Preachers’ Kids and “Church Hurt”

Preachers’ Kids and “church hurt”

Ms. Lauren Wilson, Columnist

I won’t lie, when I was asked to write about the hurt of preacher’s kids “PK’s”, I was a bit apprehensive to do so. “How do I speak about our struggles without offending anyone, though it seems like no one cares when they offend us? How do I speak about our hurt without getting too personal?”  The church often forgets that PK’s are normal kids too. Most church people place unrealistic expectations on PK’s but somehow forget to place them on their own children. Truth is, the church contributes a great deal to PK’s hurt and disdain for the church, hence why many leave and never return.

The AME Church is all I know. Three weeks after I was born, the Bishop moved my father to a new church so I know little about my place of birth. At the age of four, the Bishop moved my father again. Then at the age of seven, the Bishop moved my father again. Then at the age of 22, you guessed it—he got moved again. At the age of 23, my father was assigned to be a Presiding Elder over 18 churches. Yes, supervising 18 churches is a lot but it seems that things became easier once my father didn’t have one congregation to oversee. With age, I grew to love the AME Church, its history and what it represents, but I was not always like this. With time and age comes maturity and understanding but how do you try to convince young PK’s to love the church when they’ve experienced being bullied and hated on all because of who their parents are? I’ve been physically assaulted by kids and adults in the church who didn’t favor my parents, accused of things that had nothing to do with me, uninvited to events because I was the reverend’s daughter, abandoned by the church when I needed them the most and judged for not having the perfect family because of course, the first family is supposed to be perfect. I’ve been abandoned by other PK friends of other denominations due to my parents divorcing because according to them, divorcing is ungodly.

So if you could imagine, dealing with all of that, along with trying to get good grades, have a social life and battle the hormones of growing into a woman, it was rough. I began therapy at the age of 13 to help cope with all that I endured and fortunately, I had/have loving family and friends who helped me through. PK’s are involuntarily placed in a position where we have no choice but to share our parents with the world and we are supposed to be understanding to it. We are allowed to be angry if our parents aren’t able to make it to our recital because they have church business to tend to. We are allowed to be sad when our families experience real life issues but have to put on a smile for the congregation. Many of us are forced to grow up early because of the treatment we receive. I am an educated strong willed 27-year old and even now, I am still told how I should be living my life, what I should and should not be doing, how to dress and to always respect elders even if they disrespect me because it is ok for elders to be mean because they “earned” it.

Many would not believe what I’ve experienced in the church because at times it unbelievable. Believe me, when I say, I wish none of them existed but this is my reality, a reality for many PK’s. Take the time to speak to us.  Get to know us and don’t judge us or think that you know all that needs to be known about us. We are normal. We are given chores, curfews, and punishments. We are allowed to hang out with friends and go to parties. We are allowed to miss a Sunday of worship. We are allowed to sneeze and go to the bathroom when our mom/dad is preaching. If you run into us outside of church just say hi and keep it moving. There’s no need to call the whole congregation to tell them what we are doing and who we are with. You wouldn’t want it done to you or your children so refrain from doing it to us.

Though I’ve only scratched the surface of what it’s like to be a PK, I do hope I have shared a glimpse of what most of us go through. Again, we all have different stories but one thing is for sure, we wish to be treated fairly and equally with hopes that you choose to understand us instead of judge us and push us away. Lastly, if you do not question your kids, please do not question us. We have parents for that.

Ms. Lauren A. Wilson (“Law”) is the Communications Associate for The New York Criminal Justice Agency where she is responsible for developing media strategies to increase public awareness for their research and mission of the Agency. She has been published in EBONY and has a long-standing history of presenting at conferences, sessions, and panel discussions on subjects ranging from self-esteem in young people to the importance of education and HBCU awareness.

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  1. Lauren, thank you for sharing this globally…it is not an easy journey beimg a PK; I’m grateful for this article to share with my own boys who
    are beginning to express their concerns and struggle of being the Pastor’s
    As a church, we’ve got to do better by our children – PK or not!!!

