Many Faith Today readers attend a church, know a pastor, are a pastor or come from a family that includes a clergy person. When this blog was submitted to us by a reader, we thought it might be fun to see if it resonates with you or your experience…
by Michael Fleming
“What are the advantages of being a pastor’s kid?” I ask. “There are none,” he says. That is the response when I ask my friend, pastor of my faith community, and father of two grown children.
I decide to ask another pastor, a retired Pentecostal minister with four adult children. I am particularly curious about his thoughts for a very personal reason: I am married to his youngest daughter. My father-in-law avoids the question. He directs the question to his wife. Perhaps the question makes him uncomfortable. Perhaps he, like my friend, doesn’t think there are any upsides to being a pastor’s kid (PK), but unlike my friend, my father-in-law is afraid to admit it.
My wife Beth, in contrast, often talks about the consequences of being a PK. “Growing up as a PK, I felt that the needs of the church were a priority over the needs of our family. There was also an intense pressure to do the right thing. As a PK, I felt like I couldn’t make any mistakes because it would be a poor reflection of my parents and the church.”
Studies verify my wife’s sentiments. Research by Barna Group finds that the number one reason why pastors think pastors’ children struggle with the development of their own faith is due to the unrealistic expectations others place on them. The research also finds 42 percent of pastors wish they had spent more time with their children.
My mother-in-law admits that being a PK is difficult, but she also sees how it can develop faith and resilience. “Beth was wonderful as a PK. She may have some scars, but she made us proud. We are so grateful that God has brought her through her life experiences with a confidence in Him that carries her through not only the good times, but the tough times.”
I met Beth years ago. She was a principled, generous, and compassionate woman. Yet there was another intangible feature about her that I could not describe at the time. It was this mysterious quality that pulled me in. Over time, I came to discover that it stemmed from her relationship with God, a relationship that I wanted to experience myself. I embarked on a spiritual journey that continues to this day. At times, Beth guides me in the right direction. At other times, she challenges my rigid thinking. At all times, she sees movement. She sees movement and growth and love in a direction that views the world and people differently. Falling in love with Beth helped me fall in love with God. And for that, I am forever grateful.
These qualities were nourished in Beth, not in spite of her upbringing, but because of it.
Michael Fleming is an educator and writer in Peterborough, ON.
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