Beneath the stereotypes, a stressful life for preachers’ kids

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Billy Graham tried to save the world, traveling for months at a time to more than 170 countries to preach the Gospel to tens of millions. In a rare moment at home in 1965, he spends time with sons Ned (left) and Franklin. Photo from Graham collection published in his book, ``Just As I Am'' by Harper San Francisco

Billy Graham tried to save the world, traveling for months at a time to more than 170 countries to preach the Gospel to tens of millions. In a rare moment at home in 1965, he spends time with sons Ned (left) and Franklin. Photo from Graham collection published in his book, ``Just As I Am'' by Harper San Francisco

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(RNS) Between the stereotypes of preachers' kids as either goody two-shoes or devilish hellions lies a tense and sometimes taxing reality, the children of clergy say. Just ask Franklin Graham.

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  • Preachers’ kids have the same need to be seen as individuals that other kids do. I’ve seen my kids pigeonholed by teachers, parents of their friends and by church members. The labels weren’t intentional (and were often meant as a compliment) but the result could have been damaging. It’s good to see an article accurately portraying the realities of being a preachers’ kid. Thank you.

  • John Holmes

    While looking at PK’s – preachers kids, do not forget “MK’s” missionaries kids. Very similar issues plus a cross cultural component. I survived mostly OK, but many of my cousins have been badly scared. The problem is for parents to walk the fine line of what is the best for the children, yet not compromising the Call. There are many graves of children and spouses often in more difficult parts of the world from doing this.

    However the success rates of PK’s and MK’s is quite high. Probably the combination of poverty and a high respect for learning.

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  • BergQuester

    The article seems to focus on the children of pop-megachurch pastors who have a high-profile.

    While there is certainly overlap between the high-profile cases and the average pastor, I don’t think my siblings and I felt anywhere near the pressure they do. We also grew up in a denomination that has a very different sense of piety and expectations than most of American Christianity. As a result, I believe the expectations did not pressure us as much.

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  • Really-O?

    Fellow posters –

    We seem to have a new, rather churlish and power hungry, moderator on CNN’s religion blog. His name is Daniel Burke, a new CNN employee, and he is abusing the power of his position by deleting posts, not because they are offensive or frivolous, but simply because he, personally, does not enjoy the ideas expressed in the posts. This is abuse of power and I believe we should all protest by emailing our objections to CNN. Join me if you will.

  • Secular Humanist from Ohio

    The blog is now a laughing stock

  • Makel

    Maybe pastors could pastor after their kids have grown up? I’m not Roman Catholic but the unmarried priest idea sounds ok after reading this article. I can’t imagine the pressure but I think it’s the church’s responsibility to give the kids some breathing space and remember they are kids like everyone else.

  • MH

    Article very well done by Mr. Burke. I think PK”s are probably held to an impossibly high standard. We’re all human, no matter what title we go by.

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  • I agree that the current TV show is rather bogus and presents a very small subset of preachers/families who have only a few things in common with the average clergyman /family. Most struggle financially, fearful of becoming a burden to their congregation in churches that find an emphasis on wealth to be contrary to Christ’s message and use any excess funds for charitable purposes. I was raised in the Episcopal Church in a small town. Other PKs I knew (and bonded with due to our unique circumstances, be they Lutheran, Methodist, Ukrainian Catholic, etc.) wore mostly hand-me-downs, dreaded the 60 degree temperature in our drafty parsonages/rectories/etc. during the winter, and learned early that our purpose in life was to be a friend to all (regardless of whether that friend was kind) in order to draw others to church or lest a parent become miffed and criticize Daddy or (heaven FORBID) be lost as a parishioner. Too much of the above could result in the dreaded vestry meeting where we could be, and some were, rendered homeless. My brothers and I still suffer from a lack of boundaries, the need to be pleasing regardless of our own needs, and the still intractable pain of knowing that something, anything could be deemed more important than their well-being and peace of mind. Oh, and yes, the sexual behavior of my peers and I was
    also of huge concern, but not primarily because of the damage that promiscuity and illigitimacy can do to lives, but because of the judgement that
    would be brought to bear from church and community. I used to believe that my parents handled these issues more poorly than other clergy parents, and, yes, they did. However, I have met very few adult PKs who, when they feel safe in the presence of another, do not feel the same pain.

