Five Things I’ve Learned As A “PK” (…and Five Things PKs Might Want You To Know)

My father was elected to the Pastorate of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Southeast, Washington, DC on February 4, 2003 and was duly installed (so churchy!) on May 4, 2003.  It’s been twelve years.  So in honor of this auspicious occasion, I thought I would talk about being a PK.

The PK life is a very full experience.  It’s a fishbowl existence and life isn’t complete without you hearing at least once how bad PKs are and getting that “Oh you’re one of them…” looks from complete strangers.  I have had every emotion about being a PK; I’ve loved, hated it, and felt everything in between.  But it’s only been recently that I have decided that I could control my feelings about this position I find myself in and my actions and that I could not control how people thought of me due to this label.  That set me free.

Five Things I’ve Learned as a “PK”:

1. You cannot control how people think of you and what they have determined to believe about you. – Even now, when people find out that I’m the daughter of a Pastor, the responses can be ridiculous.  Some people think it’s great because they think that pastoring is an honorable profession.  Others will respond to you based off what they’ve “heard” – PKs are the “worst ones”, Pastor’s daughters are “fast”, PKs live to do crazy things, etc.  On one hand, I wonder how many people actually have been friends with a PK or actually have taken the time to talk to a PK.  On the other hand, I wonder how many of them speak based on personal experiences.  Either way, I generally used to hope that people would not include me in sweeping generalizations, in the same way that most people would hope not to be included in [negative] generalizations of whatever group or subgroup they represent.  But this is rarely the case.  As a PK, people’s preconceived judgments can either drive you crazy or drive you to be unashamedly you; however, you have the power to choose.

2. People can be horrible at confronting the root of problems. – If they can’t get to the source of their anger, they will get to you.  I think as a PK, you get to see the best of the best and worst of the worst in people in some respects.  I can’t tell you how many times people treated me in a nasty manner because they were mad at my father.  I was a child (a teenager – but still a child).  There is a certain way that people dehumanize Pastors and their families and treat us as if we’re not supposed to have emotions, we’re not supposed to be frustrated, we’re not supposed to get angry, we’re not supposed to be tired or sad.  Of course that is absurd to expect but people can be unreasonable.  Learning how to constantly ‘turn the cheek’ was exhausting.

3. “That’s not your battle.” – As I became an adult PK, I desired to be more vocal about some of my frustrations.  I would hear about some foolishness and I’d be ready to be off to the races to tell people off for what they said or did to my parents.  My ex boyfriend, also a PK (two times over), helped me tremendously in this regard.  I would call him fuming and he would listen and simply say “Ashley, that’s not your battle.”  I did not appreciate it at the time but I understand the wisdom in what he was saying.  My parents are adults and know how to advocate for themselves; they don’t need me to fight for them.  Learning what issues to take on and what issues to just pray about and sit out has been a lifesaver, not just in church but in the various environments I find myself in.

4. Loving the Church can be complicated. – Growing up, I loved church.  It was one of my favorite places to be.  For a few months when I was 19, you couldn’t pay me to step a foot inside a church.  Now at almost 28, my love for the Church is complicated.  I say all that to say – many PKs have to grapple with the effects of their experiences once they are grown.  Some stick with it and some leave permanently.  This process is not one that I will let anyone shame because most are not in the position to appreciate why we even struggle in the first place.

5. Find God for yourself. – Because I grew up in the Church and because my father is a pastor, it was way too easy for my relationship with God to be a facade.  I knew all the right words to say, I knew how to ‘shout’, I knew how to sound deep, I knew how to sing in the choir and teach Sunday School, I knew how to look like I loved God.  Finding God, for me, started in college.  When I had no other cushion to fall on I had to honestly seek God out without the comfort of anything or anyone else.  And the ways that I’ve found Him, at times, look very different than what I was taught growing up.  I’m OK with that because my belief is now mine and it is secure.


(Source: The Barna Group)

Five Things PKs Would Likely Want You To Know:

1. ‘Pastor’s Kid’ is NOT a Biblical office. – But you wouldn’t know it by the way some church folk act.  RELAX.

2. No, we’re not all the same. – PKs are not a brand of car or a box of Krispy Kreme donuts – we are not mass produced and manufactured to be the exact same way.  We are individuals who happen to have a parent or parents who are called to pastor.  That is about where your generalizations of us should begin and end.

3. We are not our parents. – While pastoring may be our parents’ calling, most of us just want to be regular people, whatever that might mean.  Sure, some of us may follow in our parents’ footsteps but there are a great deal of us who just want to be known for who WE are and we’d like to have the freedom to figure that out.  Many of us have other hopes and dreams and we desire to be known outside of being ‘Pastor such-and-such’s child’.

4. Give us, us free. – We want the same freedom and space that you give to you and your loved ones to live, make mistakes, figure things out, love, fall, etc.  There was little else that more infuriating for me as a teenager than hearing adults scrutinizing me and keeping close tabs on me when I was friends with their children and I knew what was going on inside their households and what was allowed for their children.  And as a young adult, it’s even more complicated.  All we want is the same room to simply be.

5. If you judge us for rebelling or leaving the Church, also judge what drove us to that point. – Personal responsibility is important, but it tends to be minimized in churches sometimes.  If you see a PK “act out” or decide to leave the Church, more times than not there is a reason for it rooted within the Church.  I’m not quite sure why this is not talked about just as much as our actions.  I know it’s easier and lazier to just assume that there is a special hellacious gene planted in PKs, but that’s not the case.  We are often over-watched and under-heard and generally not taught constructive ways to process our experiences and manage our own expectations.

And a bonus one because I love ya!  This is one very personal for me and is honestly catered to my personal preferences…

6. Do NOT introduce me to people as a PK first. – I have had people introduce me as such – “This is my Pastor’s daughter” – and that would be the end of it.  I have a name – it’s Ashley.  Some call me Ash, AB, Burton, etc.  But that’s how you should introduce me.  Also, there are other way interesting things about me besides me being a PK.  For more information, just ask ;-).

Thanks for reading!

xo Ash

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