Growing up as a PK (pastor’s kid) we lived exclusively in the parsonage of the church where my dad served. Usually that meant that the church itself was connected to our home or very close. As a result, our home was not very private. My dad would sometimes use one of the open bedrooms as his study.
Many of those who attended our church considered our home their second home. For the most part people were respectful of our home and attempted to give us some sense of privacy. A few times I remember intrusions from people who did not seem to have a healthy natural space barrier.
One man in our home church who had lost his wife was desperate for fellowship. So desperate that he would come to our home unannounced at least 4 to 5 times a week. Sometimes he would offer an excuse as to why he had dropped by at other times he just dropped by. My parents were compassionate and never turned him away but it left us in an awkward position. We never knew when he might drop by so we had to live as if it might be any moment.
After a few months of this behavior, my dad would sometimes park his car behind the church building to give the impression we were gone. Eventually the man began to date someone and we did not see him except at church. He remarried and they were a wonderful couple together.
There were many interesting things about growing up as a pastor’s kid. At school when my classmates discovered my dad was a pastor they would try not to cuss around me, which was cool, I guess. I noticed that some of them were not comfortable going into my home. It was as if they thought my dad might recognize their sin or something and suddenly preach a sermon. Often after meeting my parents they were at ease and enjoyed coming over to the house.
At church, pastor’s kids were and still are, watched carefully. There is an expectation for pastor’s kids: They are to be good Christian examples for the other kids and youth, they attend everything that the church does, they arrive early to set up and leave late after cleanup, they never do anything to embarrass their parents or the church, they serve in ministries in the church.
In all honesty though, I loved being a pastor’s kid! I met the most interesting people, heard some of the great preachers of our day in their prime, hosted in our home Missionaries, Evangelists, Christian Leaders. I had a front row seat to watch God move among his people. I was first hand witness to miracles. I loved the music, special singing, choirs, Christian bands, and to be honest I just loved singing the hymns and choruses each week at church.
The church family was my second family. I can still see their faces, remember the great times we had together. Their touch on my life made such an impact that I chose to follow God’s call on my life. Some of my closest friends today, I met at church as a pastor’s kid. Many of them are now in ministry across the globe.
I made Jesus the Lord and Leader of my life when I was just 6 years old. I remember it clearly even today. My uncle was preaching about the power in the name of Jesus. As the message closed and he gave an altar call many came forward. I was among them. The encounter I had with God that day began as I left my seat and long before anyone saw me at the altar, God was at work in my heart. At six I did not have a long list of sins to ask for forgiveness. What was going on with me was more about the presence of Jesus than his power to forgive. I wanted to know Him personally. In a short moment of time I was overwhelmed by His presence. That day a relationship (not a religion) started that continues to this day.
My PK (pastor’s kid) story is not the story of all pastor’s kids. In some cases, PK’s have fallen away from the faith. The challenge to live up to expectations is too much for some. Others are moved to doubt as they see Christian contradictions, hypocrites, pastors and spiritual leaders who have moral indiscretions. Some start to doubt based on intellectual arguments, perceived Biblical errors, scientific arguments that refute Biblical accounts.
In fairness to PK’s, they have a front row seat to the ugly part of the church. They see people who call themselves Christians doing some not so Christian things. I saw my dad and mom viciously attacked by a handful of church members who had a power agenda. It was very hurtful to watch my mom cry to see the worry on my dad’s face as he pondered our future at the church. When I was 16 years old I remember a church friend, asking me when my dad would be resigning the church, his parents and one other member had been discussing it at the dinner table the night before. I could tell from the way he asked it was not out of concern that they may lose a good pastor but more about we are ready for the next pastor.
It would have been easy maybe even natural to start to dislike or even hate church people when facing circumstances like this regularly. What made the difference for me was the relationship I have with Jesus. It was clear to me that people acting in this manner did not really know Jesus. Additionally, I knew how much my dad loved Jesus. My dad loved Jesus so much and knew Him so well that he longed for all the people of our church and community to know Him too. I felt the same way. It was never “us” against “them”. It was always about Jesus and all of us.