My story begins and ends, thus far, within the church. I grew up a brother and the son of two pastors. I’ve heard good and bad stories of pastor’s kids. Some have a disasterous time growing up with the heavy expectations of parents and church. Others have a pretty healthy experience growing up in the church as a PK. I’d place myself with the latter. I have so much to be grateful for when it comes to not only have one but two parents in church ministry. Both my mom and dad did so much to make sure that my sister and I felt love and grace and they nurtured whatever they could in our gifts, abilities, and interests.
But I also know the frustrating parts about growing up as a PK. The first time I noticed something frustrating was before I was even in middle school. One afternoon when I was at a friend’s house I was telling a story about how I had lied to my parents before. The response I got from this friend’s parent made me cringe: “Chris, your parents are pastors and you lied to them before?” It didn’t really seem like an accusation, but it was just enough to annoy me about this unrealistic expectation. And it created a small fear that what I did now mattered just a little bit more than everyone else.
I remember being picked to pray by classmates in Sunday School because I was the pastor’s kid.
I remember being the only kid who really knew the ins and outs, the good, the bad, and the ugly of what sometimes happens in the church.
I remember when my home church fell apart and everything that was happening felt so stupid and silly…but I couldn’t say what I felt because I was the pastor’s kid.
When I first listened to Mean Everything To Nothing, I was hooked by it’s very first song. Driven, edgy, fast, frustrated…as a PK it immediately resonated with me:
I am the only one who thinks I’m going crazy and I don’t know what to do
I am the only son of a pastor I know, who does the things I do
But if it was you I don’t think that it would matter
And if it was true then I just wouldn’t matter
There were so many times that it felt as if I just wouldn’t matter if people found out about the trouble I got into as a kid. That me, as a normal teenage kid, would be dwarfed in comparison to what I did wrong or right. Anyone else’s kid, and it probably wouldn’t matter as much. A friend of mine told me a story about how his dad (a pastor) had to defend him because congregation member found out that he (my friend) was a democrat. I have a feeling there wouldn’t have been a confrontation had it been the child of any other member of the congregation.
I have plenty of frustrations about the church – as well as a great love for it…so much that I now work in it – that have stemmed out of my experience as a PK. It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint what purpose these frustrations and experiences serve: as a heavy weight on my shoulders or as a basis for understanding, grace, and growth. Are they something to be conquered or a part of the journey of moving forward in life?
To be honest it’s been a point fear for me. I sometimes fear that my experience growing up as PK and now working in the church is more confining than freeing. But I do find hope in Andy Hull’s lyric: “I guess that it’s true, you never knew the passive power of the truth would cut me loose.” I don’t know if Hull intended it, but it seems to echo the spirit of the writer of 1 John when these words were penned:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18
A practice I’ve found freeing and helpful is naming fears: naming the things that haunt me, that bring distress, that I sometimes don’t realize are there. It’s kind of like being my own prophet: calling myself out on my own “ish.” It’s simple, freeing, and a great way to spend some time during Lent.
I hope the truth will cut people loose.
I hope deep seated fears will be driven out by perfect love.
**Quick note: this song – and others to come – may have a couple explicit words. If you don’t mind, then disregard this. If you do, just be forewarned**