I Always Hated Being a Preacher’s Kid… (originally posted on MySpace)

I Always Hated Being a Preacher’s Kid…

United members who may read this – read this in full before you judge.  And remember, this expresses only MY thoughts – not my dad’s and not my mom’s.

My friend Amanda sent me the following link in an email today: http://leagueofpastorswives.blogspot.com/2007/08/not-victim.html.  She said in her email that it made her think of all the “pain and neglect” I felt growing up as a PK.  Well, I have now spent more than an hour reading through various pastor’s wives blogs who all participate in this one general blogroll.  If you are married to a minister, or are a minister’s kid, read through some of these blogs – they will make you find a kinship you didn’t expect to find with strangers online.  She had no clue what can of worms she was opening.

Now, before I go any farther let me tell you now that I love my father’s profession and would not go back and change very much (if any) of my childhood.  My dad went to Bible College when I was 1 year old.  That was in 1979.  While my dad fulfilled ministerial rolls at two churches while we were at Roanoke Bible College (Elizabeth City Church of Christ in Elizabeth City, NC & Roanoke Acres in Manteo, NC) neither of those prepared us for his service at Parham Hills and now United Christian Church.  For those who don’t know Parham Hills merged with a smaller congregation 5-6 years ago and became United.  My dad became the full-time minister of the Parham Hills congregation on October 3, 1982.  I loved church which was good because we practically lived there.  By the time I was seven or eight, I could light the pilot light for the heating system in the church.  I knew how to unlock the doors so that they stayed unlocked.  I knew how to set the AC/Heat and what it needed to be set to before leaving the church.  I knew where every cleaning supply was and exactly how Mrs. Bess (the custodian at that time) wanted that church to be.  By the time I reached middle school, the magic of being the PK had worn off, and I was beginning to get a rash from being rubbed the wrong way.

Why did I hate being the preacher’s kid so much?  Sometimes people at our church treated (and still do treat) my dad like a dog.  He was always the last to leave everything – because he was expected to be the one to lock up.  We’ve just now gotten him out of that habit.  He cleaned up after everyone and had his intelligence questioned on a regular basis.  People in the church didn’t (and some still don’t) respect him.  This really hurts you as the child.  I really hate it when people talk bad about my father.  He works HARD for his congregation and loves every single member – even the ones who are hard to love.  He spends countless hours sitting in hospitals and nursing homes comforting the sick and dying as well as their families.  He flies home from long awaited family vacations to sit with a family during a major and unexpected surgery.  He leaves in the middle of the night to help in crisis times.  He misses ball games and concerts because church members need him.  He is emotionally vacant at home sometimes because he is giving so much at work.  My dad is an EXCELLENT preacher and an even better minister.  Minister’s Appreciation Day or Month?  Ha!  He’s lucky to get two cards.  Yes, being a minister is my dad’s job, but I’m not sure people in a congregation understand all that that job entails.  While most of us go to work at a certain time and then come home, my dad doesn’t have set hours.  Yes, that sounds great, but it also means that your personal life isn’t really your personal life.  Work doesn’t stay at work.  On top of that, most of us have a boss – singular.  Maybe we have a couple of people supervising us.  A minister has an entire congregation always watching what they are doing.  Do you ever have a day when you feel like nothing you do pleases your boss?  Imagine having 100+ bosses to keep happy.  Think it is hard to please the members of your family?  Try to please a 100+ member family!

On the note of a personal life – Ministers and their families do not have one.  Again, I know my dad chose this profession, but seriously -everyone at church feels like they have a right to know everything about our lives and then they feel as though they have the right to give their opinion on it.  My dad’s weight – go ahead, let him know what you think.  Don’t like his hair – let him know.  Don’t like what I’m wearing – please, complain to my dad – it really makes his day.  Even now, at 29 years old, church members enjoy “tattling” on me if they know I’ve done something wrong.  See me speeding? please call me down in the church parking lot for it.  Embarrass me all you need to in order to make yourself feel big.  Oh yeah, caught the preacher’s daughter doing something bad.

