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How Forced Termination Affects the Pastor's Child

D. Ross Campbell, M.D.

When a pastor is forcibly terminated, a catastrophe has taken place.  Many people are hurt:  the pastor, the pastor's family, the people of the church, and, yes, the church itself.  And the pain and scars are usually permanent.

But the ones who are hurt the most are the pastor's children.  First they are suffering from what is happening to their father.  They see him in pain and confusion.  His grief and despair is directly reflected in them.  Those precious children feel their world and sense of security shattered.  They are overwhelmed with fear and anxiety.  They worry about their father, his future, and most of all, the relationship with them.  Will it be shattered too?

The pastor's children are also anxious about their mother.  They know the unbearable burden she is trying to carry.  They see her agony and worry that she may not be able to handle it.  Again, these hurting children fear for their mother and that their relationship with her will change.  This grief and disruption also causes the children to have much anger toward both parents, however irrational this may seem.   And this anger can cause continuing problems for them the rest of their lives.

Yes, the greatest problem for the pastor and his spouse regarding forced termination is this effect on their children.  Children are not resilient like some naively believe.  Young ones are strongly affected by any change or threat of change in the relationships with their parents - or any other part of their support system.

The threat to a child's basic sense of security and trust is a real danger to his or her future development.  This includes the child's relationship with Christ.  It is hard for the parents to prevent permanent scarring in the child's perceptions of Christ's love and care.  Their future as Bible-believing, Christ-loving Christians is in real jeopardy.  And of course this will be reflected in the child's attitude toward church.  There will be natural anger and rage toward those who have caused such pain to the child's father, mother and family.

There are so many instances of children later refusing to ever enter a church building after the experience of forced termination.   Their spiritual life is permanently crippled.

Fellow Christians, it is imperative that we realize the destructiveness of forced termination.  All who are involved are negatively affected.   Many are crushed.  Many are emotionally and spiritually maimed.  But the pastor's children are hurt most of all.

Ross Campbell is a member of the Board of Trustees of the MTM Foundation.   Prior to his recent retirement, he directed the Southeastern Counseling Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.  A noted lecturer and writer, his book How to Really Love Your Child has sold over one million copies.