Being a pastor’s kid is a lot more complicated than just sitting in the front pew, looking engaged in the sermon.
For example, many pastors’ kids move multiple times throughout their childhood. Most struggle with the high expectations of parents but also want to break the “goody two-shoes” stereotypes of their peers. And some find it difficult having a parent who’s away from home a lot.
A group of pastors’ children recently reflected on their lives. Most agreed that they feel “set apart” from their peers.
“I do consider myself different because some of my peers don’t believe in God. Some of them are so lost,” said India Treadwell, 16, daughter of Robert Treadwell III, pastor of the nondenominational River of Life Church on the Northeastside.
Meredith and Angeline Bradford try to help pastors’ children deal with their unique roles. They are coordinators of the Pastors’ Kids Network at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo. As daughters of a longtime Assemblies of God pastor who moved his family to Springfield when he took a national post with the church, they wanted to continue their ministry by offering support to others.
Reflecting on their childhoods (Meredith recently graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, where Angeline is a sophomore), the sisters said they faced all the challenges that come with having a father in the ministry. They agreed that perhaps the biggest trial was their move to Springfield when Meredith was in 10th grade and Angeline was in eighth.
“It was hard to make friends because I came in at a weird time,” Meredith said. “Everyone had already developed their friendships through middle school and that first year of high school.”
Grace Moh, 17, whose father has been pastor to various Korean churches, says her family has moved four times because of his work. Now living in Indianapolis, she said that while that was difficult, accepting that her father is father to many has been harder.
“When I was younger it used to bother me that I had to like share my dad,” she explained. “We go to a Korean church, and a lot of the people there are recent immigrants. My dad is the only person they know, so he has to help them like apply for visas or get a job, get their kids enrolled in school,” she said.
“A lot of times for like Christmas or New Year’s or if we have a big holiday, then my parents will be over at the church instead of like with us.”
Though no one else has had to share a father to such an extent, many have had to get used to less “me” time with their dads. Reports India, “ He acts like a father to certain children who have no one to talk to. The only difficulties with that is that child is always over at our house.”
However, Bre’Anna Smith, 17, says her father, Bishop T.W. Smith of Greater Kingdom International in Terre Haute, has found the perfect balance between church and family.
“My father juggles both. He never misses one of my track meets or events along with my brothers’ basketball and football games. Every morning, we come together as a family for morning devotion,” she said.
Though their family circumstances may differ, these youth all struggle with the stereotypes that come to being a pastor’s child. “Many people think that we can’t have fun, like just like regular fun. They think that I always read my Bible every single minute of my life, which I don’t,” said India, “And they always think I just like listen to gospel music and stuff, when I actually listen to a lot of other things.”
Nevertheless, they try to be well-mannered and respectful of others. Bre’Anna said, “I can’t do certain things. I’m set apart. Cussing is an example. When people talk to me and they may slip up, they can say like, ‘Oh, my bad, I shouldn’t have said that,’ because they know what I stand for.”
Most of these youth believe they have a duty to share their faith with others. “I do have the responsibility to teach people the word of God even in school or outside of school,” said Isha Treadwell, 13.
Rather than meeting resistance, these teens find that others often come to them for guidance and advice. “Many people come to me with their problems at school ’cause they know that I am a pastor’s child,” said India. “I think my responsibility is to answer these questions and to give them advice and put them on a better path than they are now.”
With responsibility comes expectations, and all these youth agree that their parents and church members expect much of them. “They expect me to lead by example through my life and things that come out of my mouth. They expect me to give advice and just show them the right way to go,” said Bre’Anna.
Christopher McGrone, 14, whose father is pastor of Sure Foundation Apostolic Church on the Southeastside, struggles with such high standards. “I think they expect me to be a perfect example, but nobody’s perfect,” he said. “Sometimes I wish that I could just be a spectator, though I appreciate the position that God has put me in because maybe he has a reason.”
Grace agrees that expectations can sometimes be overwhelming. “I mean, I’m supposed to be like good. I’m supposed to get good grades, not get in trouble, etc.,” she said. “I’m supposed to be like a miniature version of my dad.”
India added that people are shocked when she makes a mistake. “When I do some bad things, people look at me in a way like, ‘Oh my gosh, she could not do that.’”
Under the pressure and expectations, some pastors’ kids feel they can’t live up to it and rebel. “You’re oftentimes expected to live up to this perfect standard almost,” Angeline explained.
“There’s just so much pressure on you to hold the appearance of perfection, and of course no one can live up to that.”
That is why many people expect the preacher’s child to be either really rebellious or really good, according to Grace. She has seen a lot of kids rebel. “I have yet to meet a preacher’s kid who wants to stay in the church,” she said. “I’m much less religious than a lot of my friends who go to church every Sunday, to youth group and everything, because honestly, I’m kind of tired of it.”
But India, Isha, Chris and Bre’Anna feel no breach with their churches. “I am a child of God,” said India. “Even if my dad wasn’t a pastor, I’d still be a child of God. So either way, I love the Lord.”
Contributing to this story were assistant editors Isaiah Treadwell, 15, Utah Davis-Kinsey, 16, Samantha Swan, 15, Reginetta White, 16 and Desiree Anderson, 14, and reporter Will Andrews, 13.
Copyright 2010 Y-Press