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 eleventh interview.
Ed Stetzer is the President of LifeWay Research Division, a prolific author, and well-known conference and seminar leader. Stetzer has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, and has authored or co-authored dozens of articles and books including Subversive Kingdom, Transformational Church, and Transformational Groups.
Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today and is the Executive Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 400,000 individuals each week. Stetzer is also Executive Editor of Facts & Trends Magazine, a Christian leadership magazine with a circulation of more than 70,000 readers.
What is your greatest hope for your children?
OK, the most obvious– and true– thing is that I want them to know and love Jesus. The thing that is less obvious, is I want them to know and love Jesus in a way that reflects His image in them in the way God created them. I’m not sure I can describe it well, but I try to look into the hearts of my daughters and ask, “What does a godly Jaclyn look like?” and then try to shape them in that way.
So, it’s not a generic discipleship– that’s OK and what churches can do. But, parental discipleship is different, I think. I want them to know Jesus in and through who God has made them to be. Maybe that’s heretical, but I don’t think you raised up kids like you disciple everyone. It’s much more personal– more fatherly.
What is the greatest struggle you face in parenting as a pastor?
I’m a little different. My primary vocational role is not being a pastor– I’m more of a speaker / writer / leader type. I volunteer as a pastor. But, I learned recently that my kids primarily identify themselves as a pastor’s kid, so maybe I’m not foolin’ anyone!
So, the biggest challenge to me is that my kids are expected to be something that, at times, they are not. For me, I’m pretty aggressive about telling people to leave our staff kids alone– don’t label them. And, I recently said rather aggressively, don’t make “pastor kid” jokes at our church. They have enough pressure, I said, they don’t need it from you.
But, I’d have to say that is the biggest struggle that is unique to the pastoral role– letting my children be who they are rather than the church determining who they should be.
How do you help your kids manage the expectations placed on them as PKs?
Well, first, I tell them that there are, indeed, differences because they are Christians. So, yes, we don’t talk a certain way, dress in some ways, or do various things because we are followers of Jesus. I don’t tell them that this is because they are a P.K., but I do tell them that it is because we are Christians. So, there are expectations, but I try to make clear they are Christian, rather than PK, expectations.
Furthermore, we then talk about how people perceive them. We discuss why people have certain expectations. Then, I tell them that they do not have to live up to the expectations of others– they have to honor the Lord and, while they are in our home, follow our authority. Beyond that, I’m not too concerned about what the church thinks of my kids, and my kids (and my church) know that.
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.