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 thirteenth interview.
Dan is on staff leading the mission and teaching of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA. He is Director of the ReGeneration Project at Western Seminary. He is the author of several books including They Like Jesus But Not The Church. He has a doctorate from George Fox University and teaches undergraduate classes there. He is married to Becky and has two “MK” (missionary kids) Katie and Claire.
What is your greatest hope for your children?
Every single day my prayer for our 11 year old twin (not identical) daughters is “May they grow up to love you, God, and walk in your ways.” If they truly do that, then everything else falls into place. If they love God, they will then have a passion to know Him through His Word. If they love God and know His Word they will then know it means to “walk in His ways”. If they walk in His ways, they will then know what type of guy to be dating and eventually marry, or how to use their lives on mission no matter what vocation. So my greatest hope is that they grow to love God and walk in His ways” and pray that every single day.
What is the greatest struggle you face in parenting as a pastor?
My greatest struggle is probably having them see the times when leading a church is stressful for me and I bring that home. I know that any parent working any job is going to have stress that they bring home and work they bring home. So its not as though we are unique in sometimes having stress or lots of work to do that may not be accomplished during the day. But how I then talk about it or how they see me respond to difficult situations is always a struggle because I don’t want them to equate my stress or tough times in ministry with “church”.
I have talked to enough pastor’s kids who have bitterness towards “church” because of what they saw their dad or mom go through as a pastor. So my struggle is not trying hiding the fact that being in leadership will be difficult at times (that would be dishonest) but rather to be paying attention to my little comments or attitudes that can be picked up by my daughters. My nightmare would be for them to look back on these days and somehow think “church” is bad because of the tough times. I want my daughters to remember despite the difficult and stress it does bring, that the church is beautiful and God’s wonderful way of caring for people and extending the gospel in the world.
How do you help your kids manage the expectations placed on them as PKs?
Basically, we don’t really identify them as “PK’s”. Let me explain. I started out volunteering in a church and then became more and more involved until I went on staff part-time and then eventually full-time. I was bi-vocational for a while which made think we have this whole term of “calling” and “the” pastor potentially incorrect in terms of how our children see it. I don’t think only the “pastor” is called into ministry, I believe every single Christian is “called into ministry”. If we create a culture in our churches where we ALL are on mission together, and some are serving full-time in a local church, some part-time, some at other jobs but using volunteer time in the local church, I think it truly does start breaking down this gigantic sense of “the pastor’s kid”.
I do serve as the “lead pastor”, but we believe in this so much we don’t use that term anymore. So much pastoring happens in small groups, in various ministries where a volunteer leader is truly shepherding a group – they are “pastoring” too. So I stopped formally using that title and instead focus on the role. I am the leader of the mission and teaching of our church. Yes, pastoring happens through that, but there is a lot of pastoring that happens in all kinds of ways by all kinds of people.
So back to your question of “expectations of a PK”, I don’t think our daughters see themselves as “PK” in the traditional way that is thought of. In fact, they shouldn’t in my opinion think of themselves, or other people see them, as any different than the children of volunteers who run the sound board or the children’s ministry. Yes, people see me up front teaching, so in that regard more people may know my name and know me visually. But our kids are like other kids whose parents serve and volunteer in the church. So really there are dozens and dozens of “PK’s in our church.
In our home, I know our daughters realize I bear a lot of the weight of leading our church, but that is different than the feeling and expectations of the classic “PK”. I think we live with a lot less of that whole “PK” stigma because of the culture we created. If you met our daughters and asked them “Are you a pastors kid?” they might have to stop and think about it. I am known more as a teacher/leader, and they know they are the kids of one of the primary leaders of the church, but I don’t think they would identify as a “PK”. Really, shouldn’t all the kids of all the Christians be taught and understand that their parents (if Christian) are all missionaries and all “called”? So all kids are “MK”‘s (missionary kids). Some parents have shepherding/pastoring gifts and lead mid-week community groups, some parents serve using financial gifts to support the church, and some parents serve with their artistic gifts in music or art in worship etc. So every kid in the local church is really a “MK” as their parents serve on mission in their world.
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.