Daughter of a Bible college student. Granddaughter of a seasoned minister. I could recite my dad’s sermons word for word. At a young age, I was acutely aware of the eternal. I practiced my evangelistic skills on my little sister and my neighbourhood friend two houses down. No doubt impacted by my dad’s and grandpa’s passion for sharing the love of Jesus, my heart was eager to follow their example.
Life in a preacher’s home
As the years passed and my dad became a full-time pastor, my attitude changed. Dad’s responsibilities seemed never-ending. Beyond weekly services and premarital counselling, he accommodated demanding personalities and answered constant needs at all hours. Phone calls at 2 a.m., Saturday morning funerals and impromptu counselling sessions became the norm.
As a child, all I knew was that it meant less time for me.
By the time I reached my late teens, I hated being a pastor’s daughter – not simply because I had to share my dad with so many others, but also because of well-meaning church members who placed unrealistic expectations on me as a pastor’s kid (PK). People seemed to forget that I was just a teen. I hadn’t signed up for nursery duty every week, and I didn’t appreciate sideways glances if my sisters and I weren’t firmly planted in a pew every time the church doors opened. My passion waned; a subtle, growing resentment moved into my heart.
When I moved 1,000 miles away from my family to attend graduate school, I sighed in relief at the prospect of attending a church where I wasn’t known as the PK.
After several years out of the PK limelight, I moved past this attitude and began to view my experiences positively. Through them I learned how to evaluate my motives and seek God’s approval, not other people’s, when making decisions. My years of nursery duty no longer seemed like forced labour. Instead, they showed me humble service. After all, changing diapers and comforting other people’s screaming children is hardly glamorous work. Now, I can approach my own pastor and his family with appreciation, grace and understanding because I’ve walked a mile or two in their shoes. Maybe my insight will help you do the same.
Appreciation and consideration
Extend grace. Being part of a pastor’s family, I know well that standing behind a pulpit doesn’t imply perfection. As a member of a congregation, it can be easy to scrutinize my pastors, evaluating every word and action. But I need to be careful not to nitpick and be quick to extend grace.
Offer common courtesy. Recently I committed a huge no-no. I called our associate pastor’s wife at dinnertime. During the course of the conversation, I apologized multiple times. Why? Because I remember what it was like to receive phone calls and other interruptions during dinnertime, one of the rare opportunities when pastors and their families can sit down together as a family.
I knew to extend common courtesy to my pastors and their families by making an effort not to call during dinnertime, holidays or Sunday afternoons.
Support their marriage. Conflict isn’t absent from the homes of pastors. Pastors and their spouses are under extreme pressure. I’ve seen it. Now as a member of a congregation, one of my goals is to support and encourage my pastors in their marriages.
I can give a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant, encouraging them to date one another, or offer free babysitting. Other subtle ways include not speaking critically about the pastor to his wife or putting my pastors in a compromising position. If I need to stop by the pastor’s office, I leave the door open. If I need advice on personal issues, I involve the pastor’s wife in the discussion.
When I think about my own background, I gain a fresh appreciation for the time and energy my dad invested and for what my pastor invests in his family and ministry today. And although it took me awhile, I now gratefully confess, “I grew up as a PK.”
Ashleigh Slater is glad to be a PK and a mom in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month! For more ideas on how to show appreciation to your pastors, church leaders and their families, click here.