Seven Things We Learned from Pastors’ Kids

It was not the response to a blog post I expected. Back in June of 2013, I wrote a post speaking on behalf of pastors for their kids. I summarized seven major things pastors wanted you to know about their children. The article had a big response when it was first posted. But, for reasons I have not completely fathomed, the post went viral a few weeks ago. Now almost 200,000 views and hundreds of comments later, we can see a pretty clear picture.

You see, the majority of those who responded were pastors’ kids. So, instead of hearing from pastors about their children, we heard directly from the children themselves. Some were teenagers still living with their parents. Others were adults who grew up as PKs. All of them had pretty strong opinions.

As I read again through the plethora of comments, I developed seven major themes from these PKs. Not all of their comments were negative, but a majority did communicate some level of pain. Here is what they said:

  1. The glass house is a reality. People are always looking at the PKs. They have trouble saying or doing anything without someone, usually a church member, making a comment. Most of these PKs (and former PKs) felt a great deal of discomfort living in the glass house. Some even expressed bitterness.
  2. Some church members made a positive and lasting impression on PKs. One of the more frequent positive comments we heard were about the church members who loved and cared for the PKs. Many of them took the children under the wings and made a positive difference in their lives.
  3. Some church members were jerks to the PKs. Many of the stories are heartbreaking. It is really hard to imagine some of the awful words that were said to the PKs. Some still feel the sting of those words decades later.
  4. Many PKs resent the interrupted meals and vacations. They felt like their pastor parent put the church before the family. One PK, now an adult, lamented that every vacation his family took was interrupted; and many times the vacation was truncated.
  5. Some of the PKs have very positive memories when their parents included them in the ministry. I read comments about hospital visits, nursing home visits, and ministry in the community. These PKs absolutely loved doing ministry with mom and dad. They felt like the church ministry was something the whole family did.
  6. A key cry from the PKs was: “Let me be a regular kid.” A number of the PKs expressed pain from the high expectations placed upon them by both their parents and church members. Others said that some church members expected them to behave badly because that’s just what PKs do.
  7. Some PKs left the church for good because of their negative experiences. They viewed local congregations as a place for judgmental Christians who are the worst of hypocrites. They have no desire ever to return. You can feel the resentment and pain in their comments. Their hurt is palpable.

On the one hand, I feel badly for the opening of wounds that blog post caused. On the other hand, I am grateful for the forum it allowed for many of the PKs to express themselves.

If you are a PK, do you identify with these comments? How do the rest of you react to their hopes and hurts?

photo credit: Joe Thorn via photopin cc


  1. says

    I grew up as a PK, and my dad was and still is a music minister at a southern baptist church. I am now a youth pastor and in my 4th year of ministry. My brothers are all involved in their churches and are even worship leaders. That being said the biggest struggle for many PK’s is that their family is never protected. I remember that Dad came to the church in a time of turmoil for the church, but we have seen it grow. What made the difference is that we saw our parents in love with Jesus, with each other, and with us. They taught us how to sacrifice for the church by including us in the ministry. My father gave us security by staying committed at the same church for many years and not jumping so frequently. My brothers and I all had our time of rebellion and running from the will of God, but the foundations of our youth have followed us into adulthood. All seven points echo loudly to me as a PK, and it seems that only other PK’s get it. I would encourage all pastors to set the tone for the family in your congregation by protecting yours. I have a daughter and another on the way. They come before my ministry because it is the home that qualifies me tot he ministry. In other words my children are to be my first disciples.

    • Lemuel Billingsley says

      I hold your parents in high regard based on your comments. I commend you for the insight you have for your family now. Indeed, your first disciples are your children. I have shepherded God’s people for some twenty-five years. I lost one of my sons to the street because I did not spend the quality time with him that he needed from me. I have a daughter who recently made her return to the Lord and another daughter in which she and her husband are very active in the house of God doing ministry. I am grateful for what God has done, but i live the life of the worst kind. I live in regret for not being more attentive to my children. Ministry came first and even before my devotion with God. Today, it is different my wife and I spend time in prayer for our children daily. I say to you love your children and disciple them w/ your heart.

      blessing and peace be to you, your family and your ministry

  2. Alison says

    I can shout a big AMEN to every one of these. I have not gone as far as #7, but can’t say those thoughts haven’t crossed my mind at one time or another. Unfortunately, the PK sees the good, the bad, and the ugly. Despite my parents trying to shield me from a lot, you can’t help but know when things are going on… often those things are said and done right in front of you. I remember an immense pressure during high school to be the perfect kid because I knew any screw-up could mean my dad’s job. My parents never put that burden on me… it’s just something you knew was a reality. Anyone that has never lived it cannot imagine the stress.

    • Kat Larson says

      I couldn’t agree more!!!
      Feels like the world expects you to be perfect and yet they are waiting for you to mess up

  3. says

    All of your findings ring true for me as a PK, though my experience was mostly positive. One of the things I didn’t like was having to be there “every time the doors were open.” But I loved church and still do.

  4. David Highfield says

    As my sons were growing up, we lived in church parsonages, but none of those homes were next door to the church building. This gave my sons the advantage of having “real” neighbors and lessened the glass house effect. Regarding interruptions, I rarely answered the phone during family meal times, instead letting an answering device take a message. Of course this was before the days of cell phones which I imagine some pastors take to the dining table with them. By the grace of God, both of my sons are active Christians – one is in full time campus ministry and the other married a preacher!

  5. Janet says

    I love both these posts. My family relates very well – my children are the super’s kids (school superintendent). Pastor’s wives have been good friends since we can commiserate as times. Our children have always lived in the glass house and they know it very well. Also, I have a very dear friend that I met the first day we moved to our community and she is the #7 kid. It breaks my heart, and probably her parents as well. But the Lord can still do the miracle of breaking bitterness.

    Thank you so much for bringing this to your blog. I was able to share the Pastor’s Kids blog on my Facebook page. Since I am not a pastor, I think it means more for us that are not in the pastorate to point out to our friends that we should never be a part of turning any child “off” from the church. What a horrible legacy to make for yourself.

  6. Sarah Doll says

    Growing up #4 was the hardest for me. I can remember wondering why my dad was gone all the time while my friend’s dads were home. As I grew into teenage years, dad totally incorporated #5 for my life. I could go to FAITH with dad on Monday nights and spend time with him there, plus was training in evangelism. He would always give me little responsibilities here and there to make me feel important. Also, since my parents always took two cars to church I always got to ride home from church with dad on Sunday mornings, which was special because I had my dad all to myself. I would follow him around after the church service carrying his Bible (which as a child I thought it was sacred because it was the Bible he taught from) and then would get to ride home with him.
    When I went to college I felt somewhat lost because I had never “chose” what church I wanted to attend before. I wasn’t really sure what to look for, and once I found a church I was completely lost because I felt like everyone should know who I am. As a pastors kid there are definitely some perks, when I got married I got more gifts than I ever could have imagined, simply because people knew and loved my father.

    • John says

      PK of a born-again believer here. Please pray for me. I’ve been slammed with doubt about some things I’ve believed my whole life, including my salvation, since turning away from masturbation. Please, I never thought I could think these thoughts against God,. I’ve been asking him to talk to me, but maybe there really is doubt in my heart that I haven’t truly been saved? I just know I need him. Please pray. :)

      • Timothy says

        Father, I pray for my brother John. Let him believe in your love and grace. Help him to turn from sin and give him strength. May he have relationships with other Christians whom he can trust, and who will build him up and love him well. May he not live by fear of temptation, man, or the world, but instead with a knowledge that he is your son. May he know that you give him righteousness. There is nothing he can do to earn it.

  7. says

    Bro. Rainer,

    I enjoyed both articles. My wife and I have five children, we sat down and discussed this issue. They each expressed that even when I was home, I wasn’t always “home”. Hearing that broke my heart. We now have a rule that every Monday all electronics are off or put away. My assistant pastor handles business now on Mondays. Because of this revelation and change, my family and I both are closer and happier. Thank you for writing both articles!

