December 17, 2009

"Love Me; Love My Daddy" is the message of Christmas

Dear Friends, It's interesting that the most comments thus far on this blog have been regarding a post about children. It can be hard to understand how some parishioners can be so loving toward our kids and, at the same time, be so negative towards our spouse. But it occurred to me that the same was true about Jesus. As we know, Jesus referred to God as "Abba," the Aramaic word for "Daddy." As a itinerant preacher, Jesus' messages were never meant to point to how great he was, but they were designed to show us how loving God is. His message really was, "Love me; Love my Daddy." The Good News is that when we see Jesus, we also see God.

Now, I realize there are big differences here. But sometimes our kids really don't see it that way. Sometimes they feel the burden of being the preacher's kid. Being a preacher's kid can be a "heavy gift."

Here is an example. When one of my daughters was in elementary school, another little girl offered this hurtful jibe and said in a mocking tone, "You're not supposed to say that because you're dad's a preacher." In the conversation at home following this incident my daughter told me that this kid's father was an accountant, so I asked her. "Is this child good in math?" To which my daughter said "No." "She should be, because isn't her father an accountant?" My daughter laughed. What followed was a long discussion of how So-and-so's parent was this, and that didn't mean anything about who the kid was or what the kid did. She had a lot of friends, so this went on for a good while. But the upshot was, that she only had to be herself. She was not an extension of her parents.

Statistics show that many preachers' kids never darken the door of a church once they grow up. I'm not sure whether is because they've seen too much or too little. Maybe both.

How have your kids coped with being preacher's kids? What ways have you found to help them learn to be themselves even in church? How do you encourage their unique expressions of faith and witness?

It's all about grace.


Kathy is an editor at a religious publisher.


  1. Hi Kathy,
    I've been a pastor's spouse for almost 49 years. We have two Children. Our son had a physical altercation the first day of school almost every year. We prayed for him continually. We had broken hearts several times. But he was baically a really good boy and has grown into a wonderful son, a good husband and dad. He has been married for 23 years and has 2 sons. He stopped going to church for some years, but is now back in church and very active and his faith is amazing to see grow. Our daughter was,in spirit at least, rebellious from day one. She attends church when she and her unchurched family come to visit. Yet she is open and will to talk about her faith openly. She is in the questioning stage about what she believes. Her husband refuses to go to church. (however, he also attends church when he comes here.) The children 8,10,11 are all antichurch, of course. They both told me that in school that they wanted to prove that they could be as bad as the next person. That was because of expectations because they were the children of the pastor. They heard in S.S. "you should know the answer to this, your the pastor's child" and were made to feel guilty if they didn't. My children are much older than yours, but the problems are still there, especially with our daughter. She still resents the time the church demanded from her father and his frequent absences. However, he never missed a school event, or special happening in her life, and was home for supper every night. He would then leave for a meeting, I admit, and she always felt, so some reason that church took presidence over family. I think that at 43, she still has some of those feelings. Our son has come to terms with his feelings and understands that, "When it really counted, Dad was there." "He's my best friend"
    I think you are doing well. Keep up the good work. Make sure your children know that you are proud of who they are regardless of what others "seem" to expect. As long as they are true to themselves and what they believe in, they will grow up to be fine adults with a faith journey of their own. But,... be prepared for that to be something other than what you might think it should be.

  2. Many preacher's kids are part of the collateral damage created by unhealthy churches in their unhealthy treatment of pastors. One of the world's most well known athiest was the son of a UM pastor. It is a well know fact that extremely few daughters of pastors ever marry someone who is going into the ministry. I love what one pastor said he would tell his congregation about his children if someone complained. 'My kids are the way they are because they play with your kids." This is part of the little family secret which churches and denominations do not talk about. It is part of a larger issue which has a far more damaging impact upon churches than the PTL scandal in the 1970's and other nationally known scandles since.

  3. Hi Kathy,
    I really loved reading your post and it seems to me you handled it beautifully. You honored her feelings and that was most important.

