You won’t find a Wikipedia entry for “Author’s kid.” Or “Lawyer’s kid.” Nothing for “Salesman’s kid” either. But sure enough, there is an entry for “Preacher’s kid” (complete with its own special abbreviation—PK). What is so special about the children of the clergy that they get their own abbreviation, Wikipedia entry, reality show (Lifetime’s Preachers’ Daughters), and stereotypes ranging from the perfect angel to the rebellious teenager?
Honestly, I’m not sure where the stereotypes or the term originated from, but I think we all know why we have it: it’s never been easy for a spiritual leader to give his family the focus they deserve from him when there are so many others who are also looking to him for spiritual leadership; and it’s equally difficult for the child to live up to the unreasonable expectations placed on him or her as the ideal child/student/youth missionary/choir member/Bible study leader for others in the church to look to as an example. And all too often, the former leads to the pastor leaning more on his wife to take care of the home life, so he can give more attention to those paying his salary; and the latter results in children throwing in the towel, tired of pretending to be someone they’re not.
Hence, preacher’s kids—independent, rebellious, not very close to dad.
It’s time to start a new stereotype for preachers’ kids. But it’s really less a stereotype for your kids, and more of a stereotype for you their father.
If God has called you to be a husband and a father, then he has also called you to be a husband and a father . . . before being a pastor. Even if you began your job in the ministry first, your new roles in the family supersede those in the church. Start the stereotype in your church that pastors are family leaders first.
This will require hard-and-fast boundaries, specifically during the evenings and weekends. But these must be enforced. There will certainly be times when others will demand your attention during your pre-scheduled family time, but sticking to your guns will not just be saying no to your church members; it’ll mean saying yes to your family.
And your family will notice this. They may not say anything, but they’ll notice. And they’ll appreciate it. (And though they definitely won’t admit it, your church flock will appreciate it too eventually.)
It’s time to also start the stereotype that your kids have their own lives, their own interests, their own talents, and if singing in the children’s choir is not their thing, then they have the freedom to not be a part of it (just as all the other kids in the church hopefully have also). And though Jesus did tell us all to “go” into the world, and we all have a place as missionaries in this world, sometimes the spring break youth mission trip to Colombia is going to interfere with the baseball tournament. And that’s okay. Your son can live out the gospel on the baseball diamond too.
Let’s allow the Preacher’s Kid stereotypes to die out (and please, please, the reality shows too!) and be replaced with the new Family First stereotype for pastors, complete with their own abbreviation—PAP2 (Pastors Are People Too!).
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Need to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.