    ~ Johnny

    Dr. Johnny Nixon, Pastor
    First Love Baptist Church
    Doerun GA 31744
    (229) 782-5262

  8. Carherine Stewart says

    Thom, I recently had a book published by P and R for pastor’s wives. There is a great chapter in it on pastor’s children. I have received feedback on this particular chapter; the children of ministry families fully identify with the sentiments expressed in it and indeed our own daughter was thrilled to finally have something in written format speaking directly to her situation. Sarah Ascol, the daughter of Tom Ascol wrote it. I know it has proved beneficial
    to many people.

    • shannon Beier says

      Thanks for this list It gives me some things to pray about. I am a PK and now a pastor’s wife in Chicago. It was hard at times but overall I’m thankful for the life of ministry my parents gave me. They talked to me A LOT about the glass house, other’s expectations etc. I learned that I just had to follow God and that I could ask questions and obey God. That gave me so much freedom to experience God’s grace as others looked on. My Dad worked very hard to block out time for us and not to let vacations be interrupted. I’m grateful for that!

  9. Marie says

    I grew up as a PK and never had my dad around. My husband is a pastor and our PKs are getting ready to all be in college. I’m thankful that my husband always put us first with his time and energy. All of our children are in ministry and love serving even though they’ve seen some pain.

    We recently had an experience where something was taken out of context that our teen said. Things got pretty bad for us because it was nothing compared to how others in our church treat each other. We soon realized that it’s not PKs or their families that are treated this way by doing wrong, but anyone with moral standards. Just look at what the Robertsons are going through right now.

    I know my children wouldn’t change growing up as PKs and that is all attributed to their dad who has made them his number one ministry.

  10. David Moore says

    Shame, shame,shame on pastors who allow a family vacation to be ended early due to a “crisis” in the life of a church member. What an awful witness about two things: 1) the importance of family, and 2) allowing an over-inflated view of the importance of the pastor. Folks can function, even in the midst of crisis, without the pastor. Church members can step in, and the Spirit of God is more than able. When on vacation, I have a neighboring pastor on call for me and let church members know I will not return until my vacation is over. I will call a church member in crisis while I am on vacation, but I will not sacrifice my family to the job by returning home early. It is amazing when folks know this upfront how few crises arise when I am away. Somehow, they manage without me!

    • says

      As a pastor’s wife and daughter {and granddaughter and great-granddaughter} I feel as though a word of defense is in order for the pastor who has cut his vacation short due to an emergency in his congregation. It is not always so cut and dry as to say he doesn’t value his family and has an over-inflated view of himself. Sometimes, it’s the appropriate sacrifice. And sometimes, it’s the very best example of loving others we could ever give to our children. {Not every time … but sometimes.}

      Yes, we had vacations cut short – a Christmas vacation while I was in high school is the one that stands out the most to me. And yet, I don’t remember feeling as though my dad didn’t love us as much as he loved the congregation he served … I remember trying to find someplace to eat as we made the nine-hour drive from Alabama to Oklahoma in the mid-1980s. I remember that we laughed and sang in the car … and, were I to make a list of my best Christmas memories, that year would definitely be in the top 3. My dad missed things I did growing up. His dad missed things he did when he was a child. But here I sit, a fourth-generation pastor’s wife and my husband was already in full time ministry when we met.

      I guess my point is this, if anyone should understand how hard the choices are – especially for “solo” pastors in small churches outside the Bible belt – it ought to be fellow ministers and their families. If we can’t support and encourage one another, well, I guess we really are not any better than those people in our congregations who judge our kids and make them want to leave the church forever.

      • Bree says

        I so agree! Growing up as a pk vacations sometimes got cut short but my brother and I knew our Dad loved us. We also knew what his job was. We got to be a witness to the church showing unconditional love and support and even acceptance by our actions. You help those in need. You should have a servant’s heart. Take a lot to be a pk or pastor’s wife. Not all can handle it.

      • Bree says

        I so agree! Growing up as a pk vacations sometimes got cut short but my brother and I knew our Dad loved us. We also knew what his job was. We got to be a witness to the church showing unconditional love and support and even acceptance by our actions. You help those in need. You should have a servant’s heart. Take a lot to be a pk or pastor’s wife. Not all can handle it.

    • Susan says

      Teri is correct. I remember vacations cut short only twice as I was growing up. One was for the family of a mother who committed suicide and the other was for loss of a teenager. I completely understood the priority for my father, whose calling was to minister to the needs of others. It never meant he loved us less, nor did it mean he had an ego. I’m disappointed to read such an interpretation. As a 62 year old who has observed many pastors over the years, I agree with my dad who once concluded that ministry changed from a “calling” to a “job.” If it’s a job, of course you don’t interrupt a well-deserved vacation. If it’s a calling, you know you are doing the Lord’s work. As a PK, that was very clear to me, even as a young girl.

  11. Brian Gass says

    What I love most about our church is the way they love my children. I see Jesus’ statement to “Allow the children to come unto me” lived out by our folks not only for my kids but all the children in the community. The importance the church places on me being a dad to my kids first is palpable… and for that I will be forever grateful. My children all love not only our church but “the Church” as a result of this grace exhibited. If only this could be the norm for pastors and their families. That’s my heart cry for God’s people.

  12. Rebecca says

    I’ve been a PK my entire life. I just typed a novel of my opinion, but it’s not needed. PK’s know what their problems are, parents know what potential one are, but every family is different. Every child is different. Every church is different. Being a PK is painful, but it’s not the churches fault, it’s the father’s response. The parenting. I recall doing something awful in my early teens, and my mother telling me, “do you know what people would say about your father if they knew about this?!” She went on to inform me that they’d accuse him of losing control of his household and his job would be in danger. We did what it took to sweep my wrong under the rug, and consequently, it stayed under the rug of my life. That sin became secret and habitual. It doesn’t matter as long as nobody know, though, right? THAT is losing control; losing control is when the church’s opinion decides how you parent.

    Disciple your children. Spend time with them. Let them develop their own theological views. When we all got to college, I called my dad to ask what all of this terminology I was hearing meant. (Fundamentalism, Reformed, Arminianism, etc.) he gave me some small books that illustrated it and asked me what I thought. Don’t tell them what they believe. PK’s are already somewhat forced into a frame of mind. They’re automatically the ones that MUST agree with all the pastor says, in most culture. Let them find the truth sometimes. Guide them. Nurture them. Love them. And don’t put the church before them.

    My parents did a great job. I had the opportunity to watch my dad come from an extraordinarily fundamentalist background in my childhood, to being Reformed in my collegiate years. We all have struggles. We all have complaints. But we all know the church. And I pray that we don’t teach Pk’s what they’re supposed to do, but that there’s nothing they can do. Go to the sinners. After all, Jesus didn’t walk around inviting people to church, did he? He went to them and befriended them. Loved them, and showed them the life-changing power of Christ. Let your kids screw up. Let them make friends mrs. Sue doesn’t approve of. Let them get a bad hair cut and express opinions. That’s okay. It’s okay if people don’t like you. It’s not okay if because of your ministry, your kids never experience the depiction of the Gospel. Live it. Live the Gospel. Show your kids that no matter what they ever do, even if they’re homosexual or have an abortion (since those are clearly the worst sins…another day..), you love them. Show them that there is nothing they can do to earn or remove your love, and that you are mirroring the perfect love of Christ. Show them. We do too much telling. They’ve heard almost every one of your sermons. Show them.

    Okay, I still wrote a novel. Oh well..hah!

  13. Melody Faith says

    I’m a Southern Baptist PK & thankfully #4 was never an issue for my family. I mean our family vacations were to the Southern Baptist Convention every summer! :) My father made it clear to every church he pastored that his family came before the church. He often stated that “If I fail as a father then I have failed as a pastor.” He and my mom were at every ball game and concert we had. My dad also told his staff that he expected them to be home with their families. He asked for only one other night a week other than Wednesdays for church work. By laying that foundation coming in to a church it was never an issue.

    He was a wonderful protector. People weren’t allowed to use us as targets to get their way in the church. #1 & #6 were the hardest because some church members seemed to think we were supposed to be involved in everything when their own children hardly ever came. And I knew there were people who were hoping that we would fail and if it was morally then that would be even better. I still struggle with guilt for missing a Sunday and I’m 30 years old. I still feel the need to explain why I missed even though my father isn’t the pastor at my church now. My parents just asked that when were growing up to find one ministry to be involved in … they didn’t expect us to do it all. Then once we hit college we were free to attend another church if we wanted too.

