Most pastors love their kids deeply. They have dreams for them and hopes. They want the best for them and work to provide it. Like all of us, they are fallible. And when you add the (enormous) pressure of ministry to that fallibility, being a parent gets really difficult. I’ve reached out to several pastors to hear from them about their relationships with their kids. I’ve written a fair amount about being a PK from a PK’s perspective, but I think hearing from pastors is also helpful. It’s too easy to get jaded or lose perspective. Both sides of the story need to be told. Here is the fifth interview.
Jud Wilhite serves as Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church. Central is dedicated to introducing people to Jesus and helping them follow Him. Jud is a New York Times Best-Selling author who has written several books including The God of Yes, Pursued, and a study Bible for new believers, The Uncensored Truth Bible for New Beginnings. His teaching segments are heard nationally on KLOVE radio. Jud and his wife, Lori, reside in the Las Vegas area with their two children, Emma and Ethan, and a slobbery bulldog named Roxy.
What is your greatest hope for your children?
My greatest hope for my kids is that they love Jesus with all their hearts and that they love the church. I hope they grow to discover their calling, wherever it may take them in both the church or the marketplace. I hope they find fulfillment and joy in life. I hope they learn to laugh a lot at themselves, take themselves less seriously, and take God more seriously.
What is the greatest struggle you face in parenting as a pastor?
I heard someone say that we are to “love the kids we have, not the kids we wish we had” and this resonated with me. I adore my kids, but I’ve struggled with my own expectations. I want them to love the things I love, but I’m learning to listen and discover who they are and seek to engage them on their level. For example, I love sports, but my son has absolutely no interest in watching sports or playing sports. Rather than try and force him to love these things, I’m learning to love him as God created him to be. I’m leaning more into what he loves, building things with Legos, video games, or using our imaginations to create worlds that we can play together in.
How do you help your kids manage the expectations placed on them as PKs?
We regularly tell our kids that they are no different and we never talk to them about acting a certain way because they are PK’s. We challenge them to act a certain way because they are God’s kids, not PK’s. I want them to love the church and be involved, but I don’t want them to resent spending too much time at church. So, we limit the amount of services they attend. I’m often at 5 services each weekend, but my kids attend one service and serve at one and then they go home. We are careful not to parade them around at every church event they don’t want to go to. We intentionally limit the amount of dinners or events where our kids are expected to be there
We’ve had other church members say that they should do this or that because they are PK’s. When we hear about this, my wife or I always have a follow-up conversation with those church members and politely ask them not to put those expectations on them and treat them like everyone else. I always seek my kids permission before I mention them in a message and as they get older, I do it much less and never want to embarrass them. Our kids our different in this regard. My daughter, who is 13, loves it when I talk about her and she is very outgoing. Our son, who is 10, is shy, so I try to be really sensitive to the fact that he doesn’t want attention walking down the halls at church.
We have no expectations that they enter ministry in any vocational sense and only talk about them doing what God calls them to do in life and in the church. I’m definitely a fellow struggler here and feel like I’m trying to figure it out as I go. My dad was a small business owner, so I didn’t grow up with any of these expectations. I talk regularly to adults who were PK”s to try and learn best practices to protect them. I want them to love growing up in our home and church and I pray their identity is as children of God and followers of Jesus, not as PK’s.
For more on the experience of PKs and how to minister to them check out my book The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. I wrote it from the perspective of a PK and for the benefit of the church and its leaders.