    Here are my thoughts... My father, Rev. Franklin D. Therber, now 90 years old, was a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and all 8 of us children grew up knowing we were somehow "different". We were NOT allowed to watch or own a TV. But we read books, books, and more books.
    We all are still very avid readers.
    I have a TV now but have no interest in watching it! I'm reading!
    We played board games like Monopoly and card games like Authors.
    We learned how to win and how to lose and good sportsmanship either way. We used our imagination... playing doctors, teachers, bank tellers, fast food cooks, police, actors, etc.
    We were NOT allowed to buy or work on Sunday. We were required to take a nap between church services on Sunday. At 50+, we still honor the Sabbath above all other days of the week. Sundays were set aside for God, Family and Friends and big home-cooked meals. I believe because we had each other we may have been less concerned most of the time with the opinion of others.
    Back in the 70's, Glencliff High School had a Bible Club and me and my sisters were proud members. Cheerleaders and all the "cool" ones crowded into our unimpressive car to attend local revivals with us. We were also a part of the "WAY HOME" ministry (founded by Rev. Pat Dupree) on 17th Avenue during this time. Great memories.

    I think the key for us was Dad allowed us to decide where WE wanted to go to church. As teenagers, me and my sisters did not have to go to his church and listen to him and so we DIDN'T. Remember what it was like to be a teenager?
    Usually the last person you want to listen to is your Dad.
    About anything.
    By him allowing us to decide, he removed all resistance and rebellion about attending. We chose Radnor Baptist and became very active in their very active youth program.
    We were even (re) baptized there.
    Our hearts said we wanted to be.
    Isn't that most important?
    Dad and Mom came for the baptism.
    They were proud to see their 4 teenage daughters all getting "dunked" in the same night.
    No one but God knows what impact that decision made on the rest of our teenage years. I highly recommend it. If your teenager has friends in other churches and they want to go with them and their parents I would suggest letting them and giving them your support and blessing. After all, who wants their child(ren) to just have
    "HAND-ME-DOWN BELIEFS. There's nothing personal about that!

    I am writing this with much gratitude in my heart for the upbringing I had. My own road has been full of bumps and detours along life's way but God remains forever FAITHFUL TO HIS PROMISES.

  4. Well, I'm a preacher's kid and I can tell you, the only reason I darken a church door is because I married a minister. And it is because I have seen too much, both as a child and now as an adult. I get the kids dressed and play the smiling spouse, but I loathe church. Fortunately, my spouse is an associate at a large church and I can hide in the crowd most Sunday mornings. As long as I'm seen out in the public areas a couple of times, people don't know that I'm hiding out in my spouse's office most of the time. My greatest fear is that my spouse will get appointed to a smaller congregation and I can't hide anymore. Our children are young and haven't (too my knowledge) faced any of the pressures yet. They did not participate in the children's Christmas program this year and thankfully have not gotten any negative feedback from that (at least that I know about). My spouse has a habit of hiding those type of comments from me. Sigh. My children are developing their understanding of God and faith, and it hurts me, because I know the disappointment that lies ahead for them. Because I know that at some point, their belief will be crushed by the reality of the church. If God exists, I can't imagine that the church of today is what God dreamed for us.

  5. As a clergy spouse and step-mother (22) & mother of 2 children (17 and 13) I am intrigued by this dialogue.

    My children have always experienced great love from church family. As a 2-charge church family, they do understand their "expectations as PK's" is different than their friends and they have risen to the occasion. We are extremely careful to not place unreal expectations on our children and allow them certain privileges (they can skip church once in awhile to do something with friends or extended, they may sit with friends in church, they can do what/which ministry they choose).
    I constantly remind parishioners that my kids are just that: NORMAL teenage kids with the same problem every other teenager has - except with one exception....their father wears a collar!

    I truly believe that praying for my children and having other people pray for my children is the ONLY thing that I can do!!!! Too many of my clergy friends have children that do not go to church and I have many times thought that if they can't do it, how can I? Perhaps the values that my husband has instilled "when the doors are open we are there!", and "what do we do on Sunday morning? GO TO CHURCH! Wherever and whatever we may be doing!" and "One hour a week is not much for God to ask of you, especailly when he has allowed you to be alive and experience the rest of the week!".

    Dear Lord....Bless my children and ALL clergy children, not matter where they are in age or time, place or in their spiritual journey. Only you can change their hearts!
    These humble things I ask in your name.

  6. Wow, Faith. I'm glad you and your siblings had such a good experience as PKs. I resonate much more with the Anonymous that posted at 10:03. So, so much.

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