Over the past 20 years as a seminary professor, I’ve worked with a lot of students who had a parent who was a minister, but who were at first certain they would never follow in those steps. When I’ve asked what their first objections were, here’s what I’ve most often heard in no particular order:
1. “People always watch you.” My students had experienced the “fish bowl” life; some, in fact, used a “magnifying glass” image rather than the fish bowl. Either way, they didn’t want to put their own families through the same experience of always being in the public eye.
2. “My parent was always too busy.” It’s been difficult for students who love their parents to express these feelings, but the feelings are nevertheless real. They didn’t like it when church work got in the way of family. In general, young leaders today verbalize such a strong commitment to family first that they don’t want to risk breaking that commitment.
3. “Some church people are just mean.” The kids themselves didn’t always experience the meanness, but they saw it when their parents experienced it—even when parents thought they were keeping it hidden.
4. “I don’t want vacations and meals to be interrupted.” When I’ve pushed, I’ve learned that such interruptions didn’t happen often, but they were memorable to the kids. They didn’t want to complain, but they also didn’t forget.
5. “Ministry is emotionally hard work.” It is hard, of course, but the point is that kids often recognized that truth. They saw how hard their parent worked. They saw the tears, sensed the frustrations and heard the honest complaints.
6. “We struggled financially too much.” It’s tough to watch when your friends have more than you do. It’s also difficult on the family when both parents are required to work simply to pay the bills. Ministry kids who lived that experience worry that their family will face the same struggles.