Is A PK's Faith Inherited?

Written by Rachel

I came across an article recently exploring the faith journey of clergy children (PKs) in America, and whether their parent's work and vocation affected their faith. While it was
not  extensively explored, from my experience, faith is an incredibly personal journey and it often seems to be assumed that clergy children will take up the 'family trade' or inherit their parent's faith and even denominational beliefs. There seem to be many thoughts on this subject, so I decided to look around a bit more.. 

This is, understandably, a very personal and sometimes delicate subject for parents and
their children alike. Some clergy parents I've spoken to explain the confusion and hurt they experience when their children became less interested in the Christian faith and going
to church (some even describing it as 'going one off the rails' or 'deserting the faith'). On the other side, adult PKs I've spoken to or read about have strong convictions about their faith and identity, stating "I am not my father", or "Just because my parents are Christians, why should people automatically assume I am too?"

There are, of course, other experiences of faith, identity, and being part of a clergy family.
Clergy parents who have strong relationships with their children, who joyfully tell me their children are strong Christians, grounded in a solid faith, and even in ministry themselves (although this is often said with a hint of surprise!). I've 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 joyful and challenged sides seemed well represented across the internet and people
I've spoken to around Australia, but I was still left with a question:

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

It turns out this is becoming a topic of interest for researchers. Written papers are emerging looking at faith and PKs. Do they go into ministry? Do they leave the church permanently affected by the lifestyle of ministry? Do they stay 'in the faith'?

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, some research has found some interesting patterns. An excellent Christian psychologist in the US conducted a survey with about 500 PKs. Among other findings, she discovered that the closer and more connected PKs felt with both their parents, the more likely they were to state they were Christian (Carole Anderson, find her article here).

Far be it from me or any research to fully understand faith and how God works (that is a lifelong journey in itself!). But from what I've read so far it seems that being a PK 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, or turn away. PKs, like everyone else, need the opportunity to develop their own faith, in their own way, at their own time. They need 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 okay. One PK said she was very grateful for 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!).

Perhaps the wonderful benefit of being in a clergy family means that faith is part of everyday life and discussion. It can give you a unique perspective to explore God, ministry, the world, and your faith that others may not have.