Preacher’s Kids

famI am a “Preacher’s Kid,” otherwise known as a “PK.”  I must admit that I had never even heard of a “PK” until I went to college.  For me, growing up as a “Preacher’s Kid” wasn’t any different from growing up as a “Lawyer’s Kid,” or a “School Teacher’s Kid.” 

But as I got older, I learned from others that being a “Preacher’s Kid” was a bad thing.  I was supposed to be scarred from a heavy hand of discipline.  I was supposed to resent the church for being scrutinized throughout my childhood.  So I got to thinking, “Was I raised differently from other kids?  And you know what, I determined I was raised differently.  Here’s a list of some of my memories as a “Preacher’s Kid” that other kids probably don’t have.  I remember…

  • Folding church bulletins on TV trays every Saturday night (and fighting with my sister over who had to fold the most).
  • Being the last to leave the church building, turning out the lights, and locking up.
  • Staying up late at night, anxiously anticipating my Dad’s return after being away in a two-week or ten-day gospel meeting.
  • Going with my Dad as he conducted Bible studies with Jule Miller film strips and sometimes simply sitting around a table with open Bibles.
  • Waking up to Dad’s “get psyched up” music (as I called it) every Sunday morning.
  • Witnessing the evolution of sermon preparation (from chalkboards, to “sheet sermons,” to overhead projectors, and now to PowerPoint presentations).
  • Visiting scores of funeral homes and from a distance staring at bodies in caskets and imagining I could see them breathing.
  • I was the only four-year-old that I knew of who knew how to tie a double Windsor knot (okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration).
  • Transients being fed meals by my mother when they would come to our house asking for help.
  • My mom conducting a Bible class in our house for the kids in the neighborhood.
  • Listening to visiting gospel preachers swap amazing and humorous stories in our living room.
  • Having the best place in the neighborhood to play “Hide-n-Seek” – the church building 🙂

So yes, I do remember some things that made my childhood different from other kids.  But I wouldn’t change any of them if I could.

Today, I hear several angry and resentful young adults who said they were neglected because their father’s were preachers.  I would offer two observations on that.  1) If a child is neglected, it’s not a problem with a parent’s “occupation,” but rather a problem with a parent’s parenting skills. Don’t drag the honorable profession of preaching into this. Leave preaching out of it!  Parenting, not preaching is the problem in such cases.  I think we can all acknowledge that parenting is difficult whether you’re a preacher, a plumber, or a salesman.  Preacher’s, like everyone else, are human and sometimes make mistakes.  2)  I will also say that sometimes the resentment that some have toward their preaching fathers is because they stood in the way of their children making immoral choices, and those children have to blame someone for their unhappiness.

The fact that my sister and I have no such resentment must be an indication of the kind of parents we had. They successfully balanced their responsibilities to their family as well as to the church. I’m proud of my Mom and Dad and what they’ve accomplished together. I’ve never been ashamed of being a “preacher’s kid.” Do I have any regrets growing up a “preacher’s kid?” Maybe a handful, but they had nothing to do with being a “preacher’s kid.” Mostly, they involved my misbehavior and the little paddle my parents kept handy in the hall closet.

Mom, Dad, Thanks!

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Comments 8

  • Wow, I have to say I disagree with your premise. Yes, there are absolutely good things about growing up as a PK; but there’s a host of difficulties too. The way you phrase your disagreement with other PK’s who were unhappy with their situation basically says that they must have had bad parents or are just petulant about their desired “immoral” behavior.

    My parents were good Christian parents, and I accept that humanity plays a role in parenting. But there ARE things that come up in being a PK that doesn’t come up for other children that have little to do with the parents. For example, pressure to be the “example” for all the other kids, even ones that are older than you are. Pressure to not mess up because your dad might get fired if you’re bad (and no, my parents NEVER said that to me, it was just a fear that can happen when you move around a lot and don’t want to leave yet another set of friends). Being picked on more often and more terribly because you’re different from the other kids. I had a gun held to my head because I was the embodiment of the “PK,” (I was 11 or 12) so don’t tell me “profession has nothing to do with it.”

    As for neglecting children, there IS more of a pressure for the preacher to be absent from home to “do good” for others. Yes, this pressure is also felt in jobs such as police officers, doctors, etc. However, just because others feel it too, doesn’t mean you should minimize it as having nothing to do with the profession. Profession does have something to do with it; it is merely a balance that each minister (and his wife) must face for himself and his family BECAUSE OF his dedication to the Lord’s work.

    I am glad you had such a good experience as a PK, growing up; but I find this article extremely distasteful–oblivious and indifferent–to those of us who struggled but DO NOT consider themselves as being parented poorly. I love my parents. I am proud of the decisions they made for the Lord, but I would have had much fewer difficulties growing up if my dad were not a preacher. This is not to say it is a bad profession at all. After much difficulty, I myself have submitted to being a minister’s wife. So I have chosen a rougher road for my children. The Lord took care of me, He will take care of them; but I won’t ever pretend that being a preacher’s family is just like any other profession. Not ever.

  • Well said Steve, I think they did a great job!! You did not tell how your dad taught you to play tricks on others, but I am ever so thankful for my memories. Janet

  • Tricia,
    Thanks for taking time to respond to my post, but I must say that I think we missed each other.

