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Senior Pastor Perspective: Pastor’s Kids and Youth Group

 —  August 6, 2013 — 6 Comments

goodpastorskidLaura Ortberg Turner, daughter of John and Nancy Ortberg, has some great thoughts on what it means to be (but not really be) known as a “Pastor’s Kid.” One takeaway is the framework she felt her parents placed her and her siblings into. Turner writes:

“Had we not gotten freedom from our parents to be the people we were—to grow and learn for ourselves and even occasionally embarrass our parents, as good children do (a famed family incident at a church in Southern California that involves my then-5-year-old brother lying on his back, thrusting his pelvis to a children’s worship song called ‘Jumping Bean,’ comes to mind)—we would likely have ended up feeling like our only two possibilities in life were becoming the mantle-bearer or the rebel.”

I’ve spent a lot of energy making sure people know the first names of my family members aren’t “The Pastor’s wife” or “The Pastor’s kids.” So much of that can be overturned by a well-meaning youth leader who isn’t conscious about unconscious behavior.

Consider how we help or hinder this in youth group circles:

  • Do you unconsciously think it means more if a senior/staff pastor’s kids do/don’t attend the youth group?
  • When a “PK” acts up, are you quick to share about it with volunteers, in staff meetings or at home?
  • Are you eyeballing such students for the moment when they either declare their own calling to ministry or rebel like a pop star?
  • How often do you make sure we mention them as the “pastor’s kid” to new youth workers who jump in?

The list of negatives can go on, so let’s brainstorm some positives:

  • Let them be known for who they are versus who their parents are.
  • Allow them the chance to share their own stories and journey versus assuming things from illustrations shared from the pulpit.
  • Try not to put them in positions where they’re a secretary for you or one of their parents. (i.e. “Can you pass this key along to your dad?”)
  • Give them a safe ear to share their questions (or even disinterest) in spiritual things, even if it means moving your schedule around to meet with them in private.

(Maybe we should apply each of these to every other kid in the youth group, too.)

Got any more tips?

Share yours below.

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

6 responses to Senior Pastor Perspective: Pastor’s Kids and Youth Group

  1. Leneita Fix

    I also find for my own children they aren’t always seen as a “real part” of youth group. They see themselves though as much as a part of the group, and the ability to just be teens as all the rest.

  2. As a pastors kid who “survived”, neither becoming the mantle bearer nor the rebel, despite a strict parenting environment, here are my thoughts on what PK’s need.

    It’s extremely important to understand the emotions that swirl within the heart of a PK. There exists the longing to be accepted by peers, the feeling that everyone thinks you’re a goody two shoes, the guilt of wanting to break free from that mold, the shame of being a disappointment to your father, the anger of having to share your father with the entire church, the hurt of hearing church members criticize your father, the loneliness of not being able to speak to anyone about this, and the inability to process any of these feelings….because you’re only 10 yrs old.

    The life of a PK is tough. There are pressures from inside and pressures from the outside, and all you want to be is a normal kid, but you can’t. You’ve seen the ugly underbelly of the church…and you know more than you’re able to understand.

    What a PK needs is someone to actively come alongside him/her to help deal with these emotions. We’re not OK, despite the masks we wear. We don’t have it altogether, regardless of how much we lie to ourselves. We are sinking into the darkness and we need help. What people tend to forget is that we have to share our father’s heart, energy, and time with hundreds of other people. We’re resentful about that (though we hide it well) and we feel guilty of being resentful, so we lie to ourselves. PK’s need all the love and affection you can give them, because as a kid, they carry a silent burden that would crush most adults.

    Only by the grace of God did I survive, otherwise, I doubt I’d be here sharing this now. When I heard what happened to Pastor Rick Warren’s son, I understood it all too well for that was a path I’d contemplated many times.

    For a PK, there are typically 3 options to deal with the pressures.
    1. Rebel (most common)
    2. Carry the mantle (often includes putting on the mask of self-deception)
    3. Inward destruction

    The inward destruction shows no signs because we are masters of pretense. As a result, it’s the most dangerous.

    Hopefully this has been helpful to anyone reading.

    • Tony Myles

      Thanks for your comments, “Money.” First off – that’s such a cool name. :)

      I really appreciate you taking us into the heart of this. The emotions you describe are the ones I fear for my own kids, and I see each one of them my process differently. I was speaking with a local friend this week who happened to mention how hard things were for his son in terms of being a PK. The only catch was much of it didn’t come out and get discussed until years later. I wonder how often that’s a trend, too.

      It’s good to hear that it may be as simple as finding someone to journey with you. I think that’s probably true of pastor’s spouses, too. Sometimes you can find that in your own congregation, and other times you may need to add some friendships outside of it.

  3. Money,

    Enjoyed reading your response! I too am a pk and can relate to alot of what you said. I now serve on staff as a youth pastor under my dad’s ministry.

  4. As a youth leader, having a great relationship with the pastor lets me have a great relationship with the kids. I rarely make the distinction. Maybe that’s just me.

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