“Why are you misbehaving in my class? You should not act like this since your father is a pastor.”

Comments like this, from the mouths of frustrated teachers, are quite common at Christian schools. But, why is it so common for pastor’s kids to misbehave? Could the attitude communicated in the above quote be part of the problem?

Years ago, before he was a Christian, one of our Filipino pastors attended a conservative Christian college in the States. Even though he was not the son of a preacher, he hung out with a group of notoriously wild and worldly preacher’s kids. They accepted him in their group because he was constantly cutting chapel and violating the school’s curfew, dress code, and alcohol ban. He acted like a pastor’s kid, even though he was not.

Why do so many preacher’s kids rebel against the God of their fathers? Why do so many preacher’s kids resent the ministry? Why do so many discredit the ministry of their parents?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some questions, opinions, and observations that may shed some light on the problem with preacher’s kids.

1. Are We Supposed to Raise Preacher’s Kids or Christians? It is possible to be a good preacher’s kid and not be a Christian at all. There are many who learn to jump through religious hoops and spout off religiously correct statements, but who do not know God from Buddha. My ultimate goal as a parent is not to keep my kids from embarrassing their mother and I. Rather, my goal is to raise kids who know, love, and honor God.

My wife and I have never told our kids to act a certain way because their dad is a pastor/missionary. We try to teach our kids that obedience is not about who we are, but who they are. We tell them, “You should obey, not because we are in the ministry, but because you are Christians, not because we love Jesus, but because you love Him.” We want them to do right because of their relationship with God, not because they happen to be related to a pastor. We want our sons to be wholehearted followers of Jesus, not good preacher’s kids.

2. Does God Have Two Standards of Behavior? When church members expect superior behavior from the pastor’s kids, when school teachers hold pastor’s kids to a higher standard than other kids, when pastors have unbiblical expectations for their kids, the implication of all this is that God has two sets of behavioral standards. One for preacher’s kids and another for everyone else. God does not have a double standard. His rules are for everyone, whether their dad is a preacher or a plumber.

I am not saying we should tolerate rebellion or indifference from pastor’s kids. Exactly the opposite. If preacher’s kids or “regular” church kids are indifferent about their relationship with God, something is wrong. We should expect our kids, not just the preacher’s kids, to be passionately pursuing our Lord.

3. Must Preachers Choose Between Family and Ministry? I have upset some in my congregation, even run some off, by telling them that they are number four on my priority list. First is my relationship with God. Second is my relationship with my wife. Third is my relationship with my three sons. Fourth is my ministry (career), or my relationship with my congregation. My wife and my kids are the most important people in the congregation. They know it and everyone else in my church knows it. That’s the way it is. No apologies. If I do not take care of my own family, I am worse than an unbeliever and unqualified to be a pastor (1 Tim. 3:4,5). I refuse to sacrifice my family on the altars of modern ministry success. My family is the foundation and validation of my ministry.

One reason we see so many problems with preacher’s kids is that preachers’ priorities are often out of order. Pastor Dad has time for everyone in the congregation, except his own wife and kids. The family gets the leftover time. Modern ministers mistakenly think they must choose between ministry and family. Preachers are out saving the world and losing their family in the process.

It does not have to be like this. For example, look at Noah:

“By faith Noah, when warned about the things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah built an ark to save his family. In saving his family, he saved the world. Noah’s obedience to God’s call on his life brought salvation, not destruction, to his family. This is the way it should be.