This October will mark 25 years that my dad has been with the same congregation.  Do you know how rare that is???  Ministers don’t stay at churches that long.  Do you know that the only “anniversary” our church ever recognized was our 10th year (I think, I was young) and that was because it coincided with a big anniversary for the church itself?  One of the ministers in our area got a CRUISE from his congregation as an anniversary present.  Not that my dad needs or wants a cruise, but a thank you would be nice. 

And for those times you don’t “like” my dad: If my dad preaches a sermon you don’t like, well sit back and remember that time when you had a car accident and my dad made it to the scene before your spouse did.  If my dad is having a bad day and seems a bit snippy – think about the chance that it is possible that he’s been up all night with a member who is going through a very private and secret divorce.  Something my dad says pisses you off – think of how many children my dad sees sick or dying.  My dad does way more than sit in the church or show up and preach on Sundays.  He doesn’t get a “day off”.  My entire childhood, my dad had Fridays off.  How often did my dad actually get Friday off?  Never – very rarely if ever – seriously!

What if you need my dad and you call him on his “day off”?  What would you do if (1) he didn’t answer his phone or (2) he answered and told you he’d be by tomorrow because today is his day off.  Ministers don’t get that option.  It just isn’t how it works.  I don’t even think my dad has a designated day off now.  His day off is the one with the least calls.  That said, don’t stop calling my dad when you need him.  It is his job.  I just want people to respect the work he does.

When you were sick – did one of your parents stay home with you?  That must have been great.  Do you know how many hospital waiting rooms or nurses stations I have slept in while my dad went to visit.  Why did he do that?  Because if he didn’t visit, he wasn’t doing his job.  Who cares if his own kid is sick and throwing up in a trash can down the hall.  Once I was old enough to stay home by myself – dad would make the soup, turn on the t.v, get me what I needed and then be off to be the minister.  He’d call home and check to see if I needed anything.

All that said (big breath here).  I now have a much greater and deeper appreciation for my father and all that he does for the members of my church and for my family.  My dad is an incredible minister and I have forgiven him and the members of our church for forgetting that I was important, too.  That I needed a dad just as much as they needed a minister.  I have a better understanding why Catholic priests aren’t supposed to be married or have kids.  My dad is pulled in a hundred different directions every day.  My dad is a great preacher, he is a great confidant, he is a great counselor.  When I went through my divorce, he was my hero.  He took better care of me than anyone and I love my dad more every day because of the man he is.

So, point of this post – respect your minister.  Thank your minister.  LOVE YOUR MINISTER.  PRAY FOR YOUR MINISTER.  And don’t forget that, though he chose to enter this profession, his family often gets neglected and mistreated along the way.  Love them, too.  Minister’s kids are normal kids.  God doesn’t create them any differently – except maybe thicker skin.  They need encouragement.  You don’t know them as well as you think you do – be careful how you speak to them.  You can leave permanent damage that just gets covered up as they grow.  They are just like your kids or you when you were a kid.  I wouldn’t take my dad out of the ministry for anything in the world.  He has something to offer people that no one else can offer in the same way or with the same love.

Dad, you rock as a minister.  I love you.  I love the sacrifices you have made throughout the last 25 years.  I am a better person because of the example of Christ’s love that you have set for me.  I am strong in my faith, not because you are a preacher, but because you and mom encouraged me to question my faith & go to other churches – explore and become sure of why I believe what I believe.  Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for your dedication.  You are the world’s best daddy, even if I didn’t appreciate that growing up.  You did your best to meet my needs while meeting the needs of so many others.  No, you are not perfect – but you are perfect for me.

Thank you, Amanda.  I loved reading through some of those blogs.  I love that minister’s wives have come so far in some respects – some refuse to be treated like dirt because they can’t talk back.  I love that my feelings as a child were common to preacher’s wives and kids.  I took comfort in reading through the blogs.  Thank you for what your email said.  It means more than you realize.