Ministry: not ideal to raise a family?

As some of you are aware, my husband is a pastor. When thinking about starting a family, thoughts of the many challenges of being in the ministry + having children come to mind. Now, let me explain, I’m not saying that those in ministry shouldn’t have children. I’m also not concluding that we shouldn’t as a result of my husband’s profession. I’d just like to write out/process some of the observed challenges that being in full-time ministry and raising a family seems to present:

  1. It’s pretty much the only profession where there are spoken and unspoken expectations on the children. The only thing close to being similar re: spotlight is being a politician or celebrities child. Sorry, PK’s (pastor’s kid), you get all the spotlight with very little dough 🙂
  2.  Speaking of dough, while Pastor’s make more now than they did back when my Grandfather was in the ministry, there are few that receive good work benefits. As a result, the pastor’s spouse may be forced to work outside of the home for the salary & benefits.
  3. Children who grow up with a parent in the ministry rarely experience going to church together as a family. In our case, I would essentially operate as a single parent every Sunday morning.
  4. Pastor’s kids have no choice in the matter. While being a Pastor’s Wife isn’t always easy, I at least had some idea as to what I was getting into. In recent years, the number of PK’s who have left the church as adults as a result of hating the experience of their father being a pastor is scary and very sad.
  5. Most are aware that the Pastor’s work schedule is challenging. He or she works every weekend (forget last minute getaways with the family!). In addition to working regular office hours, the pastor often works evenings as well. And don’t forget holidays! 🙂

For the reasons above and others, raising a family in the ministry presents its unique set of challenges. Sadly, what I have found is that very few PK’s would choose to raise children in the ministry as a result of their experience. But times are changing. There’s a new emphasis in many denominations and churches regarding pastoral health which includes things like self-care and family time. Maybe raising a child while in full-time ministry is not ideal (keep in mind that life is rarely ideal). But maybe, just maybe,  it’s becoming more (& not less) ideal with the passing of every year.

As always, I welcome your comments! If you are a PK, or are raising a family in the ministry, it would be especially neat to hear from you. Whoever you are, it’s great to hear your thoughts whether you agree, disagree, or just have a thought to share.

10 thoughts on “Ministry: not ideal to raise a family?”

  1. Interesting topic, and I would agree with you that raising a family while also in ministry is a challenge. Just being married and having one of us in ministry was challenging. It’s tricky to navigate the waters of priorities and to create space and a set of boundaries so that your marriage/family doesn’t suffer. I would say it would be a challenge worth attempting if the church itself placed a high value on families and marriages (and the time that regularly needs to be dedicated to those relationships). However, if the church tends to set those things aside and pressures people to over-commit and over-schedule, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle the whole time while trying to raise children that don’t resent the church and Christianity in the end.

  2. Hey Rachel, I am exactly who you are looking for! As a former PK and now a Pastor’s wife, my husband and I are raising two children “in the ministry.” While you have many valid points, I’m not sure I fully share your opinions. I think that the church you attend plays a big role in how your children view church. For example, I help lead worship by singing and my husband plays guitar. That leaves both of our children alone during that part of the service. Our two year old sometimes acts as if he owns the place and likes to play and dance and sing on stage with us. We were nervous at first at how the congregation would respond to this, but they welcomed him and his two year old ways with loving, open arms. They comment about missing him when he isn’t up on stage with us. Older women fight over who gets to hold our 4 month old baby girl from week to week! Our children have many adopted grandparents who love and spoil our children as if they were they’re own.
    True, we have to live a frugal lifestyle, but it has taught us so much about relying on God to proved for all of our needs. So far, He has not let us down! I also really enjoy the fact that my husband has a flexible schedule. Yes, we very rarely get to have a weekend getaway, but he does take Mondays off. I can also know that he is available to help me out at the house during the middle of the week if I need him. The church we attend is very understanding, forgiving and supportive of us. They don’t expect him to keep strict office hours. Many times I load up the kids and go into the office with him for they day, if I don’t feel like being at home. It’s pretty awesome that I get to go to work with him like that. Not many other professions would allow that kind of freedom.
    Our children do not have a choice regarding what their father does for a living, but no child really does. There are many other professions that could take a father away from their children more than being a pastor. Working long shifts for example could have dad sleeping during the day, so he can work all night. I think that would be very difficult for both mom and the children.
    I know all about the expectations that are put on PKs. Fair or not, they are there. I try hard to let my kids be kids! But like I said before, our church family loves my children just they way they are. I don’t think that people expect any more from my children than any other children in our church.
    Raising children is the most rewarding thing! Totally worth the effort, in my humble opinion. “In the ministry” or not!

  3. Many of your concerns can be true or not depending on the parents. I became a PK when I was an adolescent. My parents at first were overwhelmed by the “we are looking at your kids” thing, and then decided to simply not care. They did what was best for us regardless of how it looked. The pressure some PKs feel comes from their own parents trying too hard to please others instead of focusing on God.

    “it may make more financial sense for the non-ministry spouse to continue working to keep the benefits + salary while the pastor stays home and raises the family.”
    – This assumes someone has to “stay home and raise the family.” Both of my parents worked. I feel that I was still raised well even though my Mom worked out of necessity when I was young. Also, there were seasons where my Dad was a stay-at-home parent. It is done.

    “The Pastor’s work schedule is not ideal for raising a family.” – It isn’t perfect, but no schedule is.
    I envy my brother’s (Pastor) schedule. Yes, he works office hours. He does miss dinner sometimes, and he works every Sunday morning. He takes Sabbath in the middle of the week, so he takes his family to places like the zoo when it isn’t packed and is able to be at all his children’s events now that they are starting school. I think every work schedule, traditional, split shift, nights… even my part time evening work, has its advantages and disadvantages.

    You can’t logic your way in or out of having children. It is a calling just like being a Pastor. God chooses. Seek the Lord. He will reveal what he has for you in this season of your life. God bless!

    1. Thanks Ashley – I had no idea that you are a PK. You raise some good points like when a pastor’s schedule can be a bonus! And it’s true, the 2nd point wouldn’t apply if both parents worked outside the home.

      1. My Father entered his calling when I was 13/14, my Mom entered her calling when I was 18, and my brother went to college and then seminary. He started serving under his call the same year as my Mom when I was 18. I used to go with him to his churches and sing special music… I was like a stand-in pastor’s wife because he wasn’t married yet. I have been a PK, a double PK, and a very involved PS (Pastor’s Sister). My brother and his wife have three kids they are blessed to raise… so I have seen this topic from many angles (just not the one you are coming from).

  4. It is definitely is not easy, especially when you have an overly extroverted (life is a party and there is no time to be quiet), emotional, and strong-willed child that seems to draw attention to everything they are doing. But our first ministry is to our family, not the church. So you have to have a thick skin and parent your child the way your child needs you to parent them, and not care what people in your church might be thinking. My husband was a PK and told God growing up that he would never be a pastor because he didn’t want to do that to his kids. But God had other plans and we try to make boundaries for our family and do things a little differently than he experienced as a kid. At the end of the day, my greatest desire in life is for my kids to know Jesus. With all the challenges of raising kids, it is still the greatest blessing of my life!

  5. Lisa, you couldn’t be more correct: family is the priority parishioner…whether or not the church likes/honours that reality is a different story altogether!!!

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