When the title "preacher's kid" is mentioned, what do you think of? You may envision the church's coalition of elderly matriarchs wagging their heads in disgust over the pastor's uncontrollable "little hellions" who run amok in the neighborhood, or worse, in the church building. These same saints are often the ones who predict a future of crime and imprisonment for their pastor's youngsters, who are clearly miserable and frustrated with their lot in life.
On the other hand, some may picture pious, self-righteous "goody two shoes," who seem happiest when they are tattling on the misdeeds of other, less fortunate children.
However, according to a report by the Religion News Service, these stereotypes are not usually deserved. Those who've grown up as the preacher's kid often are normal, productive citizens who generally fondly remember their days in the parsonage. But they also say nobody but another PK really knows what it's like.
"I would much rather be a preacher's kid than anything else," said Ann Bradley of Mobile, adult daughter of a Southern Baptist minister.
Bradley recalled a paper she wrote in eighth grade about her life as a minister's child. Her classmates, she said, were fascinated and peppered her with questions.
She acknowledged, however, the more usual reaction was "they find out your dad's a preacher and they think you're a goody-goody, and they don't understand. Those kids grow up into adults and (they) still believe a (the same) way."
According to the RNS report, David Pierce of Second Row Ministries in Smyrna, Tenn., suggests Bradley's experience isn't unusual. "In the real world, PKs have a unique slant on life that most people don't share."
Most of the PKs interviewed for the story had positive stories to tell, like Lisa York of Seven Hills, Ala. She said she loved being a preacher's kid although she became a little rebellious as she grew up. The overall experience was pretty positive, she said.
"I thought a lot of my dad. He was such a good example. He was not the type who was one way in front of his church, in the pulpit, and another way at home," she said. "He kept his preaching up at home, but not by ramming it down your throat. I still think about a lot of things he taught me."
Kassidi Toliver, thirteen-year-old daughter of the Rev. Harold Toliver of Stone Street Baptist Church in Mobile, has done some thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of being a PK.
"It's been mostly a pleasing experience for me," she said. "I get to meet a lot of people when we network with other churches. And I'm not so much on display as people think we are."
Toliver said she knows others may have expectations of her she does not necessarily try to meet. "You can see a funny look on their face — they expect you to be pious."
Being a minister's child brings advantages, but it also brings duties, many said. Perfect attendance in Sunday school was a minimum but PKs also had to take leading roles in youth group, junior choir, and volunteer activities.
As one minister's daughter put it, she didn't have to join the Senior Men's prayer group, but she did have to serve the coffee.
For many ministers' children, moving from town to town was a regular part of life. Stoffer Krause says even with all the moves, he might go into the ministry himself.
Cindy Op'tholt values her heritage as a minister's daughter. She said a recent trip to her father's old church in Grand Rapids, Mich., reminded her how good it was to be a clergyman's daughter.
"I am really happy to have grown up in this place," she remembered thinking. "The Holy Spirit was there, the people of God were there. I was just really grateful. Growing up, I had a lot of people who were concerned about me and loved me and would verbalize that."