    I had the joy of being involved in ministry with my dad. It was what we did. With my other two siblings they enjoyed other activities outside of the church with my dad. While I did have some church members treat me like a jerk it was harder to see them treat my dad like that. One person even went so far as to question my dad’s salvation to a friend of mine all because my dad didn’t agree with him over a petty issue. The lack of respect for the pastor still baffles me. Yes, he is just a man but he has been called by God for this position and we need to respect that. My dad has been cussed out, threatened & put on the spot so many times over the years but he just took it and dealt with it in the most Christ-like manner that he could. My mom has born the strain of a pastor’s wife with grace & mercy. I still don’t know how she holds her tongue. Because of witnessing all of that I think it is why my siblings have had a hard time finding a church.

    It hasn’t always been a beautiful life but I’m thankful to have grown up in the ministry because I have had some amazing friendships develop over the years with some of those church members and now I seek to be that kind of friend to my ministers’ kids. And the older I get the less I view “deacon” as a dirty word!

  14. Alice' Harper says

    Mr. Rainer,

    This is my first comment! I’ve read your blog for many months now. I can’t help but comment on this because I am a Pastor’s Child. (Mind you, I am a 25 year old married lady but I’ve maintained Pastor’s Daughter status for 18 years!)

    As a “grown up” (Although I don’t feel like one), I struggle almost every week to attend church. When I began college, I was granted the freedom to attend church away from my parents. I loved this! I immediately began attending the biggest church in our area because I was so excited that no one would know me. I enjoyed that if I was sick or out of town and didn’t attend church, no one knew! Even when I moved away from home to attend grad school, I attended the largest church in that area, sat in the balcony, and once again, loved the anonymity.

    A year ago, God convicted me that while I was doing a daily quiet time, serving others, and attending church, I wasn’t participating in a small group of any type. To be honest, I haven’t attended a small group in 3-4 years.

    Church hurt me a lot growing up. By God’s grace I have forgiven a lot of the people who hurt my family. I think my biggest struggle is making relationships with people in church because it was the people in the church that hurt my family. I’m afraid that being apart of a community again will bring about the same amount of hurt that came from being a Pastor’s Kid.

    I’m not sure how to close this comment, but I will agree with you that my most treasured memories in my dad’s ministry was visiting people and learning how to share the gospel by my parents’ example. What a wonderful gift. I will also say that while I struggle a lot with my relationship with church folks, I am able to empathize and love on people who have been hurt by the church. I currently work with foster families and have met three families that are pastors who have been hurt by their home church. I am able to relate to them and truly understand what they are going through. While I can’t solve their problems, I can pray for them and with them and they seem to appreciate someone who gets it!

  15. Chloe says

    There was a time in my life where my dad had a normal job. Then sometime during my preteen years, he announced that he was called to be a pastor. At the time, I felt torn and conflicted. I knew what it felt like to be a normal kid, and then right us pubirty set in my life was suddenly uprooted and thrust into a sort of spotlight. My peers withdrew from me all of the sudden, and members of my new church looked at me with scrutinity, I was uprooted several times throughout my teenage years. It was always right when I felt like I had finally found my place too. A sort of resentment had started to manifest as a result of all of this. I saw a side of the church that made me angry during this time as well. The judgement, the hypocrisy, the power struggle, it all left a foul taste in my mouth. The worst part was once I finally left my dad’s church and moved on to college, the bitter ‘why don’t you serve at your daddie’s church’ questions and jokes started to surface. If it was not that, then there was the constant assumptions that I had gone wild sometime during my father’s absence. Someone said it earlier, it’s never really said but it sucks knowing that a screwup on your part could really cost you your dad’s job. I love my dad. The worst thing to me was having to smile to him, lie, and pretend that the decisions he was making weren’t making me miserable. On top of all of this, my dad knew everyone in our town. Literally everyone, I could not go anywhere without someone knowing who I was. For me being a PK was all negatives. I left the church for a long time, and had to come to grips with everything on my own time. The confusion, isolation, and pain I felt during those years has not even been scratched other than surfacely. I recently started going church again, and for the first time in forever I feel free of my father’s name.

  16. Ashley says

    I am married to a minister. He is a wonderful preacher but more importantly, a wonderful PASTOR. He is very involved and concerned with the lives in his congregation. We have two young children and there have been times when a week will go by and we won’t see much of him. He has gotten better at realizing how important home life is. However, there are times that people forget he has a family and that we like and NEED uninterrupted and family time. The glass house feeling is true as well because I have had to learn that my feelings often have to be held in at church so I don’t make my husband’s job harder. Of course, church members can say whatever they want to him and he is supposed to just take it. I love being in the ministry and am so humbled that God chose us to do such an important thing. I would just like lay people to remember that our children are not perfect and that we most certainly are not perfect either. He cannot leave his work at church but unless it is VERY important , let him be mentally at home when he is physically at home. (Hope that makes sense.) I would also like to say that every church where we have served has had at least one or two families who really invest in a relationship with us outside of church. Those families are the ones that are extended families to us and make it very difficult when The Lord calls is to move on. Thank you to those types of families!

  17. says

    I was a PK. The greatest sermon my Daddy ever spoke to me was the time he spent with me. He took me fishing, I loved that time where it was just us in nature and no-one else. I am a social worker today because of that time I spent with both my parents. They were a unit who visited people together. I now work in hospice and I don’t think I would be able to do my job if I hadn’t had that experience as a PK visiting hospitals, nursing homes, funeral homes and shut-ins. The church and my family were for the most part a safe and nurturing place for me. I am in church today and my husband is a lay minister.

  18. Nathan Lawrenson says

    I grew up a PK, and now serve beside my father on staff in the same local church. I rarely felt any of the negative emotions and experiences you’ve outlined in your articles, but I know plenty of PK’s who did. My parents raised me in a church that loved us, and I give a great deal of credit to that fact for my passion for local church ministry today. Thank God for healthy churches and good parents.

  19. c says

    Also a pk. I did feel as if under the spotlight more than others. although same can be said for politicians , principals, teachers etc….Of coarse many times I wanted to be “normal” with more “freedom, but that’s probably because I wanted to do things I should do. People do seem to watch for mess-ups , but in hind sight it was probably good. All kids want to get away with stuff, whether or not they have a pastor for a Dad. Same can be said for humans and God the Father , nobody likes getting caught. Being a Christian period will put you under a similar scrutiny. There was some uncomfortableness associated with it I think the good outweighs the bad. Jesus had to take time out when he may have physically enjoyed time with friends or family, and watching both my parents taught me that sometimes spiritual matters trump physical. I know there’s a balance there , but that’s for everyone in life and not always one way or the other is right. You have to do what God is leading at the time. Finally and probably most importantly, these are the parents God gave me and the life he chose for me to be raised in, never does he make a mistake.

  20. Susan Arnold says

    I was a PK and for the most part I enjoyed having the people in the church watch me grow up. Most of them were kind although there were a very few that were watching to see me and my siblings fail. But the one thing that I’ve realized since becoming an adult is that I didn’t have a pastor growing up. I had a Dad. He was great and if I ever had any questions he would answer them but it was as a father. It didn’t bother me growing up, but now that I’m an adult (still going to the same church that I grew up in) I find myself reluctant to seek advice from our ministers because I never had that pastoral relationship. Maybe it would be different if

    Icchanged churches but I’fe never felt led to do that. Overall though growing up as a PK was a positive experience for me.

  21. James says

    I grew up a PK. And am now a lead minister as well. Here’s a few observations from me, though I am certain this isn’t true across the board:

    1) I grew up a PK to the Lead Preacher. From what I experienced, that is a different animal compared to growing up a kid of one of the other staff. I hate saying it that way, it was just true by my experience. We were held at a totally different level than the other staff children. I still get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about some of the ways we were complained about. Now that I’m the senior preacher at our church, with a pretty big staff, I see it again. My kids are looked at closer than the others. (People have pointed that out to me as well, so it must not just be my observation.)

    2) If it wasn’t for my parents being the same at home as they were at church, Christianity would’ve looked really strange to me. To me, this is the biggest factor of why I’m a follower of Jesus today…let alone a preacher.

    3) I don’t know how this should be done, but the church needs to be, somehow, educated on how/why it’s difficult to be a PK and the effects they have in their future relationship with Jesus. Just my two cents.

