I’m a Pastor’s kid.
I’ve also been the Youth Pastor to the Senior Pastor’s kids.
It’s a weird situation.
I recently wrote about the Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor relationship. Off the back of this a mate of mine suggested I write more specifically about dealing with a dynamic many Youth Pastors face – You’re the Youth Pastor of the Senior Pastor’s kids.
On one hand you want to to lead the youth ministry in a way that you believe is appropriate. A way that is contextual to young people while also coming under the vision, mission and values of your church. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t be a problem.
But on the other hand, the Senior Pastor, the one you as Youth Pastor report to, has children in the youth ministry. And while they trust you and your leadership; they have an added desire to see their children come to faith under your ministry. This is not to say their children are any more important than another parent’s child, not at all. It just happens to be that your ‘direct manager’ is also a parent.
It becomes an interesting dance.
And so, it’s worth thinking through this particular topic from four perspectives.
First, the Senior Pastor perspective.
Their desire is for their children to come to know and follow Jesus. The Pastor, with their spouse, has sensed a call to the ministry. They have invested time, money, and energy into the local church. They continue to teach and counsel the members of the congregation. But, their children are special to them. They are their children! They love them, want the best for them, and over the years have been teaching them the ways of the Lord in the family context.
Like any other parent you deal with as a Youth Pastor the Senior Pastor and their spouse is no different. They have a strong desire in seeing their child come to faith in Jesus, raised well in the context of their local church, included in the church family in a way that is meaningful, and have them grow in faith.
Second, the local church perspective.
To the congregation, the children of the Senior Pastor reflect their Pastor. Depending on the context this could be a small thing or it could be quite a big thing. Either way, there is some form of reflection.
For some reason most churches believe they own the children of the Pastor and consider them one of their own. They have unsaid and unintentional expectations on how the Senior Pastor’s kids are to behave, what they should be doing, what they believe, and how much biblical knowledge they should have. Whether it is during a church service or while they’re at youth group, the church is watching them.
The church loves these children though. They give them extra servings at church lunches, a gift at Christmas, or something special for their birthday. This doesn’t come to every child in the congregation, some things are specifically for the Pastor’s kid.
In one’s most skeptical moments there is the thought that this special attention given to the Pastor’s children is solely because their parent is the key leader of the church. Most of the time this is out of love and care and concern. But, at other times this could be a way for certain members to get back at their Pastor, an attempt to bring some form of turmoil to the Pastor’s family or ministry. This is not to say that the small minority causing these issues are prevalent in every church. It’s something to be aware of.
There are expectations coming from the congregation regarding the Pastor and his family. They are often unsaid. But at the end of the day it will cause grief, not just as a parent, if the Pastor’s kid goes off the rails. It will cause the Pastor to wonder whether they are worthy of the position they are in, and this may even be voiced by some in the congregation.
Depending on what season of life the child is in will depend on how the church reacts to certain actions, beliefs and behaviours of said child. Considering we’re talking about those youth ministry years you can imagine the things going on here.
Third, the Youth Pastor perspective.
The Youth Pastor is in an interesting position. They are seeking to disciple the Senior Pastor’s children. They don’t believe they should be doing anything different for this child despite the parent being their boss. But, this is a fine balance, as they want the best for this kid, like all the others in the youth ministry.
The Youth Pastor is employed by the church and sits under the Senior Pastor. At times, whether in a Pastoral Team meeting or at a church event, the Senior Pastor will have two hats – that of parent and that of Pastor. To know which is on at which time could lead to confusion and misunderstanding if not careful.
It is also worth pointing out that the Youth Pastor may be lulled into unhealthy thinking; believing that if the Senior Pastor’s child is doing alright then they might have an ease of pressure from their superior.
At the end of the day it is worth having some clear guidelines about how to approach this. Some of the following suggestions might be helpful:
- Have a conversation with the Senior Pastor about dealing with their children. Just open up the conversation and see what comes of it. Often it is in having the conversation that a greater understanding of the issue can be seen. There needs to be awareness from both the Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor that this topic can be a minefield and lead to conflict.
- Suggest that the Senior Pastor isn’t the parent that brings parenting questions to the Youth Pastor. Have a clear guideline that means the spouse of the Senior Pastor raises issues or concerns to the Youth Pastor.
- Work out boundaries on how much or how little to share about the Pastor’s kid. Often Youth Pastors will know stuff about the child that the Senior Pastor won’t even know.
- Have an advocate from outside the church come and speak to the Senior Pastor on your behalf or with you. This could be a denominational leader or simply another Pastor who you trust will mediate fairly.
Fourth, the Pastor’s kid perspective.
It’s not often we end up thinking how things might look from the Pastor’s kid perspective. As a Youth Pastor we obviously want to be aware of their needs, and the challenges they are facing in any particular season. But, who really thinks about the perspective of the Pastor’s kid? Here’s a little of what they’re thinking while they traverse church life as they go through their teen years.
- They are aware that everyone in the church is looking at them; their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.
- They are aware that their parent is the key leader of the church and that his leadership is something God has ordained.
- They are aware that they didn’t ask for this role of Pastor’s kid. They had no say in it, it just is.
- They are aware that their coming to faith or turning from the faith has an impact on their family. Anything from parental disappointment to job loss.
- They are aware that the Youth Pastor doesn’t want to show them any more special treatment than they do to others. This means it might actually be harder for them to integrate or feel comfortable in the community.
- They are aware that the Youth Pastor is under the leadership of their parent and so can play this off if they were inclined to do so.
- They are aware that what they say about the Youth Pastor at home might have an impact on the Youth Pastor’s relationship with their parents.
- They are aware that they are expected to be at youth events and enjoy the youth ministry that their church has.
This can be a thorny issue for Youth Pastor’s. It is worth thinking about, at least at some level.
A terrific resource about Pastor’s kids is Barnabas Piper’s book ‘The Pastor’s Kid’. It would be useful for all Pastors and church members to read. If you’re a Youth Pastor and you haven’t thought too much about the Pastor’s kid then I’d encourage you to read this. I have written a review of the book here.