The Not-So-Perfect Pastors' Family
It's tough being a pastor's kid. I should know. I married a pastor's kid, and we now have four pastor's kids of our own. Nearly everyone assumes pastor's kids are either rule-following goody two-shoes or rebels, ready to run counter to their parents' beliefs. It's not just members of our church who look to them as pastor's kids—their "PK" identity extends to everyone they interact with, from their math teachers to baseball coaches.
Living under the shadow of these pressures and preconceptions can be incredibly discouraging, but there's a flip side to being a ministry kid that more than makes up for the tough stuff. Pastor's kids have an incredible opportunity; they get a front row seat to see God at work... if we let them.
Too often, though, we don't let them. One of the biggest mistakes my husband Kerry and I made when our oldest sons Ryan and Josh were growing up was our reluctance to share our struggles with them. A lot of parents know this feeling. We've seen the statistics, and the outlook for Christian kids doesn't seem good. Barna Research found that more than half of churchgoing teenagers will leave the church as young adults—some temporarily, some permanently.
I can remember Kerry and I being overwhelmed at times with situations at church when the kids were younger but somehow managing to pull it together and hide our frustration. It wasn't that we wanted Josh and Ryan to think we were perfect. We just assumed that the boys would interpret our struggles as a by-product of being in the ministry rather than a by-product of being human. We gave them far too little credit.
By keeping silent about our struggles we inadvertently taught Ryan and Josh to mask their own hurts and insecurities. They were outwardly doing the whole "good Christian kid" thing, but they were dying on the inside. Instead of experiencing life in all its fullness as they'd been promised, by their late teenage years our boys felt empty. In college they looked in the usual places for ways to fill their emptiness, but nothing worked. Bravely admitting to God, and then to us, that they felt they were living a secondhand faith, they decided that if you don't believe in God because of your own convictions there is no point in pretending that you believe at all.
Now 23 and 24 years old, Ryan and Josh have written Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own to share their story. It's a brutally honest account of their faith journey. Ryan and Josh realized that the first step in owning their faith was to be set free from religion and embrace their personal relationship with Christ. They write, "One of the most liberating and powerful statements of all time comes from the lips of Jesus: 'You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free' (John 8:32). The only way we've been able to experience freedom is by making the choice to get completely gut-level honest with God and others." Through honest conversations with Kerry and I, their friends, and most of all God, they ultimately came to embrace a faith that was their very own.