I have never thought much about my Dad being a pastor, but one incident changed my mind.
I was about 8 years old and attending a children’s church camp.
A pastor was preaching on the book of Jonah. “So children, did Jonah get eaten by a large fish?” she asked.
A few hesitated, but most of the kids raised their hands, including me. “Oh look, pastor’s son raised up his hand, so it must be correct!” she added.
Every single kid in the service hall turned to my direction as my face turned red. I slowly brought my hand down as I had never felt this embarrassed in my life.
It was that moment that I finally understood the implications of being a pastor’s son.
As a child, I would address the pastoral staff in the office as “uncle” or “aunty” instead of pastor so-and-so, and I used to come extremely early to church as my Dad would attend the pre-service prayer. I thought nothing of it, thinking that this is what “normal” children do.
I always viewed my Dad’s full-time calling as any other occupation, but while growing up, I could not understand why people in church showered me with more attention than most kids.
I was uncomfortable with this seemingly unnecessary “celebrity status” placed on my shoulders and how everyone had an opinion on how I should behave.
“So what if I’m a pastor’s kid? I am no more holier or less holier than you what” was a comment I used to defend myself with. I said this most of the time in jest, but I meant every word.
Fast forward to my teenage years being in the youth ministry.
My friends would post their travel photos and videos on social media, and sometimes I longed to be able to go to such fancy destinations. But due to the nature of my Dad’s work, we were unable to do so.
I would see my friends get picked up in fancy cars after tuition or school, and most of them would gasp in shock when they found out that my parents didn’t own a car simply because we couldn’t afford to purchase/maintain one as there were always other more pressing needs.
In church, I would hesitate to respond to any altar call of any kind in case my Dad saw me – or worse still – come and pray for me.
It was at this point in my life that I started asking myself a few honest questions.
- “Am I serving in ministry because I love God, or because I’m concerned about how my parents and leaders see me?”
- “Is there any leader I can turn to if I have problems in the family and need to voice out? And will they view all pastors differently after that?”
- “Is Christianity really a religion that I personally subscribe to, or am I just a follower of what my parents have raised me up to be?”
I had more questions than answers.
Things didn’t get any better in school.
Once my friends knew what my Dad worked as, it was as if I was wearing this giant sign that read: PASTOR’S KID A.K.A. BUZZKILL.
I was not invited to parties because they viewed me as someone who was much holier than them and would be no fun to invite. Hanging out with them was like treading through a minefield as I had to be mindful of my every word or they would say “wah pastor’s kid can say such things ah?”.
I felt that I always had to justify that the reason why I don’t smoke or drink was because of my own personal and religious convictions, and not because my parents said so.
I remembered crying out to God and asking Him why He placed me in this family. I just wanted to be a “normal” kid. Why did He allow my school friends to know that I’m a pastor’s kid?
With all these pressures both externally and internally, I actually toyed with the idea of leaving church altogether.
As a 19-year-old now, the pastor’s kid label doesn’t really bother me anymore.
After rereading my diary entries during my early teenage years, I found that the good that came out of this far outweighed the bad.
None of us chose to be born in our families, but God did and He did it for a reason.
Through the life I have experienced as a pastor’s kid, I understand the pain of always being compared to someone and I’m able to help those who are facing similar feelings.
As I wanted to know God for myself, I was also able to gain a deeper revelation of who He was as I actively sought Him during my teenage years.
Here is my advice for pastors’ kids:
We are firstly Christians and a child of God before we are a pastor’s kid. He is more concerned about our walk with Him more than anything else.
Or perhaps your parents are not pastors but public figures.
Rest in the knowledge that God has placed us in this unique position for a reason. Even if doubts come your way, continue to be obedient to Him and always go back to God and ask Him to help you steward this circumstance.
You can be assured that the God who calls you by your name, calls you His child – without labels, without prejudice.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (ESV)