Everyone in church notices the pastor’s kids. People don’t think about noticing them, it just happens. I grew up as a PK, the son of John Piper, and even I notice PKs. It’s almost impossible to avoid. They’re like the first children of the church.
Don’t think you notice them? Here’s what it looks like.
You know things about their personal lives you don’t know about any other kid in the church: where they’re going to college, who they took to prom, that they just got braces, that they got pulled over for speeding last week. You make comments about their behavior to them or to anyone else. “Did you see his new tattoo?” “You can’t talk like that; you’re the pastor’s kid.” “Can you believe she wore that to church?” “Pastors’ kids should know better than to run in church.” You expect them to speak out in Sunday school, to pray, to lead. You have a tacit standard for them as PKs. You hold them to a higher standard than their peers in church, and you’re not even trying to do so.
What you might not realize is how this makes PKs feel.
They feel like people are always watching. The fact that you know personal things about them makes them hyper aware of you watching, listening, knowing.
They feel like there is no room for mistakes. People watch them. People tell them how to act. People have a standard for them. What pressure! They know they’re going to screw up, but how can they with everyone watching?
They feel as if they have to have it all together, to have a firm faith and a solid family life. No room for questions or doubts. No chance to wonder or wander. No struggles allowed. And really, who could they ask any way?
But you can help them. You can encourage PKs. Here are three ways.
1) Let PKs be themselves.
For better and worse, let PKs be themselves. One of the hardest parts of being a PK is being what others expect you to be without ever being able to find out who you are. Remember how you came to faith? Remember how you’ve grown in faith? I bet it was through struggles, through mistakes, through seeing the profound grace of God when you needed it most. I bet it came when you connected with Jesus in the deeply personal way instead of trying to be perfect or live up to someone else’s expectations. That’s exactly what PKs need—the room to connect with Jesus like that. And it might be a winding road with mistakes along the way, in fact it probably will be. But that’s OK.
2) Don’t ask anything of a PK you wouldn’t ask of anyone else.
One of the hardest things about being a PK is being known of by so many people you don’t know. It’s compounded when you interact as if you’re friends even though they can’t even remember your name. When you delve into their personal life, it doesn’t feel like friends talking; it feels like an invasion of privacy. Even more so when you demand that they act a certain way. When seven boys are sprinting around the church lobby, why stop the PK? When all the high school girls are dressing a certain way, why call out the PK? Step back and realize that you might be unwittingly piling expectations and scrutiny on them even though your motives are pure.
3) Befriend them as a friend, not as a novelty.
PKs need friends they can trust, friends who care nothing about their last name and everything about their personhood. They need friends who will love them for who they are not because of their daddy’s position in the church. They need friends who will help them, push them, listen to them and not judge them. These kinds of friends are the ones around whom PKs can begin to figure out who they really are, who God really is, and what it means to love Jesus in a personal way, not just a way that meets expectations.
For more on serving pastors’ kids (and their families) well and the challenges they face check out my book The Pastor’s Kid: What It’s Like and How to Help.
This post was originally published at ChurchLeaders.com