13 July 2015

Is A PKs Faith Inherited?

I've come to understand that this is a very important and sensitive subject for clergy parents and pastor's kids alike. Many clergy parents I've spoken to explain that the older their kids get, the less interested they are in the Christian faith and going to church (some even describing it as 'going one off the rails' or 'deserting the faith'). Understandably this must be distressing and difficult for clergy parents to hear. On the other side of the coin, PKs I've spoken to or read about have strong convictions about their faith, stating "I am not my father", or "Just because my parents are Christians, why should people automatically assume I am too?"
It sounded quite difficult from both sides, so I dug a bit deeper. I read about clergy parents who have strong relationships with their children, stating they are strong Christians, grounded in a solid faith, and even in ministry themselves (although this is often said with a hint of surprise!). I heard from PKs who proudly state they are still Christians, and grateful for the experience of being a PK telling me that it gave them a "well grounded start to life." Both sides seemed well represented but I was still left with a question:

Is the Christian faith automatically passed down to PKs because of their upbringing?

Turns out this is a big topic of interest for researchers. Written papers are emerging looking at faith and PKs. Do PKs go into ministry? Do they leave permanently, negatively affected by the lifestyle of ministry? Do they stay 'in the faith'? A group called Barna explores this topic and shared some helpful insights (read their article here).

While respecting and understanding that God calls His people to Himself (John 6:44, 65) and the importance of each person's individual faith journey, research continues to explore this question. A fabulous psychologist conducted a paper with over 600 PKs and concluded that the closer and more connected PKs were with both parents, the more likely they were to state they were Christian.

Far be it from me or any other research to say they fully understand faith and how God works; that is a lifelong journey in itself! But from what I've read so far there seems to be one overriding theme:

Being a Pastors' Kid doesn't determine whether you are a Christian or not.  

Nor does it mean that PKs will automatically follow in their parents' footsteps into ministry. Just like everyone else, clergy kids need the opportunity to develop their own faith, in their own way, in their own time.  

They need to be given the freedom to question their faith in a safe environment. To ask the hard questions and bounce ideas around knowing that challenging their faith is ok. One PK said she was very grateful her clergy parent's career and faith because she could ask him questions whenever she wanted (not to mention raid his library of Christian books!).

On reflection, perhaps being part of a clergy household gives you a unique perspective to explore your own faith from, to make your own decisions with the most insight possible. What do you think?

~ Rachel