    4) I am glad my dad shielded me from as many complaints and criticizers as he could. I knew about some…but he did his best to not let me know about them at the time. I’ve discovered some of them later down the road. But I find myself doing the same now with my children.

    Thank you for the wonderful article, Thom. Blessings.

    • J says

      I would agree with what you said about experiences not being the same across the board on your first point. I grew up a PK in a church of 5 pastors and a congregation of 800-900. My dad wasn’t the lead pastor. As it seems with PK’s at any church, we were all close friends, several of them also not being kids of the lead pastor. The spotlight/microscope was on us all exactly the same, and it’s been the same way for PK’s I’ve known from other churches. But I do understand that in certain churches the lead pastors kids could be more in the spotlight.
      I fully agree on your other points… especially 3! So often I have thought about that. I don’t know how it could/should be done… but it needs to be done!

  22. Andrew Tewell says

    I was blessed to be able to grow up as a pk. I think a lot of it is people’s perspective. Is the glass house real? Yes! But for any instance where I might have felt wronged or felt short changed by being a pk I have dozens of other instances where being a pk provided some really cool opportunities that would not have come along any other way. Being included in ministry was huge for me. My dad made the ministry fun. I was blessed to grow up with such a great pastor/ dad and also a great church family. I am now back as an associate at the church I grew up in. Wouldn’t trade bejng a pk for anything!

  23. Amy says

    I am one of the PK’s that left church and never returned. I occasionally go, but I really saw too much anger and bitterness within the church. That left the biggest and most lasting impression on me. I never abandoned God or Christ, but I really got over the whole church thing.

    • Ben says

      As a PK and the oldest sibling, I can completely relate. I watched my dad’s third church tear him and subsequently our family apart over a new building project. Years after our family had moved (our 4th move) I was visiting an old church friend who told me “my father was the worst thing that happened to that church”. All that after everything my father (and his family) sacrificed for the church. Because of this, my brother and I will never step foot inside a church again.

      In church my father used to say “the church is a hospital”. He’s right. Our church was a magnet for sick, twisted, very unhealthy people.

      As a 28 year old man who is now starting his own family, I refuse to subject my children to what I went through.

  24. Ilse says

    As a PK I can identify with most, there is probably still some tings I am working through. I left the church environment as soon as I was of legal age. I wanted nothing to do with all of the hurtful and hypocritical people I found in church at that time. As someone else mentioned you get to all of it, some good, some not so much. I have since returned to a church and have a different understanding than most people do. I wouldn’t trade my childhood and parents for anything in the world! Thanks for writing this article, it is great to have someone give others an insight to the reality of what PK’s live and go through the majority of the time (good and bad).

  25. Erin says

    When my father accepted the call in to the ministry, I had no idea what that would mean for my life from that moment on. He was a factory worker and worked through seminary to pursue his calling. He has remained at his first church, which is an oddity, and I’m still seeking God’s wisdom as to why that is. My father is still at a church who does not appreciate him. They have blackmailed him and our family, have caused extensive grief in the community, and I will say high school was a helacious experience- however, I count it all as gain. I’ve received hand written hate mail, had “hate clubs” formed against me, and letters/petitions asking me to kill myself. Everything I wore or even how I looked was critiqued (some even went and looked up what my clothes cost and would discuss it in the pews). At pot lucks, women would tell me “you should really re-consider eating that food, you’re starting to get a little pudgey”. We’ve had several scary circumstances, but God has delievered us in every circumstance. Fortunately, I was able to identify with various types of people, specifically nonbelievers because of how the church treated me and my family. I am still an active church goer, have moved away from home, and am actively involved in ministry and missions. It’s given me a unique perspective, one that I wouldn’t trade. God is still healing wounds from my “home church”. It’s painful watching your family be torn down, but God seems to keep them there for whatever reason. I picture it being like the Israelites, one day, God will allow them in to the Promised Land because of their faithfulness. God has already started to reconcile some of the issues within our church, and for that, I praise Him. Thank you for this follow up article.

  26. Christy Capps says

    I enjoyed reading this and all the comments.. I’m a pk but my experiences are different because I’m an evangelist’s kid (is that a .. My dad was well known around the US mainly the eastern region.. He was gone a lot (mom & I didn’t travel with him much since I was born when they were in their mid 40’s). My hardest thing as a EK is that when we did travel I came to your church (normally revivals, homecomings..ect) everybody was happy (no church conflict or at least his for the time I was there) and there was food to boot!! So even though I went to church while dad was gone in never experienced the ups & downs of a church and to this day if there is some conflict in the church even small I tend to want to leave .. I can relate to one comment on here as going somewhere not being known cause even though dad has been in heaven 16 yrs now ppl still say oh your preacher … Kid and I’m 37yrs old.. (This has happen on vacations far from home.. Lol) I’m thankful to have been born into my EK family ..I’m thankful for my salvation!!! I will say something that really helped me was when The Lord showed me I answer only to Him and not “them” ..

  27. says

    First time reader/commenter here. I stumbled across this blog post. I feel that all seven of these points apply to me in one way or another. My father was pastor of a congregation of 300+ and I often joke that I grew up with over 100 parents. Some of them were complete jerks, hypocrites, and generally bad people. Others were wonderful and guided me with lessons that I still treasure. I value my knowledge go theology and scripture and go so far as to offer steep discounts professionally to area churches because I value the work they do and understand their budgetary constraints. However, I have left the church. I’m still a believer, but church is not for me due to the fact that my negative experiences with the people in the church (not just ours, but close to a dozen others) far outweigh my positive ones. Thank you for posting this. Maybe this will help congregations to understand what a PK may be going through.

  28. Becca says

    I agree with these comments and I appreciate them. I had positive and negative experiences. I’ve had church members pull my hair and tell me how to behave. I never really experienced my parents in church because they were leading it. There were expectations and still are and I don’t go there but is more of a reaction of my dad from church members of questions he doesn’t want to answer. Church was a requirement not a choice. Behavior had to be at its best or I was in trouble. I wasn’t allowed to choose my own church because what would the church members think. It was a lot of pressure. I resented the church and high school and never got to enjoy the worship aspect because church was my parents place of work not a place for me to worship. They had to deal with the rude comments of the older congregation if I merely stepped out of line a little bit and these expectations were in place at a young age. I am surprised that I love the church as much as I do today and that’s because of my youth group at another church because the one at my church fell out of existence. I must say that is the best thing to ever Happen to my faith life.

  29. says

    I was a PK at a young age. I learned”do as I say-not as I do.” This caused me to walk away from the faith. I would add one more. If pastors neglect their children, they fail at pastoring. I think pastors loose sight of their family too often. I love my Father. But, I NEVER want to inflict harm to my family through neglect as I experienced.

  30. says

    I could really relate to each of these. I think PKs like me grow up much like military kids. The tough experiences can either make us stronger or leave us bitter. I think parenting plays a huge role in which road we go down. My parents always wanted church to be a place where I felt loved. It was only as an adult that I learned of many painful experiences my dad went through. He never discussed the negatives with us. If a parishioner made a thoughtless comment, my mom helped me frame it in a way that made it less hurtful. There is good and bad in just about every situation we find ourselves in. My advice to PKs who feel bitter…let it go and move on. To parents of PKs, I would ask that they help encourage their kids to focus on the positive aspects of the experience and listen to them when they need to vent! To parishioners…just have the same expectations for your pastor’s children that you’d have for any other in the congregation…no better and no worse.

  31. Lauren says

    I read both your first blog post and this one as well. I identified with both. I too am a pastor’s kid and can understand the living in the glass house, father having to deal with things while on vacation, and the many interrupted meals with phone calls. But I must say that my parents always put our family first. Yes, the glass house is a reality, but my mother did everything that she could to make the home a safe haven for all of us. There is a family in our church who took us and loved on us as people and not as the pastor’s family. They are still in our lives today, and I have always felt that I could be myself around them and not have to worry about being the PK. They hold a special place in my heart. Yes, there are those who have said things around me about my family that they should not have said, but with anything the good and the bad come with it. My parents always made our extra-curricular acritivies, made sure that we had supper together as a family, and they never told us that we could never do something because we were the pastor’s kid. They never put pressure on my siblings or I to be the perfect kids. I also grew up going with my father to the hospital, nursing homes, and making home visits. I have say by countless bedsides ministering alongside my dad, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I is because of the influence of my parents that I went to a Christian University and then on to Seminary so that I also might be prepared to do the work that the Lord has called me to do. Now, I will say that it is because of being PK’s that my siblings and I all went far away for college in order to figure out who we were on our own outside of the PK stigma, and far away from where anyone knew who we were. But today, we are all following the Lord and doing what He has called each of us to do in our own lives. Thanks again for posting and for giving PK’s a voice!

