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The Unique Challenges and Opportunities of Preacher’s Kids
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By Dave Gemmell

If raising children in today’s world wasn’t hard enough already, preachers and their spouses face unique challenges as their children grow up in the world of the pastoral family.  Preacher’s Kids (PKs) have expectations placed on them by their congregation that few other children have. Yet growing up as a PK also provides opportunities that are seldom available to other children. These challenges and opportunities affect PK’s well into adulthood. Fortunately resources are available for pastoral families that can assist them as they help their children navigate the turbulent waters of the parish.
           
Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, discovered some of the challenges as his team interviewed 20 adult PK’s. Because some pastors are so highly invested in their churches, kids can feel neglected by their parents. Sometimes PK’s rebel against the unrealistic behavioral expectations put on them by the congregation and their parents. At times parish quarrels leak into the home exposing children to complex conflicts that they are not equipped to deal with. PK’s sometimes have to deal with what they view as the hypocrisy of a preacher parent who acts one way in church and another way at home. Added to that is the confusion of roles, ‘is my dad my pastor or my parent?[i]

James Black, Youth Director for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has similar observations. “Through no choice of their own, your teens experience life as a preacher’s kid. They must wrestle with questions such as ‘what happens to me when we have to move to a new town?’ ‘why does everyone think I have to act different just ‘cause I’m a PK?’ ‘how can I develop my own relationship with God?’ and many more pressing questions.
           
On the other hand, growing up in the spotlight of the parish can provide an opportunity for the nurture of a future celebrity. Denzel Washington, Aretha Franklin, Arsenio Hall, The Jonas Bros, Katy Perry, Nat King Cole, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Condoleezza Rice, and Alice Cooper all grew up as PK’s.
           
The Ministerial Spouses Association of the Seventh-day Adventist Church under the direction of Donna Jackson continues to create resources for pastoral families that give them the tools to help them turn the challenges into opportunities, while avoiding the pitfalls of the parish. 
           
One of the first resources created by Jackson’s team was a two hour national TV special entitled Keeping it Real that focused on some of the unique challenges of the pastoral family.[ii] One segment featured an interview with Dr. Martin Weber who wrote his doctoral dissertation on some of the challenges faced by children of Seventh-day Adventist clergy. In his study he interviewed many adult PK’s who were no longer active in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. From his study he has developed some helpful advice for clergy parents on how to give their children the best chance of thriving in the pastoral home.[iii]

Jackson is about to complete the next landmark resource in which eleven experts in a variety of fields combine forces to create a comprehensive guide to ministerial families. The multi-media book will feature the topics of communication skills, marriages in crisis, forgiveness, parenting pastoral kids, dealing with depression and stress, and stewadship. Each article will contain video segments that draw the viewer into the subject. The resource should be available at no charge to all pastoral families by summer 2014 through the North American Division Spouses Association of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and will be released as a tablet application.[iv]

James Black believes that it is helpful to gather PK’s together as a peer group to help them realize that they are not alone, and that other kids share similar journeys. He is planning the largest gathering ever of Seventh-day Adventist PK’s in North America. His goal is for every PK to attend the PK convention to be held June 28-July 1, 2015 in Austin Texas. In his invitation to parents he says “Through no choice of their own, your teens experience life as a preacher’s kid. The challenges and opportunities are unique. But now, perhaps as never before, they will have a chance to connect with hundreds of other pk’s as we teach them how to prosper in their unique setting.”

Preacher’s Kids, through no fault of their own, are thrust into an environment filled with complexity and paradox. Yet many PK’s not only survive but thrive in the parish. As more discoveries emerge in the study of this niche family setting, pastoral parents are becoming more equipped than ever to guide their PK children.
 
[i]http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/january/5-ways-to-teach-your-children-to-hate-ministry.html
[ii] http://vimeo.com/31935782
[iii]http://vimeo.com/31599432
[iv] http://www.nadministerial.org/article/10/ministerial-spouses-association
[v] https://vimeo.com/88020244