PK for life! This time it’s personal
This is my story as a preacher’s kid growing up in a diversity of cultures and a variety of churches. I realize many preacher’s kids may have different and even opposite experiences. My testimony may appear a little negative—but don’t give up on me. This is a personal plea to fellow PKs—from one passionate pastor’s daughter. So keep reading. “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (James 5:11, NKJV).
The challenge with being a preacher’s kid (PK) is that you cannot be a normal Christian. To you, Christianity is more than a religion, a spiritual path, or a choice: it is Daddy or Mommy’s job— and the church is both a company and a family business.
You were born into this Christian-owned company that just happened to hire your parent, one that consumes much of your family’s living room, telephone line, holidays, and weekends. Since you are part of the family, you help.
Because my father is a preacher, he was rarely at home. Not because he did not love me—but because it appeared to me that the church did not love him enough to allow him to care for me the way I know he always wanted to—more than anything. Although he was everyone’s minister, that did not matter to me. He was, and is, my superhero—my daddy.
I watched church members latch on to him tightly and the church demand so much of him that by the time Daddy got around to me, he was burned out. While I understood it, at the same time I hated it. Who do church members think they are? Was my understanding of the problem wrong? Was I a bad girl? I just wanted Daddy. Was that so selfish? When he was home, he was the best playmate and funniest person ever. I could never get enough of him! I loved my daddy so much that I always wanted to be around him and could not understand why all these people had no respect for our relationship.
Well, PKs quickly put that out of their minds and learn, firsthand, how to cope to the best of their ability in order to be around pastor-parent at the same time. You participate. You lead services and activities that others don’t want to bother with. You welcome people into your home—no matter what. You get to the church early and leave late, and you learn to be secretive about any and all of your family’s faults—especially your own.
You try to avoid getting involved in any mischief no matter how innocent it is—because the adults in the congregation are watching you. In their minds, your perfect behavior is the measure of your preacher-parent’s suitability for ministry. Truly, though, you amaze yourself at your ability to play the part of the absolutely perfect Christian, even before you have even had the opportunity to consider whether you believe it or not. There are just too many faces of desperation, loss, tragedy, and grief at your door—so many crying and hurting people asking, “Why, why, why?”
You love the church members—but you begin to resent them at the same time because they literally drain all of the good stuff out of your pastor-parent. And by the time he or she gets home at the end of a day, you think to yourself, Compared to the tragedies of a whole community, my problems look so insignificant, and I don’t want to be selfish knowing that other people’s lives were being fixed all day long.
Then you watch so many of them come to Christ—eager and excited. But you, as a preacher’s kid, do not know how to do that. You have seen too much; know too much. Born with a backstage pass, you met Christianity at its worst. You never got to discover it, fall in love with it, and choose it on your own. While you got the meat and potatoes, they experienced the magic.
As the years pass you grow up and leave home and the shadow of the family business—and suddenly going to church becomes an identity crisis.
Now you have no idea what to do. While you know so much, it feels like so little.
Eventually, you get tired and depressed. Suddenly you think to your-self, Wait! I don’t have to do this! But then another thought strikes you: I don’t even have to go to church! Or even be a Christian—if I don’t want to! But you have no idea what the alternative might be. Another religion? Abandoning faith altogether? You have no clue what to do. Even worse, you have constantly been told that leaving Christianity would result in hell—something very real to PKs. So, you stay and feel trapped and lost—and fake? But no, not fake, because you know that you believe—and always have—very deeply in something.
Desperately, you search for support, but you have no one to share it with because your life is a secret. Perhaps you may even seek counseling, only to discover that they are ill-equipped to work with you. After all, we PKs are labeled as being bad with so many issues: angry with God; rebellious; on the edge of atheism, drug addiction, promiscuity; and worse. But the majority of PKs do not match this stereotype. As a matter of fact, we are scared to death of some of the kids of the congregation.
Perhaps you turn to the Bible, which barely mentions the children of divinely called leaders. Of those few stories, the one that stirs me the most is that of Abraham and Isaac. Everyone praises Abraham for his faith and his sacrifice—and everyone praises God for the grace and mercy of stopping the sacrifice—but as a PK, I want to cry out: What about Isaac? I understand that my pastor-parent was/is called by God, but don’t I matter? Am I expected to just crawl up on the altar and get my throat slit—seriously?
You realize that you are a part of a social minority: one that can never tell its secrets. For if you did, you would cause total despair in the church worldwide. And when you think of the enormity of the world’s suffering and how they need this hope so badly. . . suddenly your own needs seem so insignificant. So selfish.
You wonder whether perhaps your calling is to be lost . . . so that they can be found.
The problem with being a preacher’s kid is just that—a problem. Is it possible for me to work out what it was meant to be—something that will ultimately allow me to acknowledge my journey as a blessing in order to bless others and thus to boldly accept the burning torch from my pastor-parent to make sure the light of God never goes out?
Consider this: God chose me—us— out of millions of kids to assign us the parents we have—preachers—because God knew our parents could not make it without us. We are the select few who can handle the craziness of church life. He selected us, because He knew that we would one day take the torch of the gospel and run with it all the way to the kingdom. Our experiences have made us strong, tough, accepting, nonjudgmental, and, most of all, very loving.
God knows the plans He has for us. God chose me to personally witness the healing of my father from cancer. God chose me to watch my father maintain his Christian footing and continue to preach the word of God through the civil rights movement.
God chose me to watch the Holy Spirit use my father so that thousands of souls would be saved.
God chose me to have God-fearing parents who raised me the best they knew how, while introducing me to Christ.
God chose me to have the opportunity to experience the fellowship and the amazing food shared by so many loving brothers and sisters (minus the mystery casseroles, of course).
God chose me to have the love of my mother, an unforgettable woman of faith, strength, courage, and love.
God chose me—God chose us!
And, you know what? If I had the choice for my life to be different—I wouldn’t change a thing. I still want to be like my superhero pastor daddy. I want to preach like him, wear a robe like him, and shout in the pulpit like him. And, most importantly, to love and obey the Lord like him.
Yes, being a PK means going toe-to-toe with the devil. He knows the warriors he’s facing—and nobody fights a spiritual battle like a PK.
So, join me. Let’s shock the world by taking over heaven—because you know many in our congregations don’t expect to see us there—bless their hearts.
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