Preacher's Kids (PKs) are special people! As a PK myself, I can describe benefits and challenges of growing up in a pastoral family from my own experience.
Because both my brothers and Sharon's sister have pastoral families with PKs as well, we have observed their progress in raising three nieces and a nephew, all delightful and clever.
As we discuss these benefits and challenges, we will put God's priority first. The minister's first mission field is his own home and family.
"The minister's duties lie around him, nigh and afar off; but his first duty is to his children. He should not become so engrossed with his outside duties as to neglect the instruction which his children need. He may look upon his home duties as of lesser importance, but in reality they lie at the very foundation." 1
"Nothing can excuse the minister for neglecting the inner circle for the larger circle outside. The spiritual welfare of his family comes first. In the day of final reckoning, God will inquire what he did to win to Christ those whom he took the responsibility of bringing into the world. Great good done for others cannot cancel the debt that he owes to God to care for his own children."2
Did you get the importance of this admonition? There is nothing more important you can or will accomplish than making certain the upbringing of your children will help them choose for Jesus Christ and delight in the things of His kingdom. Any other accomplishments you may achieve, failing this first priority, will ultimately be dross.
PKs have special opportunities
Often we too easily focus on the challenges that pastoral families, and PKs in particular, encounter without reminding ourselves of the real benefits that come from growing up in the pastor's home.
For example, there is probably no other profession in which kids experience as much involvement in their parents' work than the children of pastors. Most children grow accustomed to seeing their parents leave home to go to work with little realization of what that parent actually does.
Because most church issues typically intrude the pastoral family, this is not so for PKs. Usually they are more aware of church problems, politics, plans, and projects than almost anyone else in the church.
And there is little use in trying to keep a secret from a PK. As a child I once knew that a debate was raging in the congregation about the discipline of an adulterous member. My parents earnestly attempted to shield our young ears from the details but were amazed when my brother and I informed them of discussions and details that were more up-to-date than the latest information they possessed.
So whether for good or ill, and most of it is beneficial, your children will become intimately involved in your ministry. In fact, the experience of growing up in a pastoral family typically gives a decided professional advantage to PKs who later become ministers because they have already seen many problems and possibilities addressed as they matured.
Among other advantages for PKs are the opportunities for travel to new and exciting places: camp meetings, summer camps, pastoral meetings, etc., along with experiencing special events and encountering friends who share similar experiences. As a result, PKs often grow up with a wider worldview than those who never encounter such experiences.
Leadership development is an integral part of maturity for most PKs as they first view their pastoral parents planning projects, resolving problems, conducting Bible studies, or helping people. Remember that real-life education occurs more by observation than by instruction.
PKs also have special challenges
Perhaps the greatest challenge I have experienced or observed in other pastoral families are unrealistic expectations of children just because they are PKs. Some of these expectations come from the church members, while others are imposed by well-meaning parents who want their children to be perfect. In fact, even PKs, themselves, can adopt unrealistic expectations for themselves.
A favorite cartoon of ours shows a pastoral dog, similar to our Yorkshire Terrier, Dexter, leaving the house with instructions from the pastor who says, "Now remember, Fido, you are the pastor's dog, and everyone will be observing your behavior."
Short tenure and frequent moves pose another challenge for some PKs. Within the same pastoral family there may be children who readily adapt to new environments, thrive on new experiences, and never seem frustrated or hampered by times of transition, while other PKs experience real trauma at the loss of friends, schools, familiar routines, and a totally new environment. I have admired many pastoral families who carefully process upcoming transfers with their children to the extent that the whole transition becomes a family adventure more than just a relocation.
Since such processing takes time, it is important to remember another big challenge that PKs face if they have an absentee pastoral parent. As my colleague, Children's Ministries Director Virginia Smith, says, "It is easy to become so engrossed in 'the Lord's work' that we fail to do the Lord's first work in ministering to our own families." The wise pastor will make certain to schedule quality and quantity time to interact with the PKs whom God has entrusted. You can never recoup the missed opportunities that occurred while you were in a committee or making one more visit. Remember, pastors and pastoral families need the renewing experience of foot washing and the healing promised in Malachi.
Good things are happening for PKs
The Eastern Africa Division sponsors an exciting new program designed especially for PKs. According to Saustin Mfune, director of this special program and editor of a newsletter just for PKs, this is the first division in the world that has come up with a comprehensive constitution in addressing the PKs' needs. He says, "I am looking for ways to boost PKs in my division."
Rocky Mountain Conference has hosted several "workers meeting" retreats designed especially for PKs.
The Caribbean Union publishes a color magazine aimed at the teens and preteen PKs in their field and featuring the activities and plans the PKs design themselves.
Virginia Smith and Sharon Cress are searching for ways to more effectively minister to PKs everywhere. Recently, Virginia's department joint-ventured with the Ministerial Association to publish a book, Making the Bible a Delight, designed especially to help pastoral families create a love and study of the Scriptures for their children—PKs or membership (see ad on p. 23).
Special Toronto 2000 PK opportunity
With this issue, the Ministerial Association announces an exciting opportunity just for PKs around the world to use their most creative talents in a variety of competition categories.
Winners will be selected and appropriately rewarded in each union around the world. The winning entry in each category from each union will be forwarded to the General Conference Ministerial Association, where one grand prize PK winner for each category will win a free trip for themselves and their parents to the World Ministers Council at Toronto in 2000. Check out the contest rules on page 26 and get your PKs to win you a free trip to the GC presession!
PKs are really special to the Ministerial Association as well as to your own family!
1. Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1915), 204.