I’ve been a PK for 33 years now. (PK = pastor’s kid for those of you who were fortunate enough to grow up without the stigmatization of overtly demeaning two-letter acronymic labels by which we are categorized as a subspecies set apart from average humans in society.) During this time I’ve watched as my dad has transitioned from student pastor to Bible class schoolteacher to single mom’s ministry to assistant pastor to senior pastor to nonprofit executive director and everything in between. In case you’re wondering, he’s actually still juggling the latter two simultaneously. Don’t ask me how. It’s quite the balancing act from what I can tell. Somehow he manages to pull it off every day without suffering a complete psychotic breakdown.
Personally, I would’ve cracked during the student pastor phase. Or maybe the single mom’s phase. (No offense to screaming teenagers and overburdened single mothers.) Either way, I certainly would’ve died long before becoming the lead pastor of a local church. I just don’t have the patience for it. Somewhere my father is nodding in agreement.
Speaking of local churches, I’m sure you’re aware that they’re chock full of opinions and assumptions. Of course, this is true of people everywhere, not just those who “go to church.” But, when you’re a pastor’s kid, you tend to grow up hearing nearly every attendee’s viewpoint, speculation, lamentation, thought, and theory — no matter how trivial or serious — including the thoughts directed at or about your father and your family.
One of the many common — yet terribly inaccurate — assumptions about PKs is that we’re all destined to work in some venue of full-time church ministry. Even worse, many folks assume that we want to work in ministry or that we enjoy it. I’ve seen this, heard this, and experienced this time and time again. I guess the groupthink tends to be “Well, your dad does it, and you’re a lot like your dad, so you must want to do it too.”
And then there are others who assume that, although we may not go into full-time ministry, we should at least be in some sort of volunteer or leadership role because “your dad is the pastor.” Whether it’s teaching a Bible study or playing in the worship band, we should supposedly be doing something that separates us out from the “average” kid in the church. You know, because we’re a “PK” and PKs are special. God forbid that we just be normal.
Now, I know that what I’m about say might come as quite a shock to many of you, so take a deep breath and try to relax. Allow me to set the record straight, once and for all, on behalf of PKs everywhere: Not every pastor’s kid wants to work in full-time ministry. Moreover, not every PK even wants to volunteer in ministry on a regular basis. And you know what? Who cares?
Crap. Grandma fainted. Someone help her back onto the pew.
The simple reality is that some — dare I say many — pastors’ kids (of all ages) just want to attend church without having to worry about fulfilling any sort of leadership roles, lofty expectations, or ministry requirements. There’s a freedom in that. There’s a tranquility in it. As PKs, we’re already immersed in the church’s culture, news, gossip, and drama even when we’re not on campus because it’s often the subject of household conversation. Not only do we know almost everything about the worship music, the ministries, the current sermon series, and the upcoming events, we’re also keenly aware of a plethora of complaints from congregants; the latest marriage to crumble; the most recent power struggle amongst the staff or board; the last person who spouted off and insulted our father; and the newest rumor about Brother So-And-So’s secret sin. We often know who’s leaving the church for no good reason, who’s struggling financially, and who’s in the hospital facing the possibility of entering Eternity.
If these issues exhaust us as PKs, how much more do they drain our dads? Thank God that they’re spiritually equipped for the role of pastor. Otherwise they would surely suffer that nervous breakdown I mentioned earlier.
The truth is that when people in the church see the PK fail to meet a so-called “expectation” — like ministry involvement or leadership — the outrage is often completely fake and unjustified. No one is authentically upset. It’s all a game. It’s just a theatrical production. They think they’re upset, but they’re really not. They have no reason to be, whether they're aware of it or not.
There was a time when I worried about those opinions and expectations, but now I honestly couldn’t care less about them. The Lord can use anyone in any career field, and PKs are certainly no exception. So, if you’re a pastor’s son or daughter, don’t allow other people to forcibly impress their wants and desires onto you. Don’t succumb to outside pressure to go into ministry. If it’s not for you, then go find your passion elsewhere, embrace it, and carry on.