We all know the stereotypes of the pastor's kid—either strait-laced do-gooder, or rebel hellion bound for drugs, machine-gun sex, and perdition. But is the "prodigal pastor's kid" stereotype grounded in reality? Barna's done the math, and pastoral parents should take note:
Two out of every five pastors (40%) say their child, age 15 or older, went through a period where they significantly doubted their faith. One-fifth of pastors say this is "very" accurate of their children and another 22% say it is "somewhat" true. This is about the same rate as today's Millennials, about 38% of those with a Christian background say they have experienced a similar season of doubt. In other words, pastors' kids are pretty normal—about as likely as other kids raised in the Church to experience significant spiritual doubts.
Overall, one-third of pastors (33%) say their child is no longer actively involved in church. Yet when it comes to the rejection of Christian identity altogether, the occurrences are even less.
When pastors were asked if their children no longer consider themselves to be Christians, only 7% said this was "accurate" of their kids—that's less than one in 10. This compares to the nationwide prodigal rate of about 9% among Millennials.
So, the evidence seems to indicate that pastor's kids are slightly more "spiritually grounded" than their peers in the pew. But before you snap your parental suspenders, one last set of stats:
The survey results show pastors are not oblivious to this heightened scrutiny of their family. In fact, pastors (28%) name unrealistic expectations of their kids as the number one reason pastors' kids struggle in the development of their own faith. The second reason listed by pastors (18%) is exposure to the negative aspects of church.
But next, the reasons for stunted spiritual growth hits closer to home. Nearly two out of 10 (17%) pastors link their own preoccupation as too-busy parents with the frustrated faith of their children. And about one-sixth of pastors trace the prodigal tendencies of their children back to the lack of faith modeled consistently at home (14%).
Prodigal pastor's kid? A myth, by the numbers. But the importance of parental balance and strong home life? Not mythical at all.
Be sure to read the full report and accompanying infographic over at Barna.
Copyright © 2013 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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