Ever wonder what life must be like through another person’s eyes? Imagine what kind of perspective of life you would see, for example what seems blue to you may appear yellow to another. This thought can be mind boggling, and I’m not going to get into the theoretical components of this, but today I want you to see through the eyes of a couple of my friends and at a later stage I’ll tell my story.
My friends and I have a few things in common, but among those things one thing vividly stands out, and this one thing is that we were all born in the same place. This may sound interesting and may confuse you, but what I really mean to say is that we were all born behind a pulpit. We’ve lived a big part of our lives as Pastors Kids(PK’s), and because of this we can relate at a mutual level where we just understand each other. This article is all about our experiences as PK’s.
Without wasting much time lets get straight into the stories:
“So what does your dad do?”
“He’s a minister”
“Oh really? That’s so cool!”
“So he works for the government? What is he a minister of?”
“The gospel - he is a pastor”
And so goes the familiar conversation brought about by the PK’s mistake of referring to his dad a minister out of context.
That is the the reality of our lives - we live out of context. Pastor’s kids in particular, and all Christians in general live as aliens in this world, different, set-apart, distinct.
In reading the book of Leviticus - I’ve wondered what it must have been like to live in the home of a priest. Seeing your dad praying for the people, coming home, exhausted and covered in blood as a result of the dozens of sacrifices he had made that day must have been strange. But then I suppose that’s not too far removed from the life I’ve led.
The life of a PK is marked by unusual activities such as being at church five times a week, having Friday nights planned out in advance, regular meals and visits from church members, giving up your room for a missionary or pastor in-transit and having your dad leave after dinner to go and attend an elders/deacons meeting or visit someone in hospital.
Let’s face the facts - this is not a normal childhood. As a PK, you only realise this toward the end of primary school, and even then you don’t know the full extent of it until way into high school and beyond.
Growing up as a young boy in a pastor’s home I saw my dad at work almost every day. To my knowledge, this is unusual - most kids may see their dad doing his work once or twice in their lives, or never. At home my dad was a counsellor after dinner, spending time locked behind the study doors listening to and advising various people from the Word of God. During the day he would be preparing his sermon in his office at the church. Normally, on a Sunday he would leave the house to go and pray before I had even woken up. Later I would sit in the pews and listen to him speaking with an authority that came from outside of himself and explaining what was written in the Bible with a seriousness and gravity that I seldom saw at home. He was presenting The Sacrifice for people to embrace. My life was not too dissimilar to the one I imagined from Leviticus.
My dad was, of course, more than just a priest - and that’s where the difference comes. Many people knew my dad as the Pastor. I knew my dad was dad, when we were having supper or he was helping me with a school project, or tucking me in at night. He was my coach on the sports field, encouraging me and shouting instructions from the sidelines. He was my mentor, teaching me to be a man and do manly things. But in every activity he lived, Coram Deo - before the face of God. Although he was a sinner, he was no hypocrite and so God and the Bible were very much a part of my life every day.
There are negatives to being a pastor’s son, let’s call them, sacrifices.
For starters, you can count on leaving church last after every service. Other kids cant imagine this. For them, after the benediction its tea time and then home time. Most PK’s on the other hand, know well what the church looks like in the dark, with no one else in it and how to lock it up.
A second negative is a lack of privacy and quiet. A minister’s home is a constant buzz of activity. The question after church on a sunday is not, “What are we having for lunch?” Its, “Who are we having for lunch?”
In addition, as I have already mentioned, during the week people come over for dinner and counselling, there may be a bible study on a Wednesday night, and certainly in my house, we entertained a multitude of missionaries.
This is not all negative, but I will get to that later.
A third negative is the scrutiny of others - people expect more of PKs as far as behaviour is concerned. People expect that you know the Scriptures better than other children your age and if you think you can remain anonymous, think again because everyone knows the PKs.
A fourth negative is not one that is exclusive to PKs, nor is it actually negative. As a PK you have a lot of rules from your parents - they’re strict and consistent. As you speak to non-christian friends, a growing feeling that you are getting the raw end of the deal with your parents begins to fester. You realise that you’re the only one who cant play sport on Sunday, or watch a particular movie with your friends or take part in certain activities. A lot of this doesn’t seem to make sense or be fair.
A fifth negative is that people will ask you whether you are going to be a preacher like your dad so many times that you eventually begin to feel guilty that you don want to be one. I have never had a desire, or felt a call to the ministry but I often felt like I was disappointing people (not my parents) by saying so.
A sixth negative for me was that when I was converted, I didn’t have a dramatic, Damascus -Road experience like so many other Christians. Having been brought up in a christian home, my behaviour was always quite good. It was my mind, and my heart that showed my need of a saviour. This meant that I struggled with assurance of salvation for years. I still cant tell you when I was saved. I know it was around the end of primary school but for me it was a process, with no fireworks or 180° turnaround. It took a lot of prayer and wrestling before God made me comfortable with the way I had been converted. I thank God for His grace in saving me from the rebellious childhood experienced by so many other PKs.
Lastly, your life can change dramatically in a short space of time should your dad be called to another church. It means, saying goodbye to your friends, packing up, leaving school and starting again somewhere else. I only had to do this once but it wasn’t easy.
On the other hand, there are many many positives to being a PK, and in my opinion, they far outweigh the negatives. In fact, I found that as I grew up, came to know Jesus and got a new heart, I came to see many of the negatives as positives.
The most obvious positive is being exposed to the Truth so often. I know that I am speaking from a human perspective when I say this, but I am sure that I would never have been saved if I had not been exposed to the Word so often and been able to ask questions of my dad whenever I couldn’t understand something. In coming to understand the sovereignty of God, I still marvel at the fact that He caused me to be born into the family that He did, rather than into some Muslim family in Saudi Arabia, where I never would have heard the Truth.
Another positive is that, as per people’s expectations, you do actually know your bible and doctrine better than other kids your age, or at least that was my experience. Many other people are saved in arminian churches and then go through a long period of battle when they are exposed to the Doctrines of Grace and the rest of reformed theology. I never had that - I grew up believing in things such as God’s sovereignty, man’s sinfulness, election, particular atonement and perseverance of the saints. As I grew in my knowledge of the Scriptures, these things were just confirmed.
You are forced into ministry life. By that I mean that you are at church so often, you naturally become involved with ministry yourself. You learn what it is to serve, and to give of yourself for others. You have the example of your parents to model this for your too.
You are saved from, “Pastor worship” by seeing first-hand that preachers are mere men and not supersaints. You view other preachers as worthy of honour, yes, but as fellow Christians on the road of sanctification, and this removes fear.
As a PK, you are exposed to many other churches - your dad is asked to preach at neighbouring churches and you get to make new friends and see what the state of the Church is in your country. It saves you from thinking that your church is the only one that has ‘got it right.’
You get to meet many interesting people and hear amazing stories of how God is real and active now, just as he has been in history.
You get the chance to start again - moving to another church is a big upheaval in your life, but I enjoyed the chance to recommit myself to being different for the sake of Christ, and establishing a reputation as one of his disciples.
I have lived in a pastor’s home now for 19 years (not counting my dad’s 4 years in seminary) and as I look forward to being married at the end of this year, leaving this pastor’s home, and starting one of my own I have come to appreciate the years I spent being a PK. There are unique sacrifices that a PK has to make but there are also so many blessings. I am moving into a chapter of my life where people will not know me as a PK, I’ll just be Anton, but I will always treasure my childhood spent in a pastor’s home and the lessons I learnt there.