Katy Perry and Why You Need to Give Your Christian Kid Choices

In light of Perry and the trauma she feels she has to overcome, I can’t help but wonder what we can be doing to encourage preacher’s kids to experience healthy development in the context of behind-the-scenes church life.

My own father is a preacher’s kid and although he still believes in God, is a little jaded when it comes to church. However, I didn’t pick up on that when I was a child. Looking back, he didn’t let his jadedness influence his kids. Our household was an open one; we were free to express opinions and encouraged to think for ourselves. And while I knew about my parents’ political convictions and moral guidelines by the time I was a teenager, they weren’t spoon fed to me as a kid. I had to gather them from the behaviors I witnessed in my parents. While my experience wasn’t perfect, my parents demonstrated their faith, and thereby instilled it in me, largely by example. They were the same people at home that they were in church. In the end, I chose faith. In fact, I decided I wanted to be a missionary by the time I had completed my education at a very secular, somewhat hostile-to-Christianity college.

I feel there are a few key principles (whether they realized it or not) my parents followed, that I’ve tried to articulate below:

Give your preacher’s kid a choice whenever possible

More often than not, PKs end up spending more time at church than anyone would willingly volunteer for. Whenever there is the option, ask your kids if they’d like to come or participate. Respect their decision when they say no. Do what you can to help them have friends and life outside of church—just like the other children who attend your church. If they feel they have no choice but to build their social life around the church, they will feel coerced and constricted.

Make your parent-child relationship a priority

If there is one saving grace, one glimmer of hope, apparent in Perry’s story, it is that she still has a relationship with her parents. At the end of the day, just like any other kid, you might be the only lifeline your kid has back to God. You may be the only one praying for your kid. You may be the only one he or she can talk to about issues of faith. Do your kid a favor and choose him or her over the elder meeting, over the choir practice, etc. whenever possible. I understand this is not always possible, but sometimes when kids are in crisis, you dropping something super important to you or your job will communicate your highest priority.

Be honest with your preacher’s kid

If there’s one thing I’ve heard from disgruntled preacher’s kids, it’s that they couldn’t stand the hypocrisy they witnessed. Whether it was displayed by their parents or members of the congregation, it doesn’t matter. When inconsistently or lack of integrity goes unaddressed, kids are particularly hurt. They look to the adults in their lives to tell the truth and help them understand the world. When kids notice something their parents remain silent on, this makes them feel isolated or alone. To prevent this, be honest with your kids. Admit when you are wrong. Help your kids understand you are not perfect and neither are the members of your congregation, which is precisely why we all need Jesus to help us. Then, show them how you are asking Jesus to help you.

Don’t force doctrine on your preacher’s kid

Something that stands out pretty clearly in Perry’s story is the seemingly 180-degree shift she took on a lot of issues—politics in particular. Her current views suggest almost a knee-jerk reaction to her upbringing and the things that were forced upon her. Give your kids a chance to think for themselves. I realize this is a bit of a blanket statement, but here’s the condensed version: Don’t just hand your kid picketing signs and tell him or her where to stand. Sure, it’s appropriate to communicate your views on things like cultural traditions, music choices, or politics, but don’t assume your kid should follow without forming his or her own opinion on these subjects.

The thing that stands out to me the most in Perry’s story is the lack of choice in her upbringing. Whether this is an accurate description of her childhood or not, it’s clear from her comments she doesn’t feel like she had much of a choice. And here is the lesson for us, as church leaders raising kids: God gives us free will and the ability to choose—sometimes to our own detriment. Who are we as created beings to believe we know how to parent better than God does?

Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute says doubt is not the problem when it comes to kids leaving the faith. The problem is when the adults in their lives (or the church) doesn’t give the space or safety to express that doubt and thereby allow it to be worked out. I wonder if anyone addressed Perry’s concerns with misogyny and sexism in the church with her. If those issues had been adequately addressed, I wonder if things might have turned out differently for her.

To those of you with children, I encourage you to build strong relationships with them, based on God’s unconditional love for us. Don’t try to cover things up, in the hope of protecting your child from the shortcomings of yourself or the church. Please give your preacher’s kid choices whenever possible, and respect his or her God-given free will.


This article originally appeared at ChurchLeaders.com.

Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs is a content editor and passionate follower of Christ. Two things – she believes – that should be linked together more often. Her experience in ministry to youth and parents as well as the extensive amount of time she’s spent in ministry overseas gives her a unique perspective on the global church. Megan is passionate about spreading the gospel and equipping the church for holiness. When she’s not writing or proofreading, Megan likes to run.

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