    You stated… that I “phrased my disagreement with other PK’s who were unhappy with their situation basically saying that they must have had bad parents or were just petulant about their desired immoral behavior.”

    My reply…I must respectfully disagree and say, “No, I didn’t.” That’s what you read into my words. I shared two observations, two which you read into that I was saying that these are the only two possibilities. I didn’t say that, Tricia. I know it’s it’s easy to misunderstand each other through this means of communication.

    I think it was here that we missed each other. I don’t believe that being a preacher’s kid is any different from being the child of any other profession. Everything you offered as “pitfalls of being a preacher’s kid” are common to other professions as well. Nor do I believe that there is any more pressure for a preacher to neglect his family than a doctor or a plumber.

    I’m also glad that you chose to be a preacher’s wife. However rather than seeing it as choosing a “rougher road for your children,” I would say that you have chosen a more blessed road for yourself and your children.

    I wish God’s blessings to be upon you and your children, and want you to know that we have been praying for the health of your husband. Sounds like he’s making good improvement.

  • I just read the article and I think it is excellent. I was not a PK, but I’ve raised a PK and I agree with all the points you made.

  • I just now saw this. How refreshing to read! I pray my children may say something similiar.

  • Oh, Steve…Your fond memories are so similar to mine! However, the pitfalls of being a PK are not also part and parcel to being, say, a physician’s child. A doc’s livelihood does not depend on his wife’s spending the equivalent of a full-time job at office and hospital; his kids are not expected to have medical knowledge or spend almost all non-sleep/non-school time at office/hospital. I’ve never met a doc’s kid who feels an unhealthy need to please others and allow healthy boundaries with peers to be cross for fear that a patient might be displeased. Nor are said children treated negatively by not-nice people in the church because of feeling toward Dad. And absolutely none of my friends with physician fathers ever felt severe gastric distress at dinner on the second Tuesday of the month because the vestry would meet and whatever it was that we had absolutely no control over might result in our being homeless.I am not saying that my siblings and I weren’t given extraordinary gifts as a result of our upbringing and that it is the parents who are responsible for negotiating a world that they did not choose. Have you, as I have, discussed this topic with other PKs? I’ve had the pleasure of doing so with many from multiple denominations. The typical reaction is relief that someone else “gets it,” both in terms of the past and how it impacts the present. Some of us had parents who handled things better than others, but the issues are there (be they AG, UCC, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, even rabbi’s kids!!!!) and should not be minimized. Calling a PK’s upbringing a “blessed path”
    makes it more difficult for people who need to deal with their pain and anxiety because they feel, “How can I be so ungrateful/find fault with what is related to God’s work/etc. -almost a cruel form of emotional blackmail that the PK is so susceptible to by virtue of being a God-loving person to begin with. (I’ve had many non-PK friends who who freely acknowledge
    the drawbacks of growing up child-of-whatever, but not one seemed to feel that they should feel guilty about doing so.) God bless.

  • My Dad has been a Holiness preacher for most of my life. He began pastoring when I was 4 (51 now). I am the oldest of 4 boys. There is 8 years between my oldest brother, and 15 yrs and 16 years between my tow younger brothers and I. For one, I am not going to even go there about other PK’s. I can only attest to what I went through. The way I was raised in the 60’s and 70’s was different then the way my 3 brothers were raised in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. When I was coming up it was against our religion to have a TV in the house. Fairs, ballgames, movies…etc., out of the question. My dad apologized for being so strict on me once. I told him please do not ever apologize for raising me the way you did.
    My younger brothers all grew up with at TV in the house. They all played some organized sport. They all went to the fair, movies ballgames etc. I didn’t go to movies, fair, ballgames until I got my drivers license and started dating. Even then I felt I was “sneaking” around.
    Needless to say, I remember cleaning the church every Friday after school. Someone had to do it. We lived next door to the church and it was more feasible for me to walk a few feet to the church, then have some member of the church drive across town to do it. This went for mowing the church grounds too.
    When evangelist came to run revivals, they stayed at our house. Some of the best meals mama ever cooked were during revivals. I enjoyed them. You see, instead of playing sports like the other kids, my dad taught me to play the guitar, the bass, i learned to play the piano, the drums, the banjo, and the dobro. Not that my brothers are older, they can no longer rely on the sports, but I can always pick up one of the instruments and play as long as I want, whenever I want.
    I was taught right from wrong, I’ve read the bible through too many time to count, and will never ever regret the fact that I am a PK. God blessed me with two of the most loving parents a PK could ask for. Dad still pastoring, and Mom went to be with Jesus two weeks ago. All I can say, if someone regrets being a PK, it’s their own fault, not the parents. Reminds me a story Dad uses in his message every once in a while. A grandpa had taken his grandson to church one Sunday. When the offering plate came around, the grandpa put a dollar bill in. Well, during the sermon, the preacher got to stepping on the grandpa’s toes. The grandpa got mad, grabbed the littl boy up and went to leave. On the way out grandpa saw the offering plate. He grabbed his dollar and put it back in his wallet. Once they got outside the grandson said “Grandpa, if you would have put more in, you’d got more out”. Same goes for our lives. If we put more in, we will get more out.

    Thank you for sharing your experience as a “PK”. Awoke some good memories.
    God Blees

  • PS. My Dad was a full time pastor, as well as holding down a regular job. Always took time for his kids.

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