“…how similar the Christian life and ministry is no matter where you go in the world. We have the same basic needs; though different on many levels, yet so similar.”

Monday afternoon class at our collage here in rural Africa is a little different. We have a discussion class, when the teachers sit at the front and field questions from the students. The questions are not prearranged. It was a little awkward for the first week—all the questions seemed to be on the Revelation, Daniel or some aspect of eschatology. We soon put the kibosh on that. This week was much better; indeed it was profitable. 

Anyhow, one of the questions went like this: “Why do pastor’s kids go wild?” The first thing that came to my mind is how similar the Christian life and ministry is no matter where you go in the world. We have the same basic needs; though different on many levels, yet so similar.

So, to get to the question. As I listened to the other three men answering the question, I was more and more intrigued by the question and the answers that followed. The question raised a number of issues.

I came to realize that there are a few faulty assumptions on pastor’s kids. Many assume that pastor’s kids are special, that there is some prevenient grace attached to their birth, or that the privilege of a pastor’s home is more than the privilege of any other Christian home.

Both my wife and I have the advantage of seeing it from both sides—both pastor’s kids and now with our own family. I was a pastor in North America for ten years when we had our first children. I learned very quickly, and in a very unfortunate situation, not to allow the vaunted ideas of others to dictate or manipulate my parenting. There is, of course, the Biblical principle of having a conscience void of offense before God and man. But there is the equally important biblical idea of living before God as my final authority.  

Getting back to the question. I’m not sure pastor’s kids do go wild any more than others. This is perhaps an area of study for Gallup or Barna. But I would suggest that because pastors are more public and visible it only appears that their children “go wild” more than others. Every child needs to forge his/her own identity. This is true of the pastor’s children as well as any other family.

But let’s assume the questioner is correct. Let’s assume that pastor’s kids do “go wild.”

A number of possible reasons for this came up in the discussion among the other pastors. First. The pastor is a special target of the devil. Any servant of God or layperson,  whose heart is set on the advance of the kingdom, is going to be a target of Satan. Second, pastors can be too conscious of what others think, the expectations are high, and the criticisms can be prolific. Some are critical of the pastor for being too hard or disciplinarian. Others criticize him for not disciplining enough. He is caught between a rock and a hard place and if he is not master in command of his own home, he will be overly strict or too easygoing.

Third, pastors can be too busy. Some pastors are so busy in the ministry, and with all the good intent and spiritual benefit to others, their family suffers. This is not just speaking about physical absence from the family. The emotional toll of pastoral work can be intense. He bears the burdens of many in his congregation. Balance can be hard to find in all these areas and takes much grace, and he needs the prayers and support of his people.

Fourth, let’s not forget, that it is during the teenage years that rebellion appears most often, and it is that which constricts which is generally the catalyst. Some pastor’s kids feel the constriction of living in a glass house. Others might not notice it at all.

Maybe the “wild kid” is just not saved or struggling with his identity, or with his faith. Could it be that simple?