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.