  2. VERY dope article. As a fellow PK I want to encourage and applaud you for sharing your opinion with the world.

  3. Thank you, Ms. Wilson, for your heartfelt thoughts and words. If only it were possible to make this required reading for all church members! Perhaps pastors should post it in a public place in their church buildings, such as on a bulletin board….

  4. As your mother I could not be more proud of the woman we raised, who is not afraid to use your voice apologetically. It’s your “real” and I’m happy you shared. I endorse this message.

  5. Yassss! My fellow, sista ‘PK’, I can definitely co-sign everything you’ve touched upon in your article. I was born and raised, 3rd generation PK, PGK (preacher’s grandkid), in the 13th Episcopal District! And… I’m also a PS (preacher’s sister), PN (preacher’s niece) and PC (preacher’s cousin). Looking back, I realize that because of my father’s profession, and him having some ‘status’ within the 13th, we had it good! Fortunately, we only moved from TN to KY and then back to TN. Maintaining friendships with ‘church’ friends was easy b/c I still saw them at the Youth Congress’, Annual Conferences, Planning Meetings, Sunday School Conventions, etc. I can only imagine the adjustment issues that PKs, who’s fathers were re-assigned to completely different states, experienced, which often lead to acting out and other self-destructive behaviors. It’s not always easy, and as you state, the kids are expected to get over it and conform! I too strayed from the church for years! Just didn’t want to be bothered. But eventually, I found my way back. And I’m glad about it! I could go on, but then I’d have written an entire article of my own! LOL! One day, we’ll have to hook up and trade PK stories!!!! LOL!
    Peace & Blessings!

    • Thanks Angela! I’m going to start a PK facebook forum to share stories. Pk’s need people they can relate to.

  6. Great glimpse… Because the PK’s on this thread know it gets MUCH deeper! The funny thing is, I’m grown with a family of my own and it still doesn’t change! Thanks for sharing. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a PK connection where PK’s (ONLY) from all denominations could just come together, chill, be ourselves and not worry about the face that we have to put on? Just a thought…

    • Paul-

      There used to be a PK conference back in the day. I attended it when It was in DC with my other friends who are PK’s. I’m not sure if they still do it but I am all for doing this because it is much needed.

  7. I can only imagine what you have been through. I continue to pray for the healing of wives and children of pastors and bishops .

  8. Excellent article Lauren, what took you so long to write it??? The more exposure along these lines, the sooner you will see a change, I pray. As the song goes, “It’s been a long time coming, but a change is gon come.” It will come with faith in the Almighty God and patience.
    One of the things you are known for is getting the word out to others, keep it up and watch God work. Keep the faith and keep hope alive for all PK’s to come.

  9. Dear Lauren,
    Thank you for this thoughtful and insightful article. You open the dialogue door for a prospective engaging conversation with PK’s, pastors and congregations. The church needs critical thinkers like yourself to move us forward on the path of faith and witness. Again, thank you for words that are a balm.

  10. Lauren, thank you for your transparency, because people do not know what we deal with as being “First Family” and all the things that we have to endure and put up with while we’re merely working for God. Not all can handle this position. Those that are in this position truly have a special anointing in order to be able to handle this. It’s not a pretty picture and now that I’m older (36) I’m more equipped and better prepared to handle the attacks because as a child, I just wanted to retaliate, even now, but now that I have a better understanding and relationship with God and his vengeance is better than mine. Stay encouraged.

  11. Thanks for your transparency and honesty in this article. It speaks volume to who we are as a church, and I hope we are paying attention to you as you voiced your experience. I am not a Pastor yet, but will share your article with my son and daughter.

  12. Rev.Dr. Gloria Jimpson
    Sister Lauren,Thank you for sharing an enlightening and astutely profound view of a Preacher’s kids’ cultural “church view”. You are a survivor! God Bless you!

  13. Awesome article Lauren, perhaps it will help other Preacher`s Kids to express and be themselves. I am a spouse and know that the Church members are not so nice sometimes.
    We, as parents need to handle some of the negativity about our children and let them grow like other children to develop into productive adults.
    Thank you for sharing and blessings!

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