My Life As A Preacher’s Kid

Funny angry nerd near empty green chalkboard

By John Carosiello

Nothing stopped a conversation with new school-acquaintances like: “My Dad is a pastor!”

While other kids bragged about their parents and what they did for a living, they did not know how to respond to the fact that I was a preacher’s kid, “a PK.” Most of them did not even go to church, let alone know how to talk to me. What’s more, my public-school teachers seemed to look at me differently as well. I remember my third-grade teacher saying to me: “Is that how a pastor’s kid should behave?” I was not doing anything wrong, just being silly with my one friend, yet she made sure everyone knew that I was held to a higher standard. 

In fifth grade, my teacher publicly asked me if I needed to leave the room because he was going to show the class a Christmas movie that had to cuss words in it, the class laughed. I was mortified. There were no other PK’s in my grade.  And it was not like I got any breaks at the church. If I did anything out of line around a Sunday School teacher, I was publicly reminded that I was supposed to set an excellent example to the rest of the kids because…(wait for it)…I was the PASTOR’S SON!  

I thought life as a pastor’s kid would get more comfortable in high school, but it didn’t.  I just got tougher (and not in a good way). I remember confiding in my youth pastor that I was having lustful thoughts, only to turn around and have him tell my parents.  Awesome (sarcasm)! 

I learned to internalize my feelings, hide my failures, and even perfected a fake smile. Truth is: I was dying inside and did not know where to turn. My older brother had the same struggles, so he turned to drugs. I remember him telling me: “I hate the church! Church-people are the worst! I wish our parents were not in ministry!” 

I never shared that with my parents. They were under enough stress at that particular time, so I did the only thing I thought I could do: bottle up my emotions and pretend like nothing was wrong. I felt alone, but thankfully that all would change. 

My parents found out about a “PK Retreat” that was happening on the shore of Lake Erie. They asked me if I wanted to go. I was apprehensive. but curious. My parents explained that kids from clergy families from all over the state would be staying at a resort for three days to worship, pray, and have fun together. My folks added, “And all of the leaders there are PK’s!” I could not sign up fast enough! Maybe I wasn’t all alone. Perhaps those leaders would know how to reach me…and they did!  What’s more, I found out that other PK’s were experiencing exactly what I was experiencing!  

Every year at PK Retreat, we would share deeply. There was rarely a dry eye in these sessions. Some PK’s felt like their parents loved the church more than them. Still, others lamented that their parents lived double-lives, and they were not supposed to tell anyone. 

Regardless of the challenges we faced, we all knew that we were not alone. That realization changed our lives! Twenty years later, I still keep in touch with friends I met on those PK Retreats. That’s how deep and strong the bond became! 

These retreats helped me realize that I needed to find healthy outlets outside of my parent’s church. I expressed this to my parents, and they suggested I join an additional youth group of a church they knew. I did, and it helped me become the pastor I am today.    

Do you feel like your kids are hurting but that you cannot get through to them? Do you feel like your kids resent the fact that you are in the ministry? Are your kids rebelling against the church? 

If there is not a PK Retreat in your area, perhaps you could help that happen.  If that is not possible, I want to encourage you to reach out to a local pastor or youth pastor that you trust. If you do not know any local pastors (outside of your church), I encourage you to make an effort to network, and get to know some of the pastors in your area. 

Finally, I would like to extend a hand to you, if you are a pastor/parent and you are struggling, I invite you to reach out to me: JohnC@citg.org. I want to pray for you, encourage you, and offer resources. Our communications will be strictly confidential. 

May God bless you and refresh you with encouragement, peace, and joy today, in Jesus name.

2 thoughts on “My Life As A Preacher’s Kid”

  1. I was a “PK.” Although I did sometimes feel I had higher standards than others, which I didn’t always live up to, I was never anything but proud of my parents. My dad was an outgoing, friendly person who only saw good in everyone. My mother worked as hard as my dad in the church because she was a “preachers wife.”

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  2. I struggle with these same feelings to this day, and I’ve been out of my parents house for almost 5 years now. I still go to the church they have, I’m active as a Sunday School teacher, but sometimes I feel like I want to leave and go to another church. Somewhere where I’m not the PK and can just listen to the Word, and not know that I’m being watched at all times. But, I know that if I were to leave their church, it would break their hearts. So I stay, and try hard to move past those feelings. I feel horrible that I can’t really tell anyone at church, because then the judging and gossip would begin. It’s definitely not easy being a PK.

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