Being a Preacher’s (or Pastor’s) Kid (a PK) cannot have traumatised me too much, as I decided to become a preacher myself and with my wife chose to give birth and an upbringing to another four PKs.
Fellow PK Leslie Reid in a blog last year (see http://lesliereid.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-dad-is-minister) mentioned some of the very human things that happened to her because her father was a church pastor. A sample:
Friend: I can’t go stay at your house!
Leslie: Why not?
Friend: Because I sin every five minutes!
It’s pretty inevitable that a pastor or preacher’s kids are expected to be servile and sinless just as teacher’s kids are expected to be studious nerds. Every PK has experienced being scolded for doing something (whether innocent or blameworthy) which “you shouldn’t be doing because your dad is a minister!” I can remember being upset by this only once, when a rather inconsiderate church member tried this line on me when a teenager.
Perhaps some of my school mates gave me a wide berth because they saw me as not “one of them”. I’m not aware of that, really, and I think there were other reasons (such as migration, background, and interests) for my being a bit on the outer at school.
Statistics show that a disproportionate number of community leaders are preacher’s children. One of the most noteworthy Australian Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke, was brought up in a Congregational Church manse. His rejection of his parents’ apparently rather minimalist Christian faith and his somewhat larrikin lifestyle have not erased his background.
PKs are not spared adolescence, and some will break free of their nest with an extra-ordinary show of independence. Some but not all will eventually return to the ways of their father. Famous US evangelist Billy Graham’s son Franklin put his parents through some very trying years when he went through a season of scary experimentation, but he is now a well-known Christian leader himself. On the other hand, one of my siblings rejected Christian faith very early in the teenage years and has never returned to it.
Regardless of our life’s journey, there are many obvious benefits from being a PK. A pastor’s children are more likely to grow up in a home where Christian faith, commitment and values are not only espoused but practised in a heartfelt way. Yes, they live in glass houses, but that also means that those of their parents who will attract more than a few stones will get out – alas, all too often with collateral damage. Many of the children of the survivors will have a very deep love and respect for their parents which helps make embracing their faith and life choices more likely.
PKs also learn to live more simply and transparently than the average. While most people regard themselves as reasonably “good” it takes a Christian worker to be “good for (almost) nothing”. PKs are also more likely to be surrounded by books from an early age, to meet and work with a more diverse range of people, and to drink in attitudes and people-skills like respect, care, tolerance, sensitivity and service.
I also learnt from an early age to distinguish between my parents (who showed obvious love, integrity and commitment) and the different churches we were linked with (which showed widely differing degrees of these qualities. As a result, to paraphrase Jesus’ words, I try to keep my own eyes free of logs rather than wipe the Christian church because of its problems.
In my previous blog I wrote about just one of the ways in which my father’s work and life story were formative for me. I met interesting people and went to interesting places – far more than most other kids growing up in the 1950’s. Being a PK is something for which I am deeply grateful to God and to my parents; it has certainly been very beneficial for me and in my family’s experience.
What can you say about your background and shaping?