Those Preachers’ Kids

Too many people hold pastor’s kids to a standard not even God holds them to.

Preachers’ kids have a special place in my heart. Not only am I a preacher’s kid, but I was raised by a preacher’s kid. Plus, Shelley and I raised three preacher’s kids of our own.

In this article, Matthew Winters outlines some of the realities of life in the pastor’s home that we’d all do well to remember.

— Karl Vaters

Recently, I overheard a discussion about preachers’ kids. It was the usual negative conversation about how horrible they are.

Because my kids have grown up in ministry, I’ll give you a glimpse of why preacher’s kids are often the way they are:

1. Many see them only as children to be critiqued rather than humans who need relationship

Pastor’s kids are often far from family. They see their grandparents and other family members on one of the two or three weeks per year that the church gives them for vacation.

They need the people in the church to view them as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than people they put on a pedestal and watch to see when they fall off.

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This next one is a spin-off of some statements in the last paragraph, but . . .

2. Many hold pastor’s kids to a standard not even God holds them to

If I hear someone say, “You’re supposed to do better because you’re a preacher’s kid,” I’m going to puke.

Not only are these standards higher than what the standard-bearers can live up to personally, they would never expect it of their own children.

Everyone is supposed to follow God’s commands. Not a single one of us is allowed to live like hell because we are not a preacher’s kid.

Holiness is both a position and a practice God expects from all His children.

3. Pastor’s kids often know too much about church business

I always tried to keep my kids from knowing church business, but you can’t help when your children are perceptive.

My oldest son has tremendous discernment. When he was nine I went to pastor my first church. If he was cold toward any church member, I could take it to the bank that the individual would be a problem. My son was right 10 out of 10 times.

For years, he was deeply hurt by things he heard church members say about me. I did not know it until eighteen months after we left the church.

A word to the wise: If you’re going to have “roast preacher” after church, please don’t do it within hearing distance of the pastor’s (or your) children. The harm is greater than you realize.

4. The pastor’s family may be expecting a facade from their children

I can’t tell you how many pastors’ kids are forced to do certain things because of expectations that may not even be present.

I have talked to pastors’ kids who were were passionate and gifted in one area of ministry, but were forced to serve in another area because the pastors’ family was trying to keep up appearances.

This develops a mentality of serving for public approval rather than doing things as unto the Lord.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, my final note about pastor’s kids is that . . .

5. They are often neglected by the pastor working 60+ hours per week

I have not always been the best at prioritizing my children, but sometimes I have to say “no” to certain church things.

If I have to choose between my child’s band concert or the church’s small group barbecue, I’ll pick the band concert.

Pastors’ kids (or anyone’s kids for that matter) will act out if they don’t feel loved at home. They may even give their bodies away for acceptance from another who only seeks to use the child for personal pleasure.

My Advice to Church Folks

I’m not trying to exalt pastors’ kids to a level above anyone else. These realities can apply to anyone’s kids, but I can only speak to these “occupational hazards” as they are something I have known as a parent for 20 years in church life.

While many churches I served were unrealistic in their expectations, I served some that gave me and my family the complete and total liberty to be ourselves, loving us quirks and all. They never excused sin, but they allowed us to have a personality.

If I were to give any advice to church folks, it would be this: Your pastor and family are your brothers and sisters in Christ. They are normal people who need Christian community just like you do, but are often the loneliest people because no one wants to talk to them except when there is a problem.

Invite your pastor and family to dinner. Call or send notes of encouragement. Minister to them just like they minister to you. I can assure you that the payoffs will be far greater than you can imagine.

This article first appeared at

(Photo by Wesley Nitsckie | Flickr)


  • Matthew Winters

    Matthew Winters is a Transitional Pastor/Worship Leader who resides in Seneca, South Carolina.

    He and his wife, Jennifer, have 8 children. Matthew’s greatest joy is to encourage people and help those in ministry know they are not alone. You can find more from Matthew on his blog at

    You can follow Matthew on X (Twitter).

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