  • Angelo Ricafrente

    I hate knowing that I am a pastor’s kid myself…. I never had the privacy that I needed because there’s always ‘visitors’ at home every day and they always go home late at night,…. I hate the uncertainty that I am feeling knowing that my father is barely at home because he has to be with the church members,…. it made me feel like I’m just a church member myself…. I know that they ‘love’ me and all but they do the same to other people anyway…. I hate seeing fellow ‘Pastor’s Kids’ suffer from all this confusion and depression that I bear the thought that I might end up like them…. I hate how the church people seem to always have the right to just use use/take my stuff because my parents always says ‘to love with no condition’….. I hate how I cannot use my weekends to do my homework and study because I have to be at church the whole time….. I hate how I cannot hang out with my friends because they think they’re ‘demonic’ just because they’re not christians…. I hate how people are telling me that I have a huge responsibility as the pastor’s son to continue the ministry as if I don’t have control over my life…. I wanted to be an Audio Engineer…. but it seems unlikely…. I hate how they always tell me that I have some demon inside me when I tell them my problems…. and now I stopped telling them my issues….. I hate having to sleep having that feeling that I am being watched every night…. turns out that they’re gathered around me with their palms directed at me most of the time….. it’s weird…. and now I am just waiting to graduate and get out of the house…. I understood why a lot of my fellow PK’s actually hated the church….. and finally….. I hate hearing my parents preach about ‘God first, the family second’…. and honestly….. I really feel like I have no future that I am bound to live under my mom’s basement…..

  • Brian Rhinesmith

    As a Methodist PK I really liked what you said . I also attended the Episcopal church and was a member for many years, but the stiffness of the people really finally turned me off. The sexuality issue was huge and the lack of boundaries issue was very personal in our home. Our family really was in need of family therapy, but it probably would have destroyed the family if our parents did not sabotage it. As a result I became a sex addict, but fortunately I am in recovery, but it is a day to day thing. Just the lack of being able to be real in our family really took its toll. Look forward to any reply

  • Brian Rhinesmith

    Don’t, don’t DO NOT let anyone tell you what you should be or do. This can be very harmful. As a grown up PK fortunately no one ever put those kind of trips on me.
    Don’t fall for that malarkey. Just because it may have come from an adult church member they have absolutely no right to intrude on your growing up. This makes me really angry for you. Hope you have the strength to break away from that kind of BS> You may need some counseling if your parents cannot support you.

  • Lauren Baum aka TOGunslinger on Ancestry

    Angelo, I have grown up in a preacher’s home. I was bullied in school because my Dad was a peaceful man and didn’t teach me to defend myself, I started running with the rough crowd tro escape thew bullying, then I got into drugs and all sorts of other bad stuff because I( hated the “church” not thew people but the organization. It had my Dad and it was at a time when I needsed him most. ButAngelo, God kept me through times when I could have died, he protected me when I could have gone to jail, God loved me and took care of me through some bad times.I had my sewventiet birthday yesterday, I sill ride Harleys and run with a rough crowd, but I now know that God iis my fortress and since my Dad passed my Mother told me that he had confessed that he had been wrong to give so much of his time to the church. There are others who will encourage you to hate and to rebel, but you just need to rely on God for the times when it gets rough. God doesn’t demand that you change, but when you accept him and put yourself into his hands you will change without even knowing it and you’ll find your friends coming to you for advice and help. It’s just like Alcoholics annonymous..ONE DAY at a TIME..I know what you are saying, I’ve been where you are now, I hope that I have helped you…use my email if you want to, I’m willing to talk.