until recently that we have increased in our understanding of the unique challenges that pastor's kids face, as our children grow older and can better articulate their experience to Susan and I.
What follows is a helpful article from Barnabas Piper, himself a pastor's kid. It is something to whet your appetite for his new book (information below) that he wrote for pastors, the church, and pastor's kids. Susan is already highly recommending it.
I am a PK (pastor’s kid). With that comes a certain set of expectations, especially from people in the church or who know my parents. Since my dad is fairly well-known, the awareness and expectations are heightened, but really they’re the same for every PK in their individual context. Expectations make for awkward interactions and introductions. Any PK will know what I’m referring to. For the rest of you, here are seven simple rules to follow when you meet a PK.
1. Do not ask us “What is it like to be the son or daughter of …?”
How are we supposed to answer that question? Could you easily describe being the child of your parents? Unless you’ve had multiple sets of parents you don’t really have a point of comparison which makes this a tricky one. Remember, PKs are normal people with a different upbringing than you. Please treat us that way. We think of our parents as parents, nothing more.
2. Do not quote our dads to us.
This is really and truly annoying because it comes across as one of two things. Either you are proving your piousness by being so aware of the utterances of the beloved pastor, or you are being condescending and holding our parents’ words over our heads. Three points for you for remembering the sermon! It is neither impressive nor appreciated.
3. Do not ask us anything personal you would not ask of anyone else.
If, perchance, you have gained some knowledge of a PK through a sermon illustration or book or hearsay, it is best to keep it to yourself. We don’t want to talk to you about prom dates, football games, fishing trips, car wrecks, or anything else if we don’t know you. To ask a question based on knowledge that you gained in an impersonal manner makes you look like either a stalker or a reporter. Both are creepy.
4. Do not ask us anything about our dads’ positions on anything.
“What does your dad think about …?” is a question no PK wants to answer—not about politics, the roles of women in the church, predestination, the use of drums in the worship service, spiritual gifts, race, the latest Justin Bieber incident, or anything else. We have opinions and beliefs, though. And we like to converse. So you could ask us what we think, like a normal person.
5. Do not assume you can gain audience with the pastor through us.
That’s what the church secretary or the pastor’s assistant is for. Please let us be his children. We usually don’t have the ability to make a meeting happen, and we almost never want to. We don’t get paid enough.
6. Do not assume that we agree with all the utterances of our fathers.
I know it’s hard to believe that any child could grow up to disagree with her parents, shocking even, but it does happen. It is not kind or safe to assume that our parents’ positions are ours. And when you find out we don’t agree, please refrain from being shocked or offended. We’ll let you disagree with your parents if you let us do the same.
7. Get to know us.
This is a good rule for anyone, but it especially pertains to PKs. Just as you want people to value your opinions, personality, and character quirks, so do we. More often than not you will get a surprise. Wow, that PK actually has a sense of humor! Who knew PKs could be so fun? Wait, he said what? Leave your assumptions at the door and let us be us. You’ll probably like what you find.
For more on the uniqueness of growing up as a PK and working through its challenges, check out my book,The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. (David C. Cook, July 2014)