Pastors’ kids under pressure: The common ‘PK’ stereotypes

“The pastor is held to a higher standard, and their kids are held to the same standard.
“The pastor is held to a higher standard, and their kids are held to the same standard." (Photo sourced from: Unsplash)

Written by: Hannah Johnson

A poll on the Accent’s Instagram asked Southern Adventist University students to describe the different stereotypes assigned to pastors’ kids, often referred to as PKs. The respondents generally gave two contradicting answers: PKs are rebellious, up to no good and disobedient or they are perfect, heavily involved in the church and stuck up. Within the group that responded, 52 out of 170 said they are pastors’ kids. 

Lorraine Ball, professor in the School of Journalism and Communication and daughter of a former Seventh-day Adventist conference president, gave similar answers in an interview with the Accent. She defined the stereotypical PK as either being the model child that’s compliant, smart and always obeys or the problem child that is always rebelling against the system. 

“At the heart of every stereotype there is truth; you start to see a pattern,” Ball said. 

Ball explained that not only do PKs have their parents watching over them, teaching them right from wrong, but also the church continuously scrutinizes their actions. She described how people would call her dad if they saw her doing something they did not approve of. This caused her to feel pressured to act a certain way in front of church members. 

“There is some pressure to be perfect, and people are shocked if you have done something they have disapproved of,” she said.

Ball said church participation was ingrained in her. Because her parents were heavily involved, she was often opted in to help. After years of participation, she learned the ins and outs of church buildings and their operations.

Matthew Kimbley, a pastor’s kid and sophomore music major, also explained how the church would often push him to participate as well, especially with music.

“The church members would expect me to do extra, and whenever I would turn it down, they would always respond, ‘Oh you don’t want to be involved with church; you don’t care about it,’” he said. “It would just make me want to do less in the end.”

Kimbley also agreed with Ball that the stereotypes church members have for PKs are built off of real observations. He said people’s expectations for PKs are often higher than the expectations they have for others.

“The pastor is held to a higher standard, and their kids are held to the same standard,” Kimbley said.

Many respondents to the Instagram poll expressed similar sentiments to the ones expressed by Ball and Kimbley, such as pastors’ kids facing a high amount of pressure to behave appropriately and difficulty saying no to helping at church functions.

Ball and Kimbley do believe that there can be pros to these experiences. Ball said she was involved in church as a young adult not just because of her dad but because she believed as a Christian that involvement within the church is important. Kimbley shared how pressure from PK stereotypes has helped strengthen his faith and taught him to be strong despite what other people think.

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