Protecting your PKs

Five suggestions to help pastor's kids survive your ministry

Larry Pahl teaches at Miracle Meadows School in Salem, West Virginia.

What pastor who is also a parent doesn't dread the PK dis ease? Its symptoms are pastor's kids who are angels in public and brats in private. Its causes include frequent moving, an absentee father or mother in the ministry, and burnout from having to "be an example."

How can pastoral parents immunize their children from PK damage? After discussing this with several well-adjusted teenagers of the parsonage, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Involve your children in your ministry. Lisa is a popular senior in academy known for her spiritual leader ship. She told me, "For as long as I can remember, my dad loaded my sisters and me into the car to do visitation with him. This happened most often during pre-school days, but continues right up to the present." Lisa added, "From the time we were toddlers we knew that making people happy and sharing our home, food, and time was the responsibility of the entire family, not just our parents."

2. Don't regulate behavior on the basis of your ministry. Most children of pastors are turned off when told they cannot do something because their parent is the pastor. One appreciative PK testified, "Until I was 11 I didn't know there was a difference between other kids and me. My parents asked me to behave in the same way they would have wanted me to had my father not been a pastor."

3. Schedule time for your children, just as with others you serve. Judy, a 14-year-old from Alaska, admitted that being a PK was difficult. "But," she said, "my dad helped our relationship by set ting certain times to be with me and my brother and doing special things with us." Sanctify these appointments as you would any other ministerial obligation.

Another teenage PK reported, "Dad took family time at least once a week during which he would not answer the phone or make any appointments. We kids weren't allowed to go anyplace either. Family time was protected. I looked forward to it."

4. Become involved in your children's social life. Opening your home helps endear your children to you and also ministers to their friends. Lisa, remarked, "Not only did my parents want me to feel part of their ministry, but they wanted to know what was happening in my life. Knowing my friends personally makes my parents trust them more and feel better about allowing me to go places with them."

One girl remarked that her father's participation in sports won the respect of her friends. Here is an added incentive to go on that physical fitness program you've been putting off!

As your children grow so does their need for peer relationships. Young people need healthy places to congregate. Why not the pastor's home?

5. Confide in your children. Sari, 16, from West Virginia, said, "My parents let me know how they were feeling. If they were discouraged in their work, they told me about it. That not only made me feel part of the team, but it bonded us together. I in turn felt comfortable telling them my discouragements."

These five suggestions aren't a cure all for the PK syndrome. However, when employed with planning, commitment, and love, they can do much in avoiding problems that afflict many children of the parsonage.


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Larry Pahl teaches at Miracle Meadows School in Salem, West Virginia.

September 1992

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