  32. says

    First, thank you Thom and to the PK’s who have responded.

    I am not a PK, but a Pastor who didn’t grow up in the church. I have tried to ask Pk’s I have known from various settings, who are grown, to tell me what their dad did right and what went wrong. That has helped me strive to consider the toll my profession takes on them (ages 11 & 9). These comments also help in that regard.

    my overarching goal is that my children would not view the church as the enemy of faith.

  33. BreeAnn says

    I am a pk. Pks tend to rebel for one reason or another when they get old. That is a reputation that pks have. My parents were fortunate for my brother and I never really went in the rebellion state. I aways felt like the congregation expected us to be perfect. So shortly after we would go to a church I would show I am not perfect so dont put me on the pedestal. Also we would behave in church and sit through the sermon. It is what my mom expected from us. So when little we would color or read quietly and behaved.
    What my parents did was raise us in the church but also told us that eventually we need to make our faith our own. We had to live it. My brother and I got to the point where we could no longer live our faith through our parents. But honestly my parents chose our friends until we showed them we could make wise choices. They were our Parents first and for most. They raised us showing how important it is to have a Christ centered marriage and a Christ centered household. If you live your live according to the Bible with the man the leader of the household then things are much better. They raised us to have a Biblical worldview. To live according to pleasing CHRIST!!! So I say some pk are not the typical pk

  34. Matt says

    I think pastors who succumb to opposite dangers in vocational ministry will produce two opposite results in their kids.

    I know pastors at one end who burn themselves out in ministry, working ridiculous hours, taking on overwhelming responsibilities, etc.

    But, I also know pastors on the other end, who abuse flexibility in their schedule, lack of accountability, etc. and are often just lazy.

    Then as it relates to their children. Pastors in the first category will turn their kids against ministry and often the church so quickly as would any dad who makes his work his idol.

    On the other side, pastors who are lazy instill in their kids dispassion and a lack of seriousness for the call to vocational ministry. It communicates that pastoral ministry isn’t a “real” job, and dad is just taking the path of least resistance.

    By God’s grace, my dad was able to strike the balance between these two, and not only did my siblings and I thrive in a ministry home, but my brother and I are pastors, and my sister is married to one.

  35. Kevin Rettig says

    Several years ago I found myself checking out an ex-Christian website. Several of the bloggers listed there were PKs who had completely left their family’s faith behind due to the amount of pain inflicted upon them by ungrateful, unholy and unthoughtful church people. May God’s conviction be upon those Christians for the damage they have done to one of His children. But also, perhaps the rest of us can have some positive impact on those ex-followers’ lives through prayer and comforting/apologetic words whenever God gives us the opportunity. Given that the Holy Spirit is grieved whenever believers sin, how much more must He react and feel when one of His own goes astray.

  36. says

    I learned first hand that just because a pk has grown into adulthood and goes to church, that doesn’t mean they are a Christian. My ex was abusive, and a liar. She kept me from seeing our kids and even got the pastor to throw away my mail and do other things that do not conform to Christian behaviors and beliefs. Not all preachers, or their kids, are even remotely godly.

  37. Meg says

    I’m 53, so maybe my memory is fading, but I really don’t have any bad memories about growing up as a PK. I have very fond memories of it. There were even a couple of times I remember people not making fun of me for something like not cussing because they knew I was a PK, so I was ‘excused.’ It breaks my heart to read some of these stories and the hurt some people have experienced. So, to answer your question as to if I identify with the comments? No, I don’t.

  38. darrylrlewis says

    I’m a P – not a PK. In response to #5 my grown children have bad memories of some of the ministry experiences I exposed them to (hospital and nursing home visits). Perhaps it would be good advice to younger P parents to pick and choose what they expose their children to. Some children are more sensitive than others to certain situations.

  39. Siminoz says

    As a PK, I have overwhelmingly more positive memories than negative. I feel very blessed to have grown up in the family I did. Yes, my dad was busy, but we lived next door to the church (AND had regular neighbours around us!), and his office was in our house. The upside – he was around. My parents had breakfast and lunch together, we always ate dinner at 6pm so he scheduled meetings around that. My mother was very active in ministry also, and it was a part of life; we accompanied our parents on visits, and to bible studies, church camps, out of town services, rallies and special events. They never discussed members of the congregation negatively, and never stewed over issues. I learned to let things go and not gossip about others. On the downside, there were insensitive people. There was an element of pressure. There was little privacy at home (people could – and did – drop in unannounced at any time of the day or night). But my parents did a great job of balancing and I am eternally thankful to them. My siblings and I have remained followers of Christ, with one brother also going into full time ministry. What an awesome childhood :-)

  40. Carol Hayes says

    Since my husband was your minister when you were just a little “Tyke” yourself, I have taken great pride in following your ministry. Now it’s come full circle – you’re ministering to me.
    Not only was I a minister’s wife, but a p.k. too. Reading the seven points made me realize some of the joys and hurts I’ve felt through the years because of our family involvement in the ministry.
    As a child, I loved being at church with my family and friends. I made a decision to become a Christian when I was nine, and have never wavered . The hard part of being a p.k. was the frequent moves we faced. I went to 9 schools before graduating from high school
    Watching Kerry and Lynne grow up in the church in Mt. Sterling, I thought their lives were greatly enriched by the friends and activities at church. I do remember that Lynne went to Bob’s office when she was about 10 years old, and stood at his desk, to see if she could make an appointment with her dad, just to talk with him! Wow, did that ever get his attention!
    Thanks for this format to let us communicate about the joys and frustrations of living in a glass house!!
    Carol Hayes

  41. says

    Of four children in my husbands family two will not darken the doorway of any church now after being raised as PK’s. My husband and his older brother were repeatedly raped by a member of the church and blackmailed into silence by threats of destroying their fathers ministry. The boys were four and six when it began. There are wolves among the sheep in the pasture. Pastors cannot relinquish responsibility for their children or any of the children in the congregation without continued vigilance for their safety and welfare. Proper protocols and clearances must always be observed when dealing with the youngest and most vulnerable ones in the congregation.

  42. says

    I have been at PK for almost 40 years. I’ve seen good and I’ve seen bad. Ive lived all of thee above plus a lot more. My parents never made us feel like we had to be the example. The church members alway did. There was on time that my mom bought me some new school clothes and one of the church ladies said I didn’t need and just take the hem out of my old ones which by the way were hand me downs. She even pushed my mom once because she had cut her hair in a new style. I’ve seen my parents hurt very bad by church members all of whom thought their opinions and ways to do things were always the best and didn’t understand why my dad wasn’t conforming to their way. But I can say this if I had not had a true relationship with Jesus Christ and if I had not been taught that it all about HIM i would have MAJOR CHURCH issues. But God has called me to a greater purpose. I’m a called praise and worship leader and I’m also a children’s evangelist. Living in a Pks home I can truely say to all Pks out there make it about GOD and having a personal relationship with HIM and all of the STUFF doesn’t matter.

    • Priscilla A says

      @Sherry, I totally agree with your comments on this issue. I am not a PK but I have children who I want to grow up in the way of the Lord and I must say I have learnt a great deal on parenting as a christian mum from this site. I think it is not all about the PK as some parents are too hard on their children and some even substitute family time for business and extra work demand. This is an eye opening for me and for the PK’s, like sherry said ” make it about GOD and have a personal relationship with HIM and all of the other STUFF doesn’t matter”.

    • Jane says

      Your comment is truly encouraging!
      I am a PK/ MK, and now currently serving as a children minister and worship minister. It was, and is still, a rough road. My fiance is also a PK/MK/youth minister so we have double the ‘glasshouse” reality to cope with, (not to mention what our future kids will have to go through!) Yet we experience way more than just double of the Lord’s grace and blessings in our struggles and complex identities. I thank the Lord for my parents who had led me in my walk with God all these years, and taught by example to put our focus on Him, not on other people or circumstances. Our true identity is in Christ!

