Being a pastor’s kid: ‘I wouldn’t trade it for anything’
Not many know what it’s like to be raised by a United Methodist pastor. To find out, we asked some PKs (pastor’s or preacher’s kids) from across the connection to share their experience as TOs (theological offspring).
Pastor’s children often attend church every Sunday. Sixteen-year-old Hanna Hjerpseth, daughter of Norway district superintendent the Rev. Steinar Hjerpseth, shares, “I have to get up early and go to service on Sundays—the days I actually want to sleep.” Many non-PKs have felt similarly.
There are some unexpected benefits to losing a little sleep, however.
The Rev. Corey Turnpenny, pastor of Whitney Point (NY) United Methodist Church and daughter of licensed local pastor the Rev. Dolly Tarreto, remembers enjoying “leftover communion bread and baked goods from coffee hour.”
Several others mentioned enjoying snacks and communion bread. Bruce Blumer, Executive Director of Development at The United Methodist Church Development Center, and son of the Rev. Boyd Blumer, a retired pastor from the Dakotas Conference, recalls, “We got to eat at plenty of potlucks.” We are United Methodists!
Blumer also enjoyed extra access to the church building, “a great place to play hide and seek.”
Most importantly, PKs remember the people.
“I always felt at home and loved in our churches,” the Rev. Tonya Kenner, Minister of Christian Education at First United Methodist Church, Frankfort, Kentucky, recalls. She grew up in five congregations pastored by her dad, the Rev. William R. Jennings.
The Rev. Kelly Brooks, Executive Pastor, Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and daughter of the Rev. Donna Jackson, describes feelings of “comfort and security” that extended even to the United Methodist congregation she attended as a college student four hours from home.
“The best part is, without a doubt, the extended family and all the friends you get from growing up in church,” explains Audun Westad, a political scientist at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and son of the Rev. Ola Westad of Norway.
Ingrid Hjerpseth, Hanna’s sister, also found the church to be a second home, adding, “I get an extra family there, and they take care of me.” She later continues, “God is a big part of my life, and one of the reasons why is because I have met good people in the church…who have taken good care of me.”
The Rev. Victor Cyrus-Franklin, whose mom the Rev. Shirley Renee Moon Franklin pastors in the Tennessee Annual Conference, shares, “There would always be gifts under the Christmas tree from church members.” They “showed their love and care for us, and always remembered us on special days.”
At times, however, some of the attention was unwanted. Several PKs remember feeling the pressure of high expectations for their behavior, dress, and “to know all the answers in Sunday School and youth group,” recounts Jennifer McCallum, daughter of the Rev. Margaret Kutz and United Methodist Women Executive Secretary for Leadership Development.
PKs knowing so many church members is due in part to our itinerant system. United Methodist pastors and their families move from church to church as assigned by their bishop. That isn’t always easy.
“I hated moving,” recalls the Rev. Philip Galyon, Director of Student Ministries at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Decatur, Alabama. “I am someone who thrives on rhythm and I never had that growing up.”
“My first six school years were spent in four different towns,” reports Karl Anders Ellingsen, son of the Rev. Arne G. Ellingsen, and communicator and editor for The United Methodist Church in Norway. “That had a lasting impact on how I form relationships and who I am.”
The Rev. Rebecca Trefz, Executive Director of Conference Ministries for the Dakotas Conference, whose grandfather, father, and uncle also served as United Methodist pastors, has a new perspective on moving. “When I was sixteen, [the hardest part] was definitely getting moved! But looking back,” she continues, “I see that there was so much good that came out of that move.”
One of those benefits is, “Experiencing many different people, cultures and communities,” says the Rev. Anne Hampson, a pastoral counselor in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
PKs are also privy to the behind-the-scenes workings of congregational life.
The Rev. Camille Mattick, Children, Youth, and Family Pastor of Simi Valley (CA) United Methodist Church received “insight and understanding of [The United Methodist Church] that most of my friends did not have.”
Those understandings, however, weren’t always positive. Mattick also remembers experiencing “some anger towards church politics. Those feelings,” she continues, “still linger today.”
Watching their pastor-parents work through difficult situations was a good learning experience for many.
In other areas of life, the example of these parents left an indelible impression on their children.
“The best part of being a pastor’s kid was the example my mom set as a woman in male-dominated spheres,” McCallum proudly shares. “She was a pioneer in many ways and her experiences and strength have profoundly shaped me.”
Catherine Cain, brother of Cyrus-Franklin and Financial Coordinator for the Arkansas Conference, shares a similar experience. “I got to explain to kids that my denomination believes that women can lead and preach just as well as men.” All four of the children of the Rev. Shirley Renee Moon Franklin work church related jobs today.
Experiencing God’s work
One of the common experiences cherished by PKs is, as Hampson shares, “experiencing God's work in people and communities first hand.”
“It helped me grow, not just as a Christian,” says Dale Cancio, United Methodist Young People’s Ministries Philippines and son of the Rev. Celestino I. Cancio of the Philippines Central Conference, “but also as a person to be mature enough to face life walking with Christ.”
Growing up the child of a United Methodist pastor comes with its share of struggles, but what we heard most often were fond memories.
Marrick Ancheta, District Secretary of the Southwest Metro Manila District of the Philippines Annual Conference and daughter of the Rev. Edric M. Ancheta, sums it up well, “I think the best part among the bests—was being a UM pastor’s kid itself!”
This story was published June 13, 2017.