After wanting to share my experiences as a PK with people for some time, I decided to do this series when my dear friend Karis and I shared part of our story of friendship (and hating each other, a post in itself) with a group of teenagers on a retreat. After sharing our story, several of the adults were discussing PK life. Karis’s dad mentioned how helpful our stories could be to pastors. Thus this blog series was born and Karis and I are talking about other ways to share our story. She’s really great and I hope you enjoy this post about her life as a PK! (click here for the introductory post or for the first post, Daddy’s Clothes)
As a ten year old, the most exciting thing in my life was Florida State football. I lived and breathed going to the games, watching them with my Dad, cheering for the “good guys” and laughing at the “other ones”. I was on my way to one of the greatest FSU football games of all time when I got asked one of those pivotal questions in life. You know, the ones where you still remember where you were and what you were wearing 15 years later?
Here it was, the question that rocked my world: “How would you feel if I became a priest?”
Here was my educated, enlightened, ten year old response: “That sounds cool, Dad.” I was mildly engaged, much more focused on the more important things in my childhood, like the game we were about to attend.
You see, I didn’t give much (any?) thought at all to my Dad becoming a priest. In my experience, priests worked only a few hours every Sunday morning. They greeted people at the door in funny robes, preached a long, boring lecture, gave us the “snack”, told us to be good and sent us home. In my experience, priests’ kids got to go to summer camp for an extra week every summer! How cool was that?!
Perhaps if I’d been a little more prepared, I might have handled the transition into PK-dom with grace and tact. But you see, these are the things that nobody talks about. Why? Because telling other people about what it’s like to be a PK is pretty much akin to that nightmare everyone has of ending up in a public place naked. We don’t talk about it because it feels vulnerable, exposed. We don’t talk about it because if we start, how are we going to stop? And we don’t talk about it because if we were to tell you the truth, you would start to feel bad for taking our parents away from us as much as you do.
My entire experience as a PK can be summed up in this little nugget: “Whenever my Dad is with you, he’s not with me.”
Do me a favor? Next time you’re in church, take out the bulletin and read the upcoming events and check which ones you think your pastor might attend: Vestry meeting? Check. Men’s Bible study? Check. Women’s Bible Study? Probably not. Wednesday night programming: Check. Choir Rehearsals? A possibility. Then, add in the things that aren’t in the church bulletin: Planning meetings, staff meetings, deaths, counseling sessions, phone calls, networking, sermon writing, scheduling.
It’s a pretty exhausting list, isn’t it? Hard to handle it all in a business day, but then you add to the mix that many church-goers work a normal day shift, meaning that a lot of the events have to happen at night. Believe it or not, pastors have the same amount of nights per week that you do. The difference is that they don’t get to decide which events to be at and which ones to skip out on. They don’t get to cancel if it’s raining too hard, if their kid has a soccer game that night, or even because they’re tired. I would average that most priests are out of the home at least three weeknights every week, maybe even more. I would venture a guess that when they are home, most of them are so emotionally spent they find it hard to engage anyway.
I’m not saying this to complain about the PK way of life, or to make you feel bad. I don’t mind sharing my Dad with you. He’s a pretty cool guy, and I’m glad you get to know him. Sometimes, though, I want to get to know him, too. Sometimes, I want you to tell him it’s okay to stay home just this once. Mostly, I just want you to understand those kids that go home with his wife after church every Sunday.