If you’ve ever heard the term, “PK” then you’ve been in church a while. It’s part of an exclusive club that requires one thing: You must have a parent as a pastor (unless you are the child of a missionary…then you’re an “MK”).
I wouldn’t say I’m a “true PK” because I didn’t become one until sixth grade. I was brought into the collective (Star Trek reference). I guess I’m what you would call a “hybrid.” I’ve lived in both worlds; seen both sides. Being a pastor, my kids know nothing of the “other side,” but they have talked about it. It’s not that they don’t like being a PK. But they recognize that they are seen and treated in a different lens at church and school.
It was at a funeral of a pastor where my entire world of parenting as a pastor changed.
A 45-year-old youth pastor had just passed away. It was sudden and unexpected. Tim was very loved and respected around the state and the funeral was packed. The usual funeral elements were there. It was wonderful and meaningful. Then Tim’s young adult daughter got up to read a letter to her father. Within that letter, she rocked my pastoral and parental world.
“Dad…I remember teenagers would line up after youth service to talk to you. They would stand in line waiting their turn to share their heart with you. One Wednesday, I got in line because I needed to ask you something and I didn’t want to interrupt others. What they had to say to you was important and I didn’t want to be rude.”
“You then stopped mid-sentence and motioned for me to come forward. It was then you said, ‘You NEVER have to wait in line for me. You are the most important teenager in my life and in this church.’ Dad, that’s how you always made me feel.”
I hope my memory gave her words justice because it transformed me. I sat in a puddle of tears. Does Cammi and Ethan feel like the most important children in my life? Has my parenting taken second to my pastoring? We’ve pastored a few hundred kids. Anne and I consider them spiritual sons and daughters. But did my kids feel that they were held in higher regard than any one of them?
I just want to encourage our pastors that are parents. I don’t want to heap the guilt that the Enemy would love to use to crush us. At the same time, if this blog can be the wake-up call that funeral was to me, then it will be worth it.
1. They have more pressure than you realize and/or that you remember. I hear it from Cammi a lot. She has people apologize to her for what they do around her. She also gets left out of things (not sinful) that people assume she wouldn’t/couldn’t do because “her dad is a pastor.” She loves being a PK…but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t frustrate her. People say ridiculous (IMO stupid) things to PKs: “You should know better, you’re a PK.” “Does your dad know you do that?” “I expect more of you because of your dad.”
That leads me to #2…
2. Let your kids be kids. Not sure what normal is, but let them be kids. I’m not saying to stop parenting. They need to be allowed to be children and not have to live out a persona. Are we as parents putting more pressure on them because of what other people are going to think? Is our desire to impress others and/or protect the “office of pastor” stronger than the desire to allow our children to be, well, kids?
3. Be there. I sat with a very wise pastor on a plane coming back from Africa. He simply said, “Dave, someone else could’ve taught that class. Someone could’ve lead the meeting. I didn’t have to be me to head up the committee. I should’ve been on the sideline, in the stands, or in the audience.” I’m not saying you have to coach (even though it’s not a bad thing to be involved in your community…but that’s for another blog). You don’t have to lead anything (in fact, I’d encourage you to serve instead of lead in your local schools). Your presence is powerful. Your children being priority and feeling priority (there’s a difference) is impactful.
4. Only use them as sermon illustrations IF they give you permission. I know a pastor who pays his kids $5 per illustration. My kid’s dad doesn’t hold to that policy. 🙂 But the policy I hold to is all about permission. I don’t share unless they know. I even check with them on details of the story. They don’t mind. Why? I don’t make fun of them. I don’t demean them. There’s nothing embarrassing. In fact, they love that they are a part of conveying the Gospel. How did that happen? “Permission” paved the way.
5. They need permission to interrupt. PKs know that you are NEVER off the clock. Everywhere you go, you’re “Pastor.” I’m Pastor Dave at Kfirst, the mall, Target, the park, etc. I get stopped frequently in restaurants. I get contacted most evenings by people and have conversations over Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM. It’s just the reality of the day and age of social media. BUT…my kids have permission to interrupt. Why? They’re more important than anyone in my congregation with ONE exception: my wife (click here if you missed the first part of this series and here if you missed the second part on pastor’s wives ). My kids always walk up and say “excuse me” when they need my attention for something. Why are they polite about it? Because they know they are valued and they reciprocate the value.
6. Dates are not optional. Just as, I believe, relationships build the pulpit you preach from in your church, the relationship you develop with your children will build the platform to speak into their lives. I still go out with my kids on dates. They both need individual time with me and it looks different for each. Also, they need “collective” time with me. It’s a time where the three of us go out and have time together. You need both. If you don’t have time for that, it’s time to re-look at your schedule.
Lastly…7. Don’t forget: you are “parent” before “pastor.” You’re not called to be their best friend. If you try that, they’ll lose all respect for you. You’re not there to heap the mantle of PK upon their shoulders. They already feel the weight. Be a parent. Love your kids. Show them they are the most important children in the church because, well, they’re your kids. It does’t mean they get the best parts of the kids play at Christmas nor does it mean people have to salute them when they walk by. It just means, in your life, they are highly valued and prized.
Please hear my heart: If guilt is what you are experiencing, then recognize it as a tool of the Enemy to anchor you to past regrets. He uses guilt to keep us from moving forward so that we drown in our past. We are all products of grace. We are all learning as we go. None of us are experts as we all continue to learn.
To some, if your kids are outside the home now: call them often, send them messages, and love on them. If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there fond memories, recount them and celebrate. Continue to foster relationship. No matter what, you will always be a parent and they will always be your kids.
To others, if your kids are inside the home: make sure they know how valued they are. I say the same things to you. If there are wrongs, repent if there needs to be repentance. If there good memories being made, recount them and celebrate. But don’t stop fostering relationship.
I love being a parent and a pastor. I wish I did both better. But I think if we’ll humble ourselves and continue to grow, God will continue to help us lead in both of these very wonderful roles.
Thanks for letting me ramble…