The other day I was talking with a friend who is also a pastor’s kid and being curious, I asked about her relationship with her pastor dad. She told me that he didn’t spend much time with her while growing up.
I didn’t ask much further but that hit home for me as well. As a pastor’s kid, you basically have to share your dad or mom, and often both with the church. Your pastor dad or mom can spend so much time taking care of the church that at times I felt like the church took my parents away.
That prompted me to write the second entry for the series of the “Worst Things of Being a Pastor’s Kid.”
Yes, having a dad or mom as pastor means sharing your parent with the whole congregation.
I didn’t actually remember this but my mother told me that when I was small, I used to grab my dad’s leg, crying, pleading with him to stay home after dinner when he had to go to a church meeting in the evening.
As I think back, working as a pastor does put a lot of stress in the family. And when you think about it, what are the time that other parents spend time with their kids? The weekend, Sunday, evening, school holidays…time that are usually quite busy for pastors.
Pastors are most busy during the night time, weekends, time when families would usually have their family time. And living in a country with Christian heritage, many of the holidays are Christian holidays. Like for Christmas and Easter, my dad is pretty busy and we don’t get our family time until all the church business are done.
I played soccer during my youth and the games were on weekends. I was always jealous of other players who had very supportive parents coming to their games who would encourage them. Sometimes I would have other parents coming to me, telling me, “Good hassle,” “That was a beautiful cross,” but my dad was never there to say those things to me. When I said how other parents complimented me, my dad would say, “Oh yea?” He wasn’t there and my mom never understood soccer. And even if he was there it often seemed like this mind was somewhere else.
There were several times I was disappointed with my parents when they could’ve drive me to soccer games, see my games, drove me to friend’s birthday party and other social functions because of church work.
Having a pastor as a parents means having a parent who is at the same time trying to take care of hundreds of other people’s need. Even though I knew that my parents and my dad loved me and cared for me, I often felt that he did not know my world at all, did not exactly know who I am, what I needed. At times I felt like he spent more time at church, taking care of church businesses than taking care of his children and the family.
Another thing is, he didn’t spend a lot of time taking care of the house. In a funny way, my older sister kind of became the handyman of the house because my dad just didn’t have time or was all that interested in fixing things in the house. My parents make sure the house is functional, but that’s it. I get a bit jealous that my friends’ dads would teach them how to do oil change, fix their bikes and etc. My dad doesn’t do that. I think he could, but he never was interested enough or had time. A lot of time he would start some project and it would stall and then we ended up paying someone to do it.
Yet there was one time when we plant grass together in the backyard. We started together and then I kept at it and I think for pastor parents, your kids would love those time doing things together, building something together.
However, I must say that my dad did one thing that really helped keeping my family and our relationship together. Despite being busy and occupied by church affairs during most of the year, he carefully planned family trip during school breaks where he could get away from it all and had us all spent time together for at least a few days away from everything. Those were like our family retreats. They were mostly very economic trips to nearby national parks like Yosemite. And in retrospective, I think he made an effort to not talk much about church during those trips and just wanted us, the kids to have fun.
These trips gelled the family together. These are memories that we share together, unique to us as a family. It’s part of our collective memory.
And when I was small, he did took an effort to spend a few hours where we had quality family time. When I was small it was during Saturday morning till lunchtime. He would take us out to eat for Saturday lunch. However, I think as I grew older, those time disappeared as well.
Deep inside, I truly know that my dad cares a lot about us, the kids but his Calling does take a toll.
That’s what pastor’s kids have to deal with and it’s one of the less pleasant things about being a pastor’s kid.