When A Minister’s Child Goes Bad


Kip Kinkel, a fifteen-year-old, killed his mother and father and then drove to the Thurston High School cafeteria near Portland, Oregon, where 1,500 students were gathered. Pointing his rifle into the crowd, he began spraying bullets at random. Twenty kids were shot, and two of them were fatally injured.

This story (with different details) has been repeated several times lately by other youth. In horror we search for answers to the
cause of such wanton violence by someone so young. We are immediately suspicious of bad parenting. We think, Surely it would take monster parents to raise a child like this!

The parents of these violent children have been thoroughly examined by the press, the public, and behavioral experts to determine if they have some social defect that would contribute to such bizarre behavior.

The young man in Portland is reported to have had good parents. Both were schoolteachers, were family oriented, and had made
commendable efforts to provide a good home life for their children. Realizing that their son was troubled, the father had sought
professional help and consulted with friends for advice. He had even taken a leave of absence from his job for one year in an attempt to teach his son in a home school program. It appears that the young man had deep emotional problems unrelated to his home life.

The concerned minister understands the importance of godly parenting. Obviously, the parents are the most influential individuals in a child’s life. In many cases, good parents produce good kids and bad parents produce bad kids. Nevertheless, there are exceptions! It is these exceptions we want to consider.

We realize that the human psyche in not simple. Our children are born into the world with a fallen nature and a prewired temperament. Hippocrates divided temperaments into four basic categories, yet the mixes are unlimited. Most experts have come to an agreement that a child’s psychological behavior is half genetic and half environmentally included. If we were to do a survey of mothers who have raised more than one child, they will confirm that even as infants, children can have radically different personalities. In addition to a genetically produced temperament from birth to adulthood, a child receives millions of stimuli from a multitude of sources. All of these sights, sounds, feelings, and experiences contribute to the complete development of his or her mental disposition.

Children nurtured in good Christian homes reach a stage in life where they must take personal possession of their faith. They may have been taught the Word of God by the best teachers and raised by godly parents who provided wonderful role models, yet they must take personal initiative to practice the Christian faith. God has given every human being a personal volition. God will not overrule that ability to choose right or wrong.

I know several minister parents who were wonderful examples to their children. They provided excellent Christian role models, kept them in Christian schools, took family vacations, had family prayer, sent their children to church camps, kept them in Sunday school, administered loving discipline, and provided wholesome home environments–yet for some reason their children choose not to serve God! This is a heart-breaking experience for minister parents. Not only do they suffer the anguish of knowing that their child is lost, but they must also bear the stigma of being a failure in the eyes of those they lead. On the other hand, I know of children who are living the Christian life who came from dysfunctional homes that included divorce, parental fighting, drinking, cheating, and a lack of godly training This may be a mystery to some people, yet it is a reality!

Ultimately each individual must decide what he will do with his life.

Points for Parents Who Have Good Christian Kids

If you have a child who practices good hygiene, is neat and orderly, has a daily devotion, never complains or talks back, is always
happy with your decisions, finds great pleasure in work, maintains honor roll grades, and always seeks to please, you should be extremely thankful. He is the only child like this in the world! By the providence of God, you have been chosen to be the parent!

Seriously, if you have been a successful parent, consider the following:

1. Rejoice in your blessing and consider it a gift from God. You are blessed beyond riches! However, do not assume that your job is
over. Our children are vulnerable Satan’s devices during their entire lives. Pray for them daily and continue to provide godly leadership.

2. Do not be quick to pass sweeping judgment upon parents who are struggling with rebellious children. They need prayer, not criticism! We need to remember that sometimes children will do well until they reach adulthood, marry, and have children of their own. Then suddenly they turn to the world and forsake the truth. Our criticism of others could come back to haunt us! It is a lifetime endeavor.

3. Do not be haughty, condescending, or self-righteous. Such an attitude leads to cold indifference toward others and bankrupts our supply of compassion for the hurting. You may deserve a lion’s share of the credit for raising good kids, but God ultimately should get the praise.

Points for Parents Who Have Rebellious Kids

1. Do not ever give up! You have a spiritual principle at work in your favor: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Some children are not convinced by instruction. They refuse to learn from teaching or observation. They must experience life and learn for themselves that the wages of sin is death.

2. Do not resent God or other parents. Sometimes a good minister parent will have rebellious kids and observe unfaithful saints produce good kids. This is a difficult experience. I have actually heard slothful parents justify their lack of consecration by using their good kids as proof of their spirituality. It feels as if what you have taught is thrown back in your face. We need to remember, however, that God will convict our children but He will not overpower their will. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

3. Do not stop praying We must pray for our children every day for a lifetime. If we do not pray for them, who will? Our prayers will live on even after we are gone. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

4. Look beyond today. Things will get better with God’s help. Children take longer to grow up these days. Time and a child’s maturity will make a world of difference. Many of our successful ministers were problem children.

5. Do not blame yourself. Feelings of defeat, guilt, and despair must be overcome. If we have done our best, the rest is in God’s hands. Many good men in the Bible had disappointing kids. If we could raise our kids again, we would still make mistakes. We are not perfect and never will be in this world. The choices our children make are not the ultimate measurement of our faithfulness to God.

6. Take a stand. We cannot give in to rebellious children and give up our Bible-based principles. This can be a complex problem and must be resolved in each unique situation. We must take a stand against sin even when it causes strained relationships with our children! They will respect us for it later. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18).

7. Pray for wisdom. Today’s world can produce some of the most thorny and complex situations. We must have divine wisdom to cope. We have a promise that God will help if we ask: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

8. Remember, you are not alone. Some ministers manage to keep their problems hidden from public view, while others cannot keep the lid on. Today’s world imposes many negative influences upon our children, and very few homes are problem free. Others are going through similar problems. Raising children in today’s society is an enormous challenge. As minister who raised a problem child, I have seen some desperate days. The diverse emotions are too many to enumerate. At times I felt broken into a million pieces, trapped, and hopeless. At other times I was completely baffled and didn’t know what to do! None of the wonderful solutions I had been taught over the years worked! I used tough love, had many long heart-to-heart talks, wept, pleaded,
threatened, practiced fairness, was loyal to my word, fasted, and prayed. Nothing worked! My child continued down a path of rebellion. My son is not in the church today. Nevertheless, my heart is filled with hope! After numerous mangled automobiles, midnight emergency room visits, drug rehabs, jail visits, and other stressful experiences, I am convinced that God has His hand of protection upon his life. I have the consolation that he was raised in a godly home. A day never passes that I don’t call his name in prayer. Many young evangelists visiting in our home reached out to him with love through those difficult years. I pastored a church filled with good people who forgave his infractions and loved him. He will never be able to dismiss such wonderful influences. I know he believes the truth and has a tender heart. One day he will give his heart to God! So will yours! Don’t give up!

Brother Erickson is the secretary in the General Sunday School Division.