I'm sure I don't have it all figured out yet, but I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to be a PK. It's fun and frustrating, busy and trying. And I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
I know lots of PK's, and we're all different. But, I think there are some things most of us PK's can agree on - things we'd like you, the people in our churches, to know about us.
1. We're human.
This seems to surprise a lot of people. When I was in elementary school (in a Lutheran school) it didn't take a huge mistake on my part to have my classmates say, "Ooohhh, a pastor's daughter". For some reason people tend to think that because our dads preach to you (and us, too), we're expected to be perfect. Don't get us wrong, we get that we're held to a higher standard, and usually we're okay with that. But, like you and your kids, we're not perfect. We sin. And trust us, we deal with the consequences.
2. We're kids.
Or, we were kids not too long ago. The point is, kids move and run and act goofy - even in church. It's how we all learn and grow up. So if we move a little more, make faces at you in the pew, or can't always sit perfectly still, please cut us (and our parents) some slack. Glaring at us or our mom when we get a little too noisy during worship doesn't help the situation. You were a kid once, too.
3. Fishbowls aren't always easy places to live.
There's a common saying that ministry is life in a fishbowl. Basically meaning that your life is pretty open and seen by all - or at least that's how it feels at times. We know that you're watching us in and out of church. You see us in the store, on the field, in school, and with our friends. You see us sitting in the pew, playing after church, and serving in more ways than many adults. We know you don't always like what you see. We know that our actions reflect on our parents and on our God. And we know we don't always get it right. But, keep watching, because we sometimes we rock, and we want you to see that too. Try catching us doing good things, showing our faith, making our church and parents proud, and tell us when you see it. That encouragement makes the fishbowl not so bad.
4. We love our parents.
We don't always listen and obey like we should. We're human... and kids! But we love our parents and really do want them to be happy with us and proud of us. And you need to know that we're proud of them, too. It's rare, but please remember that when you want to make a comment about something you may not like about how our parents do things or how our family works. If you have something that you think our parents should know, just talk to them, especially if it's a church-related thing. We're not going to side against our parents. (Side note: My Dad has served wonderful churches that haven't crossed this line. I imagine some churches have and do, however.)
5. Church is basically our second home.
We spend A LOT of time at church. And we likely don't mind. Actually, we like knowing every corner and crevice of the place. We feel comfortable there. We'll run around barefoot, do our homework, and eat some meals there between events. We'll play there, get hurt there, and nap there. We'll hang out in the Sunday school classrooms and explore what's really behind the pulpit. We'll swing from the pews and know exactly where things in the kitchen are kept. These are all good things. They show we're comfortable in this building and being around you.
6. We like to have fun.
Contrary to what people may think, we don't spend hours on end memorizing Bible verses and sitting still with our hands folded. We have hobbies, favorite toys and best friends. We're on sports teams and in clubs. We joke around and laugh too loud. And in it all, we do our best to be respectful and show our faith. You can get in on the fun, too! Ask us about the game or our hobby. Tell us about yours. Listen to our jokes and we'll laugh at yours, too. Hang out with us and get to know us. We think you'll like us!
7. We love our church family.
We spend a lot of time with you. You watch us grow up. We see each other at our best and our worst. We have fun together and we cry together. You watch us get in trouble and learn from our parents how to forgive your kids. You let us babysit your kids and don't freak out when your kids disappear after church to run around with us. You give us Christmas presents and send our parents on vacation when Dad can't find time to get away on his own. You invite us to weddings and parties. We invite you to ours. We love the traditions we have with you for holidays and normal days. You are an extension of our family - and sometimes we skip the extension and just call you family. Because you are. And we love you.
8. Sometimes we wish we were "normal" - sometimes.
There are times that we wish life was different. The fishbowl becomes too much or we wish there weren't such high expectations on us. Maybe it's when Dad's at his third meeting this week and we need his help with homework. Maybe it's when a kid at school realizes what our Dad does for a living and shuts down when they're around us - because we're pastor's kids. Or it might be that we get a tad jealous when our friends get to sleep in on Sunday. Whatever it is, the feeling passes soon enough. It's that "grass is greener" mentality that sucks in the best of us at times. Whatever it is that bums us out, there are a hundred other great reasons we like being PK's.
9. We think Dad's job is pretty neat.
We don't totally know what he does all day. We don't know what he talks to shut-ins about or how he handles hospital visits. We're not sure who was on the other end of the phone when he gets his shoes on and says he'll be back home in a bit, but we know he's off to help. What goes in to planning worship and writing a sermon? How many boards and committees does church have anyway, and do they really meet every month? We don't know the half of what he does and what's on his heart and mind day-to-day. And we're willing to bet you don't either. But we do know that Dad helps an awful lot of people. He leads people into a relationship with Jesus. We know you love him and he loves you. We see the joy on his face when he baptizes your kids or gets excited to tell you about God in his sermon. We know Dad has a tough job - leading people to Jesus - and we think it's pretty neat. In fact, we may even play church at home trying to be like him.
10. We love time with our Dad.
Dad is really busy shepherding a church. It's really a 24/7/365 job. You never know when the phone will ring or the doorbell will sound. As much as we know Dad loves his job, we also know how much he loves our family. We know he wants to spend time with us, and we crave that time with him. We do understand being a pastor is demanding, and we're usually pretty good about sacrificing time with Dad so he can help you. But sometimes, we need our Dad. And we would love it if you would be flexible with what you can so we can have some family time. Of course, there are emergencies that are unscheduled and unavoidable. We understand, and you can borrow our Dad. But maybe you could reschedule the committee meeting so he can come watch our school play or basketball game. We really truly do appreciate it! (Side note: My Dad's churches were fantastic at this. I remember elders meetings being moved so Dad could get to our games. The church is flexible with time off so he can be our Dad and do things that need to be done for and with us. And I am incredibly grateful to my church family for letting my dad be there for us.)
11. We may not always be super social at church.
But that doesn't mean we don't want to be there, or don't love you. We do. But maybe we're having a bad day or we're just crabby - in which case you probably don't want to be around us anyway! Remember that Sundays can get long for our family. And, if we're introverted, Sundays are especially draining with the extra social interaction. That doesn't mean we don't like talking to you, it just means you may have to put a little more effort into getting us to chat. And in this age of technology, gently encourage us to put the screen down, grab a cookie and some juice, and come visit with you. We think you'll be glad you invested the time in us.
12. We're not the cast of "7th Heaven".
You remember the show from back in the 90's about the pastor and his family. We do, too. We really liked that show. But we also know it's not reality. Our life isn't scripted. Our problems can't always be solved in 30-45 minutes. We're not all as cute as Ruthie or as responsible as Simon. We're not always the saving older sibling like Matt. We don't all go into ministry like Lucy. We're probably not as athletic as Mary. The house isn't always clean and tidy. Our life is real, and you're living it with us. Be patient with us. Put yourselves in our shoes and remember what it was like to be a kid, or a mom alone in the pew with wiggly kids, or a dad with a snotty teenager. Pray for us. Be there for us. Love on us. We promise, you'll be glad you did!