MANILA, PHILIPPINES. Since this week is the official launch of my new book, My First, Second, and Third Attempts at Parenting, I will attempt to post some parenting blogs the next few weeks. Following is an updated and edited blog based on an article I originally wrote about thirteen years ago for Evangelical Today magazine.
“Why are you misbehaving in my class? You should not act like this since your father is a pastor.”
Comments like this, from the mouths of frustrated teachers, are quite common at Christian schools. But, why is it so common for pastor’s kids to misbehave? Could the attitude communicated in the above quote be part of the problem?
Years ago, before he was a Christian, one of our Victory pastors attended a conservative Christian college in the States. Even though he was not the son of a preacher, he hung out with a group of notoriously wild and worldly preacher’s kids. They accepted him in their group because he was constantly skipping chapel and violating the school’s curfew, dress code, and alcohol ban. He acted like a pastor’s kid, even though he was not.
Why do so many preacher’s kids rebel against the God of their fathers? Why do so many preacher’s kids resent the ministry? Why do so many discredit the ministry of their parents?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some questions, opinions, and observations that may shed some light on the problem with preacher’s kids.
1. Are we supposed to raise pastor’s kids or Christian kids? It is possible to be a good preacher’s kid and not be a Christian at all. There are many who learn to jump through religious hoops and spout off religiously correct statements, but who do not know Jesus from Buddha. My ultimate goal as a parent was not to keep my three sons from embarrassing their mother and me. Rather, my goal was to raise kids who know, love, and honor God. Deborah and I never told our kids to act a certain way because their dad was a pastor/missionary. We tried to teach our kids that obedience is not about who we are, but who they are. We always told them, “You should obey, not because we are in the ministry, but because you are Christians, not because we love Jesus, but because you love Him.” We wanted them to live right because of their relationship with God, not because they happen to be related to a pastor. We wanted our sons to be wholehearted followers of Jesus, not good preacher’s kids.
2. Does God have two standards of behavior? When church members expect superior behavior from the pastor’s kids, when school teachers hold pastor’s kids to a higher standard than other kids, when pastors have unbiblical expectations for their kids, the implication of all this is that God has two sets of behavioral standards, one for preacher’s kids and another for everyone else. God does not have a double standard! His rules are for everyone, whether their dad is a preacher or a plumber. I’m not saying we should tolerate rebellion or indifference from pastor’s kids. Exactly the opposite. If preacher’s kids or “regular” church kids are indifferent about their relationship with God, something is wrong. But we should expect all our kids, not just the preacher’s kids, to passionately pursue God and His purpose.
3. Must preachers choose between family and ministry? Over the years, I have upset some people in my congregation, even run some off, by telling them that they are number four on my priority list. First is my relationship with God. Second is my relationship with my wife. Third is my relationship with my three sons. Fourth is my ministry (career), or my relationship with my congregation. My wife and my kids are the most important people in the congregation. They know it and everyone else in my church knows it. That’s the way it is. No apologies. If I do not take care of my own family, I am worse than an unbeliever and unqualified to be a pastor (1 Tim. 3:4,5). I refuse to sacrifice my family on the altars of modern ministry success. My family is the foundation and validation of my ministry. One reason we see so many problems with preacher’s kids is that preachers’ priorities are often out of order. Pastor Dad has time for everyone in the congregation, except his own wife and kids. The family gets leftover time. When pastors mistakenly think they must choose between ministry and family, the usually end up saving the world and losing their family.
No one will raise perfect kids. No one. Everyone will look back and wish they could do certain parts of parenting over. That’s just reality. Hopefully we will get most of the big things right. Look at Noah. He had some huge blunders as a father. But he got the main things right. His ministry (ark building) saved his family.
By faith Noah, when warned about the things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. (Hebrews 11:7)
By saving his family, Noah saved the world. Noah’s obedience to God’s call on his life brought salvation, not destruction to his family. This is the way it should be. If we obey God like Noah did, our obedience (aka our ministry) will save our family.