BTW...I am a 'PK'
Pastor’s kids ('PKs’) usually get a bad rap. We are mocked, boxed and stereotyped. Those reflecting on their childhoods as ‘PKs’ typically testify to the generalised profiles of either ‘goody-two-shoes’ or ‘rebels.’
Those in the ‘goody-two-shoes’ camp often end up following in the footsteps of their preacher dads, becoming pastors themselves or missionaries or marrying pastors or missionaries; the typically dull, but nevertheless rewarding life of 'Charity Churchmouse.'
The 'rebels' end up either wanting nothing to do with church, or as prodigals; sometimes returning to the clergy fold after many years, often with scars. They are then quickly catapulted into the limelight with their dramatic and wild conversion stories. We love those testimonies.
My testimony falls into neither category, (although some might put me in the ‘goody-two-shoes’ camp). As I reflect on my childhood as a ‘PK,’ one would assume I could find enough reasons to end up on a Psychiatrist’s couch.
Our tendency is to find people to blame for our issues, and our past is a wonderful starting point for our messed up lives. If you are ‘PK,’ apparently you are more messed up and so more justified in your insecurities. Being a ‘PK’ is a syndrome worthy of many hours of counselling and sympathy.
Let me show you what I mean from this quote from Barnabas Piper, son of John Piper, who wrote a whole book on being a Pastor’s Kid to help other Pastors’ Kids.
‘Because being a PK can be very much like living in a pressure cooker. Even though we look just like the other kids and the ingredients are the same, our atmosphere is subtly but massively different. The ministry creates a pressure of expectation that is unlike any other. If all the other kids are cooking at 212 degrees (rather a challenge all its own), we are cooking at a scalding 250 pressurized degrees, and we are reaching our “done” point that much faster.’ …
He goes on: ‘That is part of why I wrote this book—to help PKs make sense of, sort through, and express those bottled-up frustrations and pains. What happens too often is bottling up, suppressing them until we get shaken just enough and the lid blows off and the hurt sprays everywhere.’ [The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity]
I am not sure I can relate to Barnabas Piper’s description.
Looking back on my childhood, it was surprisingly ‘normal’ as I compare it to my peers and it was also particularly privileged. Yes, growing up as a ‘PK’ was definitely more of a blessing than a curse.
Being a ‘PK’ was never really an identity or an obstacle to overcome.
I would like to give a different spin and perspective on the childhood of a ‘PK’ and the impact it has had on my life as an adult.
One of the most beautiful results of growing up as a church kid and ‘PK’ was my view of the church:
The church is a people not a place.
Church is not a place of worship but a place where people worship.
My life was interwoven with other people’s lives.
The Church, as a family, was fleshed out, daily, in and out of our home (not just on Sundays). Far from being burdensome, it was instructive, formative and encouraging.
We had front row seats to the good, the bad and the ugly. People’s lives are messy and complicated, (even in the church) and that was played out before us.
We were the first to know about a new baby being born, the news of a young mom’s miscarriage, the trauma of a medical diagnosis, the phone call of a car accident, the arrest of a member’s husband, and the sadness of the death of beloved church member. We were wisely protected from some of the details, but we were not naïve as to the broken world we live in and were fortunate to witness the impact of the Gospel into each situation and how it changed people’s lives.
The African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ can be uniquely seen in the church. The church is a community, a ‘spiritual village.’ As meals were shared, homes opened and life stories told, I saw people caring and I got to be part of that.
Having a dad as a pastor meant I watched him engaging with people, not a building. His office - beyond his study - was a hospital ward, a prison cell, a stranger’s lounge. He was building into people with bricks of the Gospel and God’s Truth. I saw God’s Word impact people’s lives; changing and transforming them. I saw the Gospel as a solution and Christ as hope. This filtered into our home and influenced my life. Dad’s job wasn’t just ‘out there,’ it was ‘in house.’
My life was exposed to the world out there.
One of the critiques of a ‘PK' - especially from the world - is our apparently ‘sheltered’ upbringing, which is supposedly negative; the church bubble isolating us from the real world. I would propose that that thinking is flawed.
The first person the world turns to in a time of crisis is a Pastor. The place the world turns to when there is nowhere else to turn, is the church.
So, a soup kitchen for the homeless people in the park next to our church on a winter’s Sunday evening was normal. Once again, I had front row seats.
My ‘sheltered’ life as a ‘PK’ was not divorced from the ‘unsheltered.’
Learning to serve meant learning to care and have compassion.
Late night phone calls to an accident scene, strangers losing their home and spending the night, ex-cons sitting in my dad’s study, an abused wife drinking tea with my mom in our lounge. Poverty and wealth and everything in between crossing our threshold and impacting our home.
There is no way you can remain neutral.
My eyes were opened to the brokenness and destructiveness of sin in society. My heart was softened to the Gospel and the love of Christ played out in front of me.
My upbringing was not just educational, it was spiritual.
I was raised in a godly home, among a church culture and sent to school. Par for the course were the normative childhood growing pains; making friends, bullying, academic pressures, teenage angst, difficult choices and insecurities.
And yet each stage of childhood and rite of passage was undergirded with a Biblical worldview.
Wisdom and Biblical principles were consistently taught in the home to correct and fight the lies the world was peddling. Conversations my dad had with me were Scripture-saturated. God’s Word and God’s way were held up high and shown to be good and wonderful. A reverent fear of who God is was my spiritual food. The proverbial Wisdom of Solomon was my parents' motivation.
Hear, my son (daughter), your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck (Proverbs 1:8-9)
A Christian worldview was my lifebelt amid constantly
changing worldviews and societal pressures.
My perspective and comfort zones were challenged.
I grew up under the Apartheid regime. My entire school career consisted of only white faces. In my high school years in the 80’s however, my dad was the Pastor at Wynberg Baptist in Cape Town. We had a few Coloured families in our church. We met together in our home. I was friends with their children at Youth. We were invited to their homes in the ‘Coloured area.’ We shared meals and fellowship with them. I had the privilege of being part of change.
Tiny seeds of questioning the political status quo at that stage started forming in my mind. There was an interracial couple in our church, illegally married at the time. Discussions ensued around our dinner table as to why my folks didn’t vote for the National Party. Biblical perspectives were slowly forming in my mind as to justice and the Gospel view of loving others.
Missionaries from all over the world passed though our front door; living biographies of lives lived in faraway places among different cultures and people groups.Hearing them share their struggles and challenges created a global awareness way before social media.
People from all works of life and stages of life spent time in our home. People who, were I not a ‘PK,’ I would probably never have crossed paths with.
An open home resulted in an open mind.
My eyes were opened to the truth of the Gospel.
‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’ (Romans 10:17)
‘From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ (2 Timothy 3:15)
These two verses are part of my testimony as a ‘PK.’
I don’t have a dramatic salvation testimony from a worldly perspective, but in hindsight I am grateful for God’s gracious working in my life at a young age. I am humbled that He opened my eyes to His truth which can be simply understood and for His gift of faith to me as a nine-year-old through the means of my parents, consistently teaching and modelling the Gospel in our home, and through the faithful teaching of a Sunday School teacher, which God used to soften my heart to enable me to recognise my sin and my need of Jesus as my Saviour.
He has faithfully kept me and grown me and enabled me to persevere through some of the same trials and messiness that I had front row seats to as a ‘PK.’
So I wear my ‘PK’ badge with humble gratitude, because I see God’s sovereign hand of providence in my life. My upbringing was not perfect, but it is what God has used to form the person I am today; a trophy of His grace. I have no right to question or distort that under a stereotypical label.