  43. Jordan Davis says

    Very much agree with this list, and I feel like I could add a dozen more to it. One thing that stuck out was the comment that “They felt like their pastor parent put the church before the family.” I think that thought should actually be reversed. I very much resent the interruptions of meals, holidays, family vacations, etc. but I don’t have any resentment towards my father…it’s towards the self-centered members of the congregation who demanded immediate attention on trivial or petty matters.

  44. aneile says

    I am also pk, my father served as a pastor for 32 years in Chizami Baptist Church Nagaland India, now he is serving as a Church advisor. Though we face many challenges i see my parents Love for Christ and love that bind them together is still very strong. I have learned from them that whatever maybe i will trust in the Lord.

  45. Jules says

    Number 4 struck a great chord with me. As a senior in college I will often reminisce on the good ol’ times of high-school and think of the vacations and activities my dad missed out on. I’ve seen the sadness in his face as my mother and sisters and I will recall a funny event and he tries to laugh even though it is not a shared memory for him. It hurts him, just as much as the kids.
    When it comes specifically to vacations however, I don’t blame the church members as much as I do the staff. The church staff knows that getting away is important and needed for families to draw closer together. They should be ready to hold down the fort for just a week while the pastor is enjoying his family. Also, church members should understand and respect the pastor’s need for some time away.

  46. Sarah says

    I am a PK now, if I can still call myself a child (I am 20). I am a college student, living at home and I have never had a rebellion streak, as most usually say about PK’s. I can relate extremely well about the church members being hurtful. When I was 8 years old, my family was essentially run out of a church by lies that surrounded my family. Members of the church were claiming that my mom had an affair with several deacons and my sister (who was in 8th grade at the time) was pregnant, as well as several rumors my parents never have and never will share with me. This was 12 years ago and I sometimes remember things like this and become so upset that people can be so cruel.

    I also struggle with being resentful towards my father. I know it’s wrong, and I try so hard not to be, it just gets the best of my sometimes. I currently having a hard time with him not allowing me to go to the church of my own choosing. He is a Baptist pastor but currently preachers at a backwoods Methodist church that currently has 4 “youth members”, including myself. I have to go there and I get absolutely nothing out of it. When he first got the job he told me “they hired me because I have a kid around the age of some kids there” which makes me feel like if I do or say the wrong thing he could lose his job. Recently I told him I wanted to go to a church that a few of my friends go to and he asked me if I was “giving up” on his church.

    Don’t get me wrong, most the time being a PK was great, but there have been many times in my life that I have asked myself has it really all been worth it.

  47. Jackia Pitts says

    I would love some help. I am a pk and my situation is a bit different. I have problems dealing with the separation between pastor and mother. It seems as if I can’t talk to her in either sense because if the “mothers” reponse doesn’t suffice then the pastors response trumps everything. I considered joining a different church with the same background of teachings but I don’t know what to do. I grew up in this ministry but it seems there are so many things I see that seem wrong. I have been looking for help because it seems when I pray my emotions get the best of me and I can’t hear clearly.

  48. PK kids and now a Pastors Wife says

    As a PK growing up I watched my mom and dad go through so much hurt and pain! Yet they still severed and are still serving in ministry. I couldn’t tell the many ugly nasty things memebers did to my family from my father to my youngest brother. Those things don’t matter anymore they are healed because we let God heal the wounds and pains! Because of my parents example of how they handled the hurt by relying on God to fix it rather than them taking action, I am who I am today! Now 35 yrs old married to a minister and have two children of my own I feel blessed to have need chosen to be a PK kid. I know the pain my kids feel when daddy has to take care of church Buisness instead taking them to chuckie cheese or to Disney world or even just to mc Donald’s. I understand when my husband has to work a full time public Job plus pastor the church and puts in more than 80 a week trying to get it all done plus be a dad and husband. The destiny God lays out for you is what you make of it!

  49. says

    As a “PK” daughter & gran-daughter I can relate to all these things in both articles. I spent a lot of time questioning why & the validity of the church body. I never wavered on my belief in God. I did question whether he really loved ME. I did live a life outside of His perfect will and filled with sin. I spent the better part of my late 20’s & early 30’s asking a lot of whys and dealing with bitterness. Thankfully, I have found my way. I’m now a fully time minister. My husband, a 2nd generation PK also, and I run a not for profit for refugees, primarily from Burma. It’s different for our kids bc we don’t answer to a specific congregation. They are allowed to be who they are without a glass house. I have always lamented, even openly, that there were not retreats/conferences/support groups for PK’s. The Ministers have many outlets to talk amongst their peers about the perils of the profession God chose for them. For PK’s though, there is nothing. You suffer in silence. If you talk to someone about it you feel as though you are betraying the ones you love. In some cases you can’t trust anyone with the information that troubles you most. PK’s are not encouraged to talk to each other about the challenges so they are left feeling isolated and alienated. It’s a huge gap in the church as a whole. Taking care of the pastor means the pastor AND his ENTIRE family.

  50. PK taking my life back says

    A beautiful inspiring article. I wish it was written 35 years ago. I am a daughter of a pastor (father). First of all my brother and I lived with my grandparents until I was 13, when my grandmother passed away. We would live with my grandparents Mon.-Fri. night, go to my parents Fri.-Sun. and back to my grandparents after church. So when we went to live with my parents, I had no idea what was really going on in church because I actually was going to church for Jesus all those years. What I found out was hurtful and devastating to me. My father was and had many affairs with women in the church and out of the church, (with one of my best friend’s mother) which a child, my sister was born from but my father would never acknowledge her even though everyone knew in church and the very small town. I would constantly ask my dad if it was true and he would say no. He would come home at 1,2,3,4 o’clock in the morning and my mother was locking herself in her room leaving me and my brother to fend for ourselves most of the time. Finally when I was 30, me and my brother confronted my parents and refused to leave the room until all questions was answered. We didn’t just do this for ourselves but for my sister who was also robbed of having the opportunity to call him dad, call me and my brother, bother and sister. The scary thing is when my father admitted it, my mother was still in denial. We are still struggling to put our family together and they are still pastors. If I can say anything to pastors with children is if you’re not ready to really do God’s work to the utmost and put your children before the church members at least to make sure their needs are met first than don’t go into ministry because what’s the sense in saving a whole/half/third of a church and lose your family. I am glad to report me and my brother are still with Jesus and we both have wonderful loving marriages and we have worked in the church while maintaining a marriage and children. Pastors and pastor’s wive have to figure out the balance and make sure their children’s souls are just as important as others.

    Keep praying for PKs everyone

  51. says

    I am a P who understand what some people say when they mention things others actually say to, or about, your children that would make them after a while turn away from the church and find it so hard to return.
    Speaking from my children’s point of view, children hear and understand different so, adults should very carefull what and how they speak to them. A child not being accustomed to being shout at at home when it happen to them in a different setting they would never want to return. So I agree with number three after a decade it still seem as yesterday; but some people think I am older or I am authority so ….
    And another as number seven the church is viewed as hypocritical not from my point of view although that particular one think I talk about the church too much so it is her enemy. Bur they are all grown up now all the same I thank you for your words of advice I would say because it helped me a lot and I hope the many comments woul help others to realize that pPastors and their children need pray instead of criticism.

    I would continue to pray for Pastors and their children because this is a tough place to be in front.

  52. annonymous says

    Vacations interrupted? haha. I wish! We didn’t get to take vacations. Having said that, we did get opportunities others didn’t – I got to travel to conferences – everywhere from England to Australia. I got to miss school and there are probably some other perks that I took for granted. Not sure the trade off was worth it because all I saw was the inside of churches. Regardless, my parents did the best they could and I love the Lord and do ministry today for a reason – despite the pain. My parents prayed for me and with me regularly and that obviously had a lasting impact. We can all learn and grow from our experiences. After my dad passed away, I heard from so many people the impact he had on them, and that also let me see, as an adult, that it was all worth it.

