Being a PK has influenced every part of my life. It has influenced my values, my self-concept, and my life goals. I have lived through the joys and challenges of growing up in a ministry family. I also know what it’s like to have my family centered on, and sometimes overtaken by, service to God. Growing up a preacher’s kid has taught me the intense value of living a God-centered life, but it wasn’t an easy path to appreciate that value.
I grew up at the church. Day in and day out, my days were spent running around the church, playing in or near the church, listening to the dirty laundry of the church in hushed voices around me. Typically, if something needed done, it was the pastor’s kids who were volunteered. I served as a janitor, lawn care service, snow plow, babysitter, emergency Sunday School teacher, youth director, meal preparer, decorator, organizer, secretary, greeter, usher, you name it, usually because so few volunteered in the church or it was just assumed that we would take care of it.
Of course there were fun, loving times, but frequently they were overshadowed by the need of the church. We learned young that our father wasn’t truly “our father” when it comes to the church. He’s the church’s father – caretaker. Other parents in the church didn’t seem to understand that his children had given up a considerable amount that their children never had to. Their children did not have a vacation cut short because someone died and their parents had to come home and do a funeral. Their children did not wait long periods of time after services to go home because their parents had a line of people waiting to talk to them. Their children didn’t have the phone ring non-stop at home for their parents, interrupting their family time and often taking their attention away at times when the kids really wanted it or needed it. Their children didn’t grow up in the “fishbowl” that is the ministry, often a cruel place when it should be a nurturing one.
As I’ve said, there is immense pressure that can be imposed by perceived expectations of parents, the church, and the greater community. The experience of having successful and impactful parents doing “great things” led to a perception that “it is not OK to mess up.” I was afraid when I realized I could not “achieve perfection” as my parents had. As a teen I questioned, “Will I be able to live up to what my parents are doing and what others expect of me?”
My “mess-ups” seemed to be a “bigger deal” than for other kids because they reflected poorly on my family’s reputation. There was barrier that perceived expectations of “perfection” had on my ability to have an open and honest relationship with my parents. I didn’t feel I could tell them the difficulties. I didn’t want to burden them when I knew they already had the burden of the church.
But growing up in a church environment provided many blessings, as well. It’s just harder to see through all the murk. One of the most amazing things was seeing how God works in people’s lives. I got to see how faith and prayer could change a life, drastically and minutely. Being involved in the variety of ministries and services at the church allowed my capacity to love people from all walks of life. It encouraged my desire to work with teenagers through my young adult years. Now, it’s working with women to empower them to live their lives purposefully as God desires for them and to break free from the shadows of expectations.