The rebellious, bitter child cliché exists for pastor and missionary kids (PKs and MKs) for a reason. In reflecting on the lives of many PKs he had known through the years, Billy Graham said, “PKs often have difficult, if not disastrous, periods in their lives. Maybe people expect too much of them because of their parentage. Or maybe they themselves expect too much, making unreasonably high demands on themselves in order to live up to others’ expectations.”
I would like to add one more reason through my experience that PKs struggle in life. In talks I have had with several PKs and MKs throughout the years, this rebellion towards parents and disenchantment with the church comes from suffering subtle broken promise after subtle broken promise from their parents.
A pastor promises his son that he will be at that ball game, but he had to study longer. A pastor promises to be home for dinner at a certain time, but never arrives on time. A pastor assures his daughter he will read with her on a certain night, but that phone call took longer than expected. PKs and MKs experience unique pressures just as the pastor and his wife, but the pattern of broken promises chips away at the credibility of that pastor in their eyes.
A bitter child is ultimately the result of a sinful heart that needs Christ. Pastors, pray for the souls of your children. Regeneration is the only remedy ultimately to prevent our children’s growing bitterness towards us and the church. Having said that, we should not ignore that this bitterness could be evidence of neglect that should be identified and addressed. Broken any promises to your kids lately? Did you blame the church? Honestly identify the neglect, then strive by God’s grace to do what you say you will do.