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Observations of a PK

March 8, 2011

You were probably all hoping for hilarious stories and mishaps in this post, but this is more just my perspective on being a PK (preacher’s kid) and why I think that PKs sometimes turn out ‘bad.’  Granted kids can turn out ‘bad’ for a variety of reasons, regardless of their parent’s vocation. However, it always used to puzzle me when I would  hear of PKs that had left church and gone their own way. I’d always think Why? How could they do that when they of all people know what’s right? But…it happens and here are my thoughts about it. (Scenarios referenced here are not word-for-word accounts of things I have experienced, I might generalize some things, but they are all based on facts) And these are all my observations, and are no reflection on anyone else.

Growing up ‘in’ church is not at all the same as growing up as a PK. As a PK you are generally held to a much higher, often unattainable standard than others. Not so much that the standard is too high per se (although that can be the case at times), but more that it is often changing. And that makes it unattainable. You can’t please everyone all the time, but as a pastor’s kid, everyone expects you to achieve their level of perfection or Godliness. And everyone has a different standard as to what that might be. To some you might be too much of a goody-goody (He doesn’t do what? ) and to others your life might seem too “worldly” (She does what?) It can be really ridiculous things (just as it can be legitimate things). And as you get older and become more sensitive (understanding) to issues, it becomes much easier to handle. But as a teenager, things like this can be overwhelming and frustrating. When you are a teenager it’s all about fitting in, and while I think I have always had a fairly decent grasp on not giving in to peer pressure (it irks me to no end, which really helps) I can completely understand a PK having a hard time with this. I am so thankful that while there were kids in my youth group and school (who probably would have been considered “good kids” among the adults by the way) who were living a “Sunday only” Christianity, and who were definitely the instigators of the bad peer pressure, I had a great, close-knit group of good friends who were not like that. I thank God for the good group of friends I had, and still have. But for PKs who don’t have a good group of Godly friends, I can understand them struggling with this. Not being “good enough” to please mom and dad/nosy people in the church, and yet not being “bad enough” to be deemed cool by peers. Which group do you think they will lean towards to gain acceptance? Not too hard to figure out. For me I had seen enough of the end result of living the way some of them wanted to live. I was afraid of that outcome. Sometimes fear is a very good thing. And the seeing part of that often came from people who had been in the church. Which brings me to the second issue.

You see a lot of bad stuff. For me it mostly scared me into being “good” (there were other factors too that I’ll mention later). I don’t know about other pastor’s families, but in our house stories really weren’t mentioned. But you know. You might not know names or specific issues (believe me, I don’t want to know) but you hear, you find out. People talk.  (It’s funny because everyone expects you to know, but often you are the last to find out) You know when Dad’s staying late to counsel again. You know when for weeks on end it seems like he’s counseling a lot, you know something’s up. Especially when the phone keeps ringing at 2 AM and you are the only one who hears it and has to answer. You see how much work it is. How pastors and their wives are on call 24/7. You see them have to drop everything and go when something comes up. (I’m honestly amazed at PKs who go on to become pastors and pastor’s wives. I honestly know I couldn’t handle it, I know how much it entails. I don’t even have the emotional energy for it. I do know it’s a blessed and happy life, I’m not saying it’s not. You get so many rewards. But it’s also a huge responsibility and you are signing up for a lot.) But seeing how messed up people’s lives can become when they have walked away from God is, in my mind, a huge deterrent to sin. Seeing all the work it takes to try and piece back a broken marriage, a shattered relationship, a ruined life. I don’t understand why so many go down that road. So in a sense I am thankful for all I’ve seen. But along with the bad comes the people who talk bad about your family, your church, who slander and lie and gossip. And that hurts. I can see why PKs can become bitter. To watch as your family pours their life into the ministry and into others’ lives, and then to have them turn and stab you in the back. People who call themselves Christians, becoming tools of Satan. And it can cause you to question, why God? Why would you allow this when all my family is doing is trying to serve you? Seeing how bitter and angry and evil so called “Christians” can become. I can see PKs wanting to just get as far away from that as possible. Or just seeing how people can drift away from God and church, and you wonder if all that time that was invested in them was even worth it. Was it all just a waste?

The third point is closely related to the first two, and yet is slightly different. And that is that people just talk and judge all the time. Constantly. While it might not be peer pressure, or people who are bitter, people will constantly be judging your family. About everything. You live in a fish bowl. And you can never get away from that. Even when you are grown and gone, what you do is a reflection on your family, whether you like it or not. And that can cause a bit of frustration. Because you didn’t sign up for this job. It’s not your job. You are not the pastor. And yet you are held to all the same standards wherever you are. And anything you do reflects back on him. Talk about pressure. Knowing that if you mess up it will affect your father’s ministry. I guess in a sense that is a good pressure, but it can become overwhelming, especially as a teenager. You don’t even have the freedom to wreck your own life if you want. Others can, but you can’t. Because it’s not just your life that is at stake (I realize it never affects just one person, but in this sense there’s just more at stake). You have to be perfect. Or at least as close as possible. Because if you are just human, people won’t understand.

