I was the preacher's kid. Our family moved every couple of years, so I was always the new kid in church and in school. I was always accepted for a while, until the "new" wore off. I wore glasses, was average-sized, but not athletic, and never really got involved in school activities as funds were always short in our household. There were three children in my family. I have a sister and a brother, both younger.
When I was a child, it was common for our parents to openly discuss things going on in the church (the good, the bad, and the ugly). As kids, we heard all of the discussion about who was upset with whom, especially those that were mad at dad, and believe me, there were always those. This, in itself, would not have caused issues IF we were able to see healthy resolutions to the issues. Year after year, church after church, what we saw began to take shape in my mind as "Us against Them." While the adults may have, in fact, dealt with their differences, we heard only the tension and dissention. This made me realize, early in life, that the pastor's family would always be a target for anger and frustration.
Those feelings took flight as I became a teenager and pulled away from people in fear. Unfortunately, pulling way was interpreted as rebellion and poor attitude. I felt that I was not good enough and was, in so many words, told as much. The fact is, I followed the rules and attended every church event, as instructed. My life was about the rules and making sure that I did not "ruin my father's ministry." I was a believer and would cry out to God to help me, but it was very hard for me to picture God as a loving God. You see, we were taught the "FEAR of God." This was the type of fear that was not a characterized by honor and submission out of love, but a terrifying fear of the consequences of "getting out of line." By the time I turned 16, I contemplated suicide on several occasions.
Problems at home between parents and instability from moving left me feeling very lonely and afraid. Subconsciously, I blamed problems at home on "church people." "If they wouldn't give dad such a hard time, our family would be happy." It is amazing how kids reach conclusions based on what they see.
For me, the result was an extreme fear of "church people." I don't know how to say it any stronger than to confess that I was so afraid of "church people" that I would get physically ill walking into a church building. At 18, I married an unsaved pipe-fitter from East Texas. I wanted to run as far from the life of my childhood as possible. Even in the running away, though, I would make sure that my husband and I were in church on Sunday. I wasn't sure at that time if David was a Christian, but I knew that he needed to be saved. That was as far as I wanted our "religious life" to go. Little did I know that God had another plan for my life.
David and I were married August 26, 1988. In October, he accepted Christ, and in February 1989, he surrendered to full-time ministry. I was floored! I was supportive to the extent that I agreed to this as our future, but began to tell David some of my struggles. In the months to follow, I plummeted into such a deep depression that I prayed that God would just take me home. Thoughts went through my mind that I hate to admit today — the first, of which, was to reach the conclusion that it would not be fair of me to have children and subject them to the life that I had lived.
We did have kids, however, in the midst of the turmoil — two wonderful boys. After several years of struggling to "be" what was expected of me, and failing myself and everyone around me miserably, I reached a point at which I had to find help. That help came in a unique and special way that I will share at another time, but it was timely, as God always is.
I am very happy to say that our boys have had a very different "ministry experience" than what I endured. We have allowed them to be themselves and insisted that our church members do the same. For me, it took several years of counseling and of having good, solid, caring people around to show me true Christian friendship and love, but God has provided healing where I needed it most.
Now, here I am, almost 40 years old. My husband and I started a church eight years ago. I've just quit my corporate job as a Marketing and Sales Director to join David in the ministry at our church. We have determined that this will be the type of church where issues are discussed and settled biblically. Our church is growing and is a wonderful place to serve. We aren't perfect, but we are blessed.
If I were to offer advice to ministry parents, this is where I would start:
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped" (Psalm 28:7).
Ever feel like you wear a mask to cover up who you are as a pastor's kid? Do you feel like you have to hide the real you? Growing up in a minister's home, I felt like I was always smiling through the pain or putting on an attitude to please the people of my father's church — but not necessarily my God.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?
Grief is hard enough for grown-ups, but when a child's heart breaks, the load can seem unbearable. Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do to keep our kids from feeling the heartache of grief. However, we can help children cope and even grow in the midst of their pain.