Like it or not, the children of a pastor or evangelist become a commodity sold for the “benefit” of the church. Sadly, many pastors and evangelists are not even aware they are doing this. They think parading their children in front of the church is just the “family serving Jesus.”
Evangelicals love children. They love it when children preach, sing, or use some other “talent” for the Lord. Let Johnny or Sally stand in front of the church and sing a song or preach and they will be greeted with a chorus of Amens.
I suppose, at some level, this kind of activity is quite harmless. Children singing, mimicking what they see adults do, can be seen in most every culture. However, as children get older, particularly when they become teenagers, many of them don’t want to be front and center any more. They don’t want to use their “talents” for the Lord. They would rather be not seen and not heard.
Talk to those who were raised as preacher’s kids (PK) or the children of a traveling evangelist. From their earliest memories they remember their parents expecting them to be perfect children. After all, if a pastor can’t rule his own home, how can he rule the house of God? PK’s are expected to always be a shining example of what a well-behaved child looks like. They are never free to be like all the other kids. They must never do anything that would harm their Dad’s reputation in the church or the community.
PK’s are taught they must be obedient at all times. No matter what other children may or may not be allowed to do, the PK must explicitly follow the rules and demands of their pastor father. Failure to do so is rebellion against God and everyone knows that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. (I Samuel 15:23) God hates rebellious children and pastor Father, for the sake of his standing in the church and the community must crush the child’s rebellion.
PK’s rarely are allowed to have their own space. They are not allowed to make mistakes or just be like most every other kid in the church or school. Their lives are always parsed through the “how will this reflect on Dad’s ministry” filter.
Pastor’s kids often are paraded before the church in singing groups, plays, and any other special activity the church deems essential to the proper training of the church’s children. When PK’s are young they don’t seem to mind these kinds of things but as they age many of them begin to rebel over always being a part of the “dog and pony” show. They are rarely given the option of whether or not to participate. “What would people think if the PK’s weren’t in the VBS program or Christmas play?”
What is best for the PK’s is secondary to how things will look to church members. The most important thing is maintaining the fantasy that the pastor and his family are perfect.
It should come as no shock then that behind close doors the perfect family is not so perfect. This is especially true when PK’s reach teenage years and begin to develop their own personality and have their own wants and desires. All of a sudden Johnny or Sally don’t want to be made a spectacle. They don’t want to be a singing, talking puppet used for the amusement of the church congregation. They want freedom. They want to be able to choose their own path in life.
Result? Behind the scenes warfare between the pastor father and his children. The more they rebel the more they are told they are ruining their father’s ministry. PK’s are guilted with lines like, what would Jesus think of your behavior? Bible verses are quoted and demands are made. Lost in all of this is what is best for the child.
Personally, I am against most church activities, programs, and ministries that target children or teenagers. These church activities, programs, and ministries tend to manipulate and exploit children and teenagers. Children are encouraged to get “saved” at an early age and after getting “saved” they are constantly reminded that God expects them to obey their parents, their pastor, and any other adult that has authority over them.
I am not suggesting that children should not be taught to obey. However, when God is interjected into the mix it is far too easy for manipulation and exploitation to take place. Countless children and teenagers have been guilted into doing something by an adult threatening them with God’s judgment. The children, out of fear of God and their parents, do what is asked for them. This, in my opinion, is a recipe for dysfunction as an adult.
A lot of PK’s, evangelist’s kids, and deacon’s kids read this blog. I hope they will share their stories in the comments.