I’m a PK, which is a shorthand way of saying, “Pastor’s Kid,” and for us PKs, there are certain trademarks that define us.
We’re the ones who know the most answers to Bible trivia questions. We never miss a Sunday service, even if we’re coming on with a cold. We arrive at church early and we’re the last to leave. We carry friendly expressions and are unofficial members of the welcoming committee. We’re also very familiar with this exchange:
“Oh! You’re the PASTOR’s daughter?”
Cue our familiar two beats of laughter.
“Haha, yup, that’s me.”
I wish I could say I was above stereotyping others, but ironically (or maybe not), I stereotyped PKs – my fellow PKs – as did many in the Christian community.
That’s the first PK thing: There are the “good” PKs and the “bad” PKs. Good PKs are poster children for their churches. Bad PKs were … not at church.
As for me, I consider myself an in-between. And in contrast to the stereotype, most PKs probably fall in the “in-between” category.
The second PK thing: There is a lot of curiosity around a PK’s life – How is he or she doing academically, socially, spiritually? Is his or her life different from that of other kids?
The questions tend to evolve as we get older – Is he or she an honors student? Attending a good college? Employed? Dating? Have we hit life milestones yet? Are we living up to the Perfect PK standard?
Depending on my current life situation, I’d feel confident or uncomfortable answering these questions. Good college? Ask away. Dating? Ugh.
Many PKs feel this immense pressure to be perfect and on top of that, there’s an unspoken responsibility that requires, for some, 15-hour Sundays and church from Mondays to Fridays, not to mention early morning Saturdays. I feel for those kids – that sounds like a lot.
But despite the stereotype and the pressure, for me, being a PK wasn’t that bad.
I mean, yes, it can feel like the spotlight is on me but it’s not always a nosy one. Some people, I learned, really just cared about my family and me. And looking back while writing this article, I saw how my life has been dotted with kindness from my church. Yeah, everyone knows you – but then you get to know everyone else too.
When I pulled my leg muscle after a dance practice in college, I asked John, a physical therapist at our church, for some quick consulting.
When my wisdom teeth were growing in, I had three or four dentists and orthodontists peer into my mouth after service.
When I had to put down my first professional referral for internship applications, I asked Alice, my former marketing manager, and that connection has catapulted my career to where it is today.
I joke sometimes that if I get married, God-willing, I’ll have to invite the entire church – but I mean it in the most thankful way.
I think most people would be surprised to hear that my experiences as a PK aren’t that extraordinary nor are they marked by some epic spiritual highs and lows or tensions at home.
Instead, I went to school and had piano, drumline, or dance practices after school, Monday through Friday. I hung out with friends, gossiped about boys, procrastinated on homework, and spent my free time on AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace, and I can’t imagine this to be very different than most teenagers’ lives.
There were rules and guidelines in place but they weren’t far off from my friends’ duties: Take out the trash, clean your room, do your homework, don’t text at dinner – all of it was normal.
But there was an additional layer of normalcy in my life: Sundays are for church, 10% of your allowance is for tithing, go to youth group after Friday night football, and pray before meals.
It might have been hard had I been the only kid or teenager following this type of lifestyle. But these extra rules didn’t strike me as odd or unfair. When I attended church on Sundays, I saw other kids coming with their parents. When I went to youth group on Fridays, I saw my friends get dropped off too. And I saw other parents reminding their children to bring their Bibles to church and hand them dollar bills for tithing.
My life wasn’t too different, actually. All of it seemed normal, and that made me feel less isolated, less like just a PK, and more like I was part of a community.
NOT JUST FOR PKs
PKs are pastor’s kids. But the PK experience is not only shaped by the family, but it is also greatly influenced by the church community. My convictions were ultimately rooted in the Gospel and my understanding of God’s undying love for me that I saw from the church.
The stereotypical expectation of a PK to be “perfect,” whether that meant being studious or proper, faded when I grew deeper in my faith and grew closer to my community. Learning VBS dance moves during elementary summers, late-night deep talks at youth retreats, crying to my apartment-mates in college, and finding the best girl friends even after college -- these small moments added up to a greater conviction that yes, I want to be a Christian, and yes, I want to walk this path with these people. My convictions were rooted in Gospel and spurred on by the Church, not necessarily just my pastoral upbringing.
I was surrounded by others who shared this additional normalcy of Gospel-living. And it wasn’t because their parents were the pastor and pastor’s wife.
They were people who attended church, prayed with the body, and tithed because they wanted to meet God that Sunday, because they followed Christ and loved His Church. There were other people who woke up early to set up chairs and stayed late to clean up the tables, and others too, knew all the answers to Bible trivia too.
It wasn’t because they were PKs. It’s because they were God’s children.
The church is not an unemotional, unconnected body, but it is an inviting community. By being loved by my church and my family, both of which worship the same God and serve joyously, I was able to diminish the overshadowing PK label that we PKs sometimes slap on ourselves, and instead pushed myself to be thankful to be part of a greater faith movement and grow.
So here’s a reminder to myself: Love God harder. Love my parents harder. Love my community harder - and invest. All without the pressures of being a PK. Because these people in my larger church family have made life that much more fun, that much more love-filled, and that much more Christ-filled.
Christine Chang is a graduate of UC Berkeley and is a member at Living Hope Community Church.