A fourth reason I think that PKs leave the church is that they have been made all their lives to be an integral part of the ministry. Being a part of the ministry is a good thing. But I think if one is forced to sing in the choir, and teach every class, and be at every single event, it could cause resentment of the ministry after a while. I am thankful that my parents never forced us to teach classes or work in the nursery or sing in the choir (okay, my mom made me sing in the choir in 9th grade. But she just wanted me to try it and if I didn’t like it after that year, I could quit. I did like it, but I still quit. =) ) They encouraged us and of course we did all those things. But they weren’t dragging us there. Talk about inducing resentment. If it’s not enough that your family is the one staying late every Sunday and Wednesday night, and having to try and be perfect, throw in mandatory ministry commitments, that should do it!

The fifth thing goes along with the fourth and that would be families that are way out of balance as far as family/ministry goes. I think this is probably one of the biggest reasons that PKs turn out bad. My dad has done a great job with balancing both, but I know there are lots of pastors who don’t. And I know I would have been resentful of the ministry if it had taken my dad from me all the time. Too busy with this event or that speaking engagement and never having time for their kids. I think some pastors are way out of balance and I am almost positive their children will grow up to resent church and the ministry over that.

The sixth and final thing is that they often are so programmed to do, do, do and be, be, be that they lose sight (or maybe never had sight) of Christ and our real purpose in life, which is to glorify God and please Him. It’s hard when you hear that “God looks on the heart” all the time, but so much of the “outside” is pushed. The outside is important. But not to the exclusion of the inside, which ultimately is the most important. Again, balance. But church members see the outside and as long as the outside looks good, they are generally happy. But as a PK people just expect you to be Godly. It’s as if it comes naturally or something. Like you are born with it. Or as if all we do at home every day is read the Bible. No laughing kids, fun is NOT allowed in this house. Go get your Bible. Honestly, I am not kidding people sometimes think you are closer to God. They think if you pray for their requests they will get answered because you aren’t as big a sinner. Seriously. And I wish they could understand that just growing up in church does not make you Godly. I have to work at my relationship with God, just the same as you. Granted there might be certain outside influences that have been eliminated in my upbringing, making a much more growth-conducive environment in which to flourish, but I still have to spend time with God, and cultivate that relationship. It does not come naturally. So please don’t think that PKs walk with God just because their families do. My walk with God is my choice and this is the life I want to live. But everyone has to make that choice. Just being a PK doesn’t ensure anything. It’s too bad that more people aren’t genuinely concerned about the inside. Because loving God makes the outside so much easier. Wanting to please someone because you love them is much different and much easier than not doing something because someone handed you a list of rules and according to the list it’s forbidden.

So after mulling over those thoughts throughout several years of my life, I am no longer amazed when I hear about PKs who’ve “gone bad’ so to speak. I feel sad for them and I partly understand. There are probably many factors, perhaps a few from this list, that have contributed.

But lest that all sound negative, it really is a blessed and happy life. I can honestly look at my life and know that serving God is the happiest place to be. I’ve seen God bless my family in amazing ways and I feel privileged to be where I am. I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness in my life. My heart goes out to other PKs who struggle though, because I do understand. For a while I didn’t. And then I took a step back and another look, and it all made sense.

So hopefully that tiny glimpse into the PK world gave some insight. I am sure there is more that could be added to this topic, but those are the main impressions I’ve picked up over the years. And if you take just one thing from this, cut us PKs some slack, will ya?  We’re only human, just like you;)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 8:05 am

    Really insightful! And balanced! Thanks for sharing!

    • Aleassa permalink
      March 8, 2011 8:06 am

      umm, I don’t know why that just said “Me” but “Me” would be Aleassa. lol

      • jenmarie33 permalink*
        March 8, 2011 11:36 pm

        lol =) Thanks!

  2. March 8, 2011 9:20 am

    As you know already, 🙂 I think this is a really great, insightful, and well-thought out post.

  3. March 8, 2011 9:27 pm

    Thank you for this.

    There’s got to be a study somewhere comparing the rate of “church drop-outs” of PKs with “regular” kids. Haven’t found it yet, though. If you do, please let me know. I think a big reason Christian teens in general walk away from their faith is because their parents’ faith was shamefully hypocritical. Sad to say, but that’s got to be a huge factor with PKs, as well. It’s easy to fake it when the kids are young. Teens are just too smart. They can spot hypocrisy a mile away.

    I actually remember thinking that it was funny that you were in the choir. It just didn’t seem like a Jenny type of thing to do. Now you’re back re-living your glory days with the special Fellowship Meeting choir! Try not to over-shadow Bro. Darden!

    • jenmarie33 permalink*
      March 8, 2011 11:35 pm

      Yeah I actually thought about the hypocrisy thing after I had finished writing it, and was going to go back and add it. Just forgot. So yeah, that too. I know that’s got to be a huge factor among regular churchgoers, I wonder how often though it’s part of a pastor’s family…Would be interesting to know.
      Ha yeah choir’s not really my thing. It was either work in the kids’ class (which I was planning to do) or sing in the choir, and since the people I hang out with after church on Sunday nights were going to be in the choir and not hanging out, I figured I might as well just be there too then. lol. Such a great motive. =)

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