The year was 1990. "New Kids on the Block" was the #1 boy band that climbed the music charts during the '80's and '90's, selling more than 80 million records worldwide. Every teenage girl I knew in the DFW area, including me, the "preacher's kid," had a major crush on the band. NKOTB was going to be in concert and I wanted to go with some church girlfriends. But there was a small problem.
I found out the concert would be on a Sunday night. I failed to tell my parents this minor detail because I knew what the answer would be. And I was right. They said, "No," when they found out. "Joanna, you know that's a church night. How would it look if the pastor's daughter was at a secular concert when she's supposed to be in church?" I can imagine my immature, dramatic, hormonal 9th grade self said, "It's not fair! You never let me do anything fun! I hate my life! Why can't I be like everyone else??"
I am quite certain I forgave my parents (well, actually, it was probably the other way around!) and my life was NOT forever ruined because I missed that concert. I actually loved being the pastor's kid, most days. Yes, I wanted to go with my friends to the NKOTB concert, but I respected and loved my parents more.
My parents often guarded me from things not in my best interest; they trusted me and gave me the freedom to experience my own mistakes in life. They prayed for me and my brother daily (and still do!) and did not put any unnecessary expectations on us just because Dad was the pastor. No doubt, back then it was challenging and it can still be challenging to raise pastor's kids who have to grow up and mature in a "fishbowl" on display for the whole church to see.
As a former "PK" myself, here are seven valuable things I want our "PKs" to know:
- Never fall into the trap of trying to live up to someone else's expectations of you in the church. Be more concerned about what God thinks of you and live for Him. (Gal. 1:10)
- Churches and ministry will come and go throughout our lives, but we only get one family. That's why you matter to your parents more than everything else in the world. You are your parents' number one ministry priority.
- Be wise as a serpent, innocent as a dove. Be on guard against the Enemy and put on the full armor of God against temptations and sin because the Enemy wants to destroy you. As a PK, the enemy knows you are an "easy target" to bring down your family, the church and you. So keep alert and be watchful. (1 Cor. 10:13, Eph. 6)
- Learn to forgive others when they hurt you or your family. People will be unloving at times, but God's love never changes. No one is perfect and people will say hurtful, unloving things at times. We are ALL in need of grace and forgiveness. (Col 3:13)
- Don't be afraid to be uniquely YOU! God made you for a big purpose and has unique and wonderful things for your life! Don't waste time, energy and emotions trying to be someone you're not. It's okay to be different, set apart, and unique. If you are having a hard time feeling accepted for who you are, ask God to show you people you can reach out to and people you can befriend. You may be surprised by who He brings across your path when you begin praying specifically for deep, authentic, close friendships. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
- Value your integrity and be a role model, even when nobody's looking. Decide now what you will do in the face of temptation with the opposite sex, alcohol, drugs, social media and internet usage, and music and movie choices. Everything we see, read, touch and experience has a much greater impact on us than we even realize and impacts our future. Don't ever be afraid to stand up for what's right, even if you are the only one standing. You will never regret it and God will reward you. (Phil. 4:8 and 1 Cor. 10:13)
- As much as possible, embrace your role as a "PK!" Without doubt, there are and will be tough days and weeks. It's not easy to be a preacher's kid! But, if you are open and willing, you will have an up-close-and-personal view of God at work in the lives of those around you and in yourself. You will gain experiences as a "PK," which will deepen your view of God and the world! Try seeing that as a blessing.
We know being a 'PK' does not mean being a "Perfect Kid." While they have a special, unique role in the ministry, they are also just normal kids who want and need the freedom to be themselves! Let's pray fervently for the 'PK's' we know, that God will protect them, bless them, grow them and give them a sensitivity to hearing and following God all the days of their lives!
Joanna Jespersen is the wife of Ryan Jespersen, Director of Urban Missions at Texas Baptists, and momma to two princesses, Rachel Beth (4) and Mary Kate (2). Being a pastor's wife in Dallas taught her a lot about the unique challenges and blessings of ministering in an urban setting. She has a heart for teaching and counseling, and enjoys crafting, thrifting and traveling with her family. She writes "love letters" to her little girls and really treasures the time she currently has being a stay-at-home-mom.