  53. Male PK says

    There can’t really be a defined outline in terms of what to watch out for in PKs – I grew up to 7 in a church with cameras all over the place recording services, huge ass sound booth with TV broadcasting/telecomm stuff I can’t even describe if I wanted to because I know nothing about it – ran about 2,000 on a packed Sunday. All kinds of debauchery and corruption was going on, my dad (music director) got treated like shit, so we bounced from church to church in the area and finally stuck somewhere. That was my second home church until I graduated high school and quickly vacated my home state for schooling (but really to just get away from home). I am forever grateful for the gift of music and the fact I grew up submersed in it constantly, however being (sometimes*) forced to play drums for main service on Sundays every week from my 7th grade year on did put a bitter taste in my mouth at times.

    There were many occurrences in which I found myself ridiculing my father for the (seemingly to me) act he’d put on at church, then come home throughout the week bent out of shape, terrible temper, raised-voice and yelling all the time. My parents’ marriage hollowed more and more throughout my childhood to the point of inevitable notice by the time I was about to graduate HS.

    I can’t say being a PK is a “bad” thing. It’s just another thing. Another way of life. I could’ve been a starving Cambodian child under political oppression, but I’m not for whatever reason. I’m 24 in July and haven’t regularly attended church for more than a month or two since I left the house at 18. I have a concise, clean, clear-cut no questions asked resentment for my father and his dedication to ministry. It ended up (with many other factors, obviously) driving my mom to divorce him a little over a year ago, which has now crushed him – and he’s lost, I can see it.

    The biggest “pain” I have recently realized is that I lack, or may not even have much if any, respect for my father as a man. Sure, he dedicated his life to ministry and saving souls and that’s all fine and dandy – but even after me being molested at 8 by a family friend – not once did he sit down with me and counsel me or even ask if it still affected me or anything along those lines. He didn’t teach me how to manage my finances, how to use power tools etc, he wasn’t a “man’s man”, so I merged into the real world being overly-naive and prude, realizing so many lessons of “what it truly means to be a man” the hard way.

    I could aimlessly ramble off so many more things that come to mind and delve much further into detail – but just as Mr. Rainer stated, re-opening those wounds are something that I have an extremely difficult time with. Extremely difficult.

    The most comforting thing of this article and it’s following responses and thoughts is that there are SO many PKs out there who deal with the exact same issues. That’s about the only thing that keeps my head just above water when swimming in this sea of emotion and unanswered questions.

  54. Annie says

    I just ran across this today (its great BTW!) after I read a scathing post about my dads church on FB. Now take into account I am 33 and I moved away from my home state over ten years ago. The post almost brought me to tears and to top it off it was from one of dads best friends and someone that helped raise me. I was just looking through online posts about the effects of being a PK long term because you never stop being a PK and I think people forget that. Everything in this post and your previous post from last year are true, I didn’t personally deal with all of them because my folks are amazing but I know kids that did. I have found one the hardest parts for me to this day is feeling the same hurt as my dad. Watching congregants, many times my dads friends, bash the church, a specific sermon, or leave and seeing the pain in his eyes, he was always supportive and prayed with them or tried to talk it out in love. Even though it hurt he never showed it to the church. And money… don’t get me started on tithe and knowing every week as people put money in the plate some of that was going to my dinner plate at home. Worrying if there would be enough after our church tithed out to ministries and missions (always the first priority), paid the building and maintenance expenses, and paid the staff… my dad always took his salary last. Now I admit I was a worrier and one of the ways satan tests me to this day but from the moment I was able to understand the concept of my dads salary it was always scary. Our church never dwelled on tithing, the tithe was prayed for and that was about it. Sometimes I wanted to say hello I eat based on what you give!!! Now I know God will always provide for my family and that was a big lesson to learn but it was a scary one to learn as PK of a small church body. After the FB post today I can’t image how hard it is for kids to hear things that are said about their parents. My folks were able to shield me but I bet social media opens PKs up to a lot more than they should have to see.

  55. Daniel Prock says

    I grew up as a preachers kid, and while I wouldn’t live my life any other way there were hardships as well. The preacher is often times looked at similar to a sports coach. When they’re doing well, everyone loves them. When things are a little rough, every part of the preachers life is criticized, including us kids. Often times I was told that I didn’t know enough about the Bible, I was told I needed to pay attention more if I didn’t know every single event happening at the church, and once was even griped at because my dad’s new project might “completely destroy the church financially” even though at the time I had no clue what that really meant. So the “please just let me be a kid” sentiment I did agree with. I will say after my dad’s project was successful, I made sure that church member who griped at me knew that the plan worked just fine.

  56. Anonymous says

    The thing that’s struck me most over the years was that as a pastor’s child I never believed anyone ever really knew me, and that those who liked me, liked me because I was a PK, and those who disliked me, disliked me because I was a PK. I cannot, even as an adult, count on one hand those genuine relationships that I believe crossed the threshold.

    • Rwg7 says

      Anon –

      I know exactly how you feel – literally…exactly. That is a hard place to be in. You have to learn to trust (speaking to myself too). You have to learn to open yourself up to people AND accept the fact that they want to be a part of your life because of you and not because of your parents or your being a PK.

      IF you believe it is hard for someone to like you for you, than it makes this mental battle even more difficult.

      Let me leave you with this: God made you uniquely you. And did that for a reason. Other people see that and want to be a part of your life. You MAY and probably WILL get hurt by opening yourself, but that is a part of life more than just being a PK. Love people as genuinely as you know how and trust the Lord to bring the right people into your life who could give a rip what your parents do vocationally, but simply care about you :).

  57. Elizabeth says

    I have grown up as a PK, there were 3 years that I was an MK, but other than that I have been a PK my whole life (I am now 20). There is both bad and good in being a PK. It’s great knowing so many great strong people in the church and having the mentorship for the other staff and their families. You also have a feather that you knows loves God and does his best to show you Christ through him. It’s also hard though. Everyone in the church knows you and watches you. They, generally the seniors, will Facebook stalk all of your photos and if they think one of them should not be on the internet your dad will hear about it and ultimately you will have to take it down. Everyone knows who you’re dating and what’s going on in your life, there is no privacy. You have to be perfect, you are the pastors daughter, and therefore should have been raised right. So you’re perfect right? The hardest thing for me in my life right now is the constant pressure to be at church every Sunday. There can be no sleep in because people expect the pastors kid to be there and your father feels the pressure of the people in the church and his reputation. I get why some PKs leave the church because of seeing church goers and hypercritical and judgmental. It’s a hard thing to get past, but for me i just have to remember that every religion is going to have that, you just have to find the ones that a true christian. I thank my dad for showing me God’s love, for loving me and being the best father he could. I have a lot of bitter feelings towards being a PK, it’s not the easiest family to be a part of, but it wasn’t all bad, it just has it’s hard times.

  58. HyperCritical says

    I have only come across this blog today. I will tell you, all seven points are real to me, to the point where the Work has been a wedge dividing the family asunder. A personal sentiment is that family should come first. In as much as Adam ate the fruit Eve took a bite of, knowing he’d suffer much as her, choose your family. You only live once. So does your family. You’ll have an eternity to be with God, but maybe only a lifetime to be with the people that matter to you. Make it count.

    If you do go into the ministry with them, then set the tone inside the church. Teach the congregation to mind their own business. We are humans just as much, subject to much flaws and failures.

    I am bitter to the bone. And I resent it. However, I still cannot let it go. I am still am here, inside the walls of the great white hall, dressed as a sheep, but with the heart of a wolf. Every single time I let my guard down, the congregation comes to bite me in the ass when all I wanted to be was one of them. Them that had regular lives. Them who my father had more time for. Them who were not judged for their mistakes and were loved nonetheless. Them..

  59. liz says

    I have read several of your thoughts, and appreciate and can relate to many of you. What has really helped you in processing this and recovering? I have felt stuck in perfectionism, and wanting to still always be seen as good….I am seriously questioning my salvation for the 4th time.

    A little background. My dad was a pastor of at least 4 different churches. My mom didn’t become a Christian until after I was born. She really didn’t get a chance to grow up, but was flung right into pastor’s wife mode. My dad is a very reserved man, but gets really intense when he preaches. I don’t know how much to go into on this….but it has been a very difficult road for all six of us. My brother was diagnosed schizophrenic. My mother was severly depressed, and accused my dad of having an affair. Which I know is not true, but it was unfortunately the fabricated story she believed. She would ask if we were going to see the other family many times when we would go see friends. We did not really sit down and discuss how we were doing as a family….It was just keep on this happy face, and die on the inside. As a senior in HS, I got to a breaking point. I was severly depressed. I wanted so badly to keep it together, but I couldn’t……I had no stability at home, but I had to try and keep up this Christian act.

