Because you will. We’re human. We’re sinners. It happens.
Some Christians desire and expect their pastor’s daughter to be nothing short of the congregation’s symbol of purity and righteousness. Virgin until married. Prayer warrior. Queen of hospitality. Others expect–even without evidence–for the pastor’s daughter to be a rebel; prone to pre-marital sexual exploits behind closed doors to escape the shackles of her father’s rules. There is prejudice and pressure attached to both identities, and no young woman is rigidly one persona or the other, despite the stereotype given in pop culture.
The following are four parameters by which I think one can reasonably formulate an impression of a pastor’s daughter.
Disclaimer: I am not using “judge” in a pejorative sense as in judge to condemn but judge to evaluate or understand better.
What is the parental philosophy of her father?
The importance of the father-daughter relationship is heightened in the context of a church setting because her father isn’t just a man doing the best he can for his family, he’s the spiritual and moral leader of a community. His approach to fatherhood is – at least to those in his home – approved by God, the ultimate Father. His example has a lasting influence.
So if her father puts church business ahead of family business, what message does that send to his daughter about a man’s devotion to his family? What does it teach her about the compromise of time and attention in a relationship? And how will this sacrifice color her feelings for those who devote family time towards the ministry?
If her father works toward establishing a true balance between ministry at home and ministry at work, then how secure will that young girl be? How secure will she be in life knowing that this powerful, influential man makes time to ask about her day at school or attend events to support her interests? Will she be an extremely confident young girl? Will other women, with a different parental experience, confuse her confidence with arrogance? These are questions to ask when assessing the personality and perspective of a pastor’s daughter.
What type of “First Lady” is her mom?
But it’s not [only] the parenting style that is important, it’s the brand of First Lady exhibited that matters. Why? Because the behavior of the First Lady typically sets the standard for all women in the church. Now you may agree or disagree on whether this is a fair or old-fashioned practice, but it still happens in churches today. So what does this mean for the pastor’s daughter?
It means that her demeanor and personality may be inaccurately judged in comparison to her mother’s. Members of a church accustomed to a dynamic preaching, teaching First Lady who frequents the pulpit may think a more reserved, pastor’s daughter isn’t as “passionate for the gospel” or vice versa. An outgoing, extroverted daughter may be deemed “too much” for a congregation used to a quiet, seen but rarely heard from First Lady.
Even with the Pastor and First Lady urging the congregation not to expect their daughter (or son) to be just like them, some members still do. And for the pastor’s daughter, her role in the church can sometimes live in the shadow of her mother.
To what level is she given special treatment?
This question applies to all pastor’s kids, so we have to include it in this discussion. The downside to special treatment for pastor’s kids is obvious. It can breed selfishness and self-centeredness. Another, less spoken about side affect of special treatment, occurs when pastor’s kids are expected and/or eased into leadership positions in church.
This can make church a stressful and burdensome experience if a pastor’s kid is not a natural leader, but is still pushed into those roles. Conversely, some pastor’s kids may have a false sense of confidence and feel entitled to leadership positions because they were always “given” those responsibilities, though they never had the pleasure of earning them.
What is/was life like at home?
This is the most important and yet the most elusive question needed to judge a pastor’s daughter, and it too applies to all pastor’s kids.
The public versus private life of a believer can be as powerful and many times more influential than words from the sermon or even the Bible. When your parents lead the congregation on Sunday, the rest of the week is supposed to be the gospel lived out right in front of your eyes. This is where pastor’s kids learn whether or not a performance is more important than the truth. But if you’re not in a pastor’s home day in and day out – no matter the hit reality show or candidness of the bestselling book — you’ll never really know.
You won’t hear the arguments or the prayers; feel the love or the tension. And without this most integral element of pastoral offspring behavior analysis, your perception of your pastor’s daughter will always be lacking.
So when you see or meet a pastor’s daughter, skip the judgment and spend the mental calories to say a prayer.
Pray sharing her parents with scores of people doesn’t turn her against the work of the spreading the gospel.
Pray that her father’s inevitable failings as a man or minister don’t send her into the arms of Godless men who only have an appearance of what she missed at home.
Pray that she defines herself and her worth according to scripture and not the privileges she did or didn’t get as a member of the first family.
Pray that her family life isn’t flawless, but that it is full of God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, so that no matter what happens in her home, good or bad, she will choose to develop and embrace her own relationship with God.
Ester Weithers is a 21st century storyteller, writing online as well as for film and television, with a frank and irreverent style that reflects her experiences as the daughter of a pastor and Caribbean immigrants.