One of the hardest things about growing up in a pastor’s home was that while Dad had the title, the credentials, and the pay check, we were all “in the ministry.” Particularly at the small church where I spent most of my formative years, pastoring sort of became the family business. While this had its advantages (like always knowing where the best candy stashes were), it also had its challenges.
Growing up, I heard my mother tell people repeatedly “I’ve never received my call to ministry.” For the longest time, I had no idea what she meant by this. Later I realized she was referring to couples who “co-pastor”, but in my eyes, my mother was in ministry. She taught Sunday school and Wednesday night girl’s classes. She sang in the choir and played the piano. She made copies, folded bulletins, filed music, cleaned bathrooms, filled in for absent nursery workers, and spent countless hours creating scenery, costumes and props for various productions. I’m not sure the church could have run without my mother.
My brother and I weren’t spared, either. My father used to pick us up from school and take us to the church to fold bulletins on Thursdays. I changed transparencies for worship until we got a laptop and projector, at which point I learned how to use Power Point and started making slide shows for worship, announcements, and the sermon three times a week. My mother and I used to joke that we could start a catering company together based on our experience single-handedly setting up and tearing down for church socials, funeral dinners, baby showers, and wedding receptions. I babysat during worship practice for free. I prepared communion and cleaned up afterwards. I substitute-taught Sunday school classes and even taught children’s church for a while my senior year of high school because there was no one else to do it. I didn’t have a part-time job through most of high school because I was basically volunteering part-time at my father’s church.
And that’s really only the easy part of the responsibility that comes with being born into a pastor’s family. The challenging part was the visibility. Not only did I feel held to a higher standard of behavior, but because my father’s denomination allows the congregation to vote its pastors in and out of a job, I was constantly aware that my father’s employment could be affected by what I said and did. When I found myself butting heads with my parents after I started college, I was afraid to go to my campus pastor for advice, worried that our problems would become gossip and affect Dad’s standing among his colleagues.
When all we have to associate with the church is hard work and pressure to be perfect, is it any wonder that pastor’s kids so often rebel?