    It has felt so much like acting over the years… I just cry out to God that he will genuinely save and regenerate my heart, and so many others.

    We could all use lots of prayer…I was encouraged to hear that a pastor friend of the family who we knew from years ago has prayed faithfully for each one of us kids.

    To all of you PK’s out there: you are not alone in the craziness.

    Thanks to you all for sharing. Maybe a compiled book of stories as well as ideas about a road to recovery for a PK would be helpful to many.

  60. jean says

    Pastoring is the only job or career I can think of i which your 3 year old child can be blamed for the loss of the family income..My parents ministered in SBC churches for over 50 years. People wooed them, loved them, then proceeded to campaign against him and kick them out. They were faith filled loving, compassionate generous…with everyo e except their own children. My father once made the statement from the pulpit, “The reason the bars are more full than the churches are sadly because there is often more fellowship in the bars” Mybrothers and I learned the truth of that statement personally. None of us attend church. We could do no right. Two of us are sociophobic..always fearing the humiliation we were shamed into expecting..raised with bitterness and criticism in the home, watching the ki nd gentle loving others recieved from them..assuming there must be some horrible flaw with us that could turn such godly parents away from us in scorn or upon us in wrath. We were on display, always disappointing in big and small and all ways..never nurtured, cherished,cuddled, never a proud word,never an approving father died this year.. Leaving us un prepared in all ways. Today I came upon a small notebook, one of many, filled with outlines for a sermon I heard over the years. Filled with clippings, quotes, illustrations, jokes, he was a remarkable speaker, funny, i ntelligent, wise. My boyfriend asked how a man I felt so unloved by,( 10 min. Visits brought on weeklong depressions) suddenly reached hero status..he was admirable loved and respected, his counsel sought out by so many..still critical and bitter with me and any belonging to me(my precious children felt his rejection as well, while all their friends told them how lucky they were to have such a wo nderful grandfather). Next to the booklet of sermons that warmed my heart with pride and nostalgia was a manila envelope. I pulled it out and poured the contents out. My elderly father who could never show his children warmth or love had yet another passion other than evangelism, apparently. He had no computer, did not mail order, so apparently the contents were worth a road trip or several. I sat on the floor, devastated, offended, once again..hurt so deeply and rejected. Once again,feeling the need to protect, cover for, defend. I’m done. He is gone. I am working myself around to forgiveness, been a long day. His weakness draws compassion and disgust, alternately. I have realized 3 things..1) I am stronger than him. 2) He may have seen me as a flawed disappointment to him, but he may have been ore flawed than I and just much less hon est about it. 3) Ah Ha! Moment…maybe God was not shunning and snubbing me everytime my dad (his buddy) did..

    • john says

      I definitely hear where you are coming from jean, I grew up as a PK and it was really tough. I attended a Christian school growing up and I was always involved with church stuff. I think my parents loved me and cared for me, but I think what really hurt both of them and their relationship with their kids was that, I am convinced they had other idols in their minds that really stumped not only their family relationship, but also their ministry. My parents did alot of good things for the church, but sometimes I think they were doing it for the wrong reasons. My dad was kind of Pharisaical, (if there is such a word) in the way he interacted with our family and so could my mother. I remember they always had this attitude where if you or anyone else didn’t agree with them, do things the way that they did, or think the way they did, they had a very arrogant and condescending demeanor towards other people who were not like them. I remember them being very strict with all of us kids and as I grew older and started going to public school, I really deeply felt like I could not trust them when I was going through any kind of personal stuff because I was so used to them throwing it in my face whenever I would try to approach them with some issue that I felt was important and I would usually get a condescending response in return. You can’t bring those kind of attitudes into the world and expect the world to listen to you. I remember seeing over the years at their church where the congregation seemed like it was declining. I think there was way too heavy of an emphasis placed on entertainment service and not enough on spiritual development. My family went through some really tough times because of alot of this stuff and I feel like it could have been avoided if we fixed the heart attitudes first and then worked on the ministry and family relationships.

  61. Kaylin Harrison says

    I have been a Pastor’s Kid for my whole 16 years, and my dad has been the pastor of the same church for 27 years. We’ve had the regular ups and downs that every church in the world goes through, then we’ve had the big church splits, where half of the families in the church leave. There have been weeks where my dad didn’t get a paycheck because the church split had such an effect on the financial status of the church. No one really understood what we were going through as a family, nor did we tell anyone. PKs always have a stereotype pinned on them… We’re either gonna be in full time ministry, or we quit altogether… I’m not gonna lie, when I was little I threw around the “because I’m the Pastor’s kid” excuse a whole lot!!! But as I’ve gotten older, the stress and the emotional part of being a PK has began to catch up with me… Sometimes I feel like I don’t have “parents” and that I just have a pastor and a pastors wife, but it’s not their fault at all… It’s really not anyone’s fault… It just comes with the territory I guess… But when I see the situations others are going through and what they’ve had to grow up in, a realize how blessed I truly am… I have a dad that loves God most importantly, and that loves my mom, me, my three brothers and sisters, and our church… I don’t even think anyone will read this, but it’s nice to get it out!!! :) PKs just need to be treated like any other kids in the church, but a word or two of incouragement definitely doesn’t hurt… EVER!!!

  62. Kris Baker says

    As a PK who had a wonderful experience growing up, and as a Pastor with two awesome kids, this subject is very important to me. I agree with all except the “Regular Kid” part. Fellow PK’s, face it, we can’t be regular kids, especially in the life of the Church. My key was to enjoy being the PK. Take advantage of all the perks, and there are some! I was immensely proud of my parents and as a result I was happy to be identified with them. Pastor’s can’t be regular people and neither can their kids. But we can try to limit the negatives and accent the positive! PK’s rule!!

  63. Taylor says

    I’m 18 years old and I’ve been a pastor’s daughter my whole entire life! Number 6 really sticks out to me. I’ve always felt like people see me as “the pastor’s daughter” rather than Taylor. There’s no “regular” in a pastor’s family life. Everything is different yet, this is all I’ve known. There’s most definitely a blessing and a curse about it.

  64. jay says

    i wish i was a regular child……………too much expectation cause they think we are not humans too and we dont have feelings either. It brings resentment in us as PKs………………why are these people doing that…smh i hate their ways.

  65. says

    I think the pressure is a little worse when your mother is the preacher. She isn’t even a pastor, but people see her as exactly that. Every time something goes on at home, she has to link it to God or scriptures. I feel as if I can do nothing without thinking about how it would affect her and the church. Someone get me out of this nightmare!

  66. Susan says

    I for one as the youngest of 5 pk’s will never enter a church, but I love the real God, he is with me always and comforts me and guides my every step. Most churches have completly lost their way in following the world with building funds and fake relationships. Sad, but God is real and if you listen and have no guile in your mouths he will grace you with his presence.

  67. Dox Kay says

    As a PK, i have experienced al that in my life, the same goes for my brothers.
    Ministers always assume that thier children will turn out to be strong Christians and face all challanges, but sadly that's not the case, they hence leave them to wonder. I have seen my brothers and I suffer from addictions and I am not saying this doesn't happen else where but in my family its alarming. I for one have straggled with sexual immorality ie Masturbation, Fornication, prostitutes and porn that i used to steal frm My Elder brother who later got a beautiful baby girl that we love dearly out of wedlock. Our youngest brother is straggling with Drug, Alcohol, masturbation and he is in and out of prison. Our eldest brother committed suicide.
    I still love Jesus and i know al things known to man were made through him.
    My advice to al Ministers don't assume your children know or otherwise will follow your foot steps cause those steps are scary. Don't assume they know and follow Jesus Christ and have him in their lives. Just know this, they are confused like every other kid, take time to teach them the word as their Dad or Mum not as a minister. To al the parents Don’t be too busy for your family, your family needs you more than the world
    Please pray for my family cause i still believe in the God of Miracles. Thanks

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