31 Signs You Might Be a Pastor’s Kid.

(Today is a guest post from Barnabas Piper. He’s a pastor’s kid, just like me. You might have heard of his dad, Bill Piper. I’m kidding, it’s John. If you’d like to write a guest post, click here!) 

Back in the 90s, comedian Jeff Foxworthy did a bit called “You Might Be a Redneck if . . .” What followed the “if” was something like “ . . .your wife’s hairdo has ever been destroyed by a ceiling fan” or “ . . .you refer to the 5th grade as ‘my senior year’.”

I have developed my own set of criteria to help pick out pastors’ kids (PKs). Without further ado, and in the inimitable Jeff Foxworthy spirit:

YOU MIGHT BE A Pastor’s Kid If . . .

. . . you can explain the difference between a narthex, lobby, fellowship hall, and the commons.

. . . Psalty, the Donut Man, and McGee haunt your dreams at night.

. . . you won at least 12 prizes in your life for scripture memory feats.

. . . you snacked on communion bread.

. . . you knew where the janitor kept the church keys and took full advantage.

. . . December 31 isn’t New Year’s Eve, it’s “I hope people give a lot from their Christmas bonuses” day.

. . . you’re pretty sure “don’t run in church” is the 11th commandment.

. . . you were told to kiss dating goodbye. And didn’t listen.

. . . you knew which Sunday school classes had the best pastries.

. . . you were Picasso with the church pew golf pencil.

. . . you were the Zorro of sword drills.

. . . you were the Willie Mays of Bible trivia baseball.

. . . the scariest thing you ever dressed up as for Halloween was Goliath.

. . . you recommitted your life to Christ at least 12 times.

. . . you thought your name was So-and-so’s-son (or daughter).

. . . you were always the first person called out for shenanigans.

. . . you involuntarily volunteered for all church functions.

. . . You could blackmail half the church

. . . Half the church could blackmail you.

. . . You sat in dread each Sunday waiting for your name to be uttered from the pulpit.

. . . Every major holiday was interrupted by a church service.

. . . You yearned for the anonymity of independence then felt totally out of place when you finally received it.

. . . you heard the words “damn” and “hell” used more often in their literal meaning than as cuss words.

. . . You know what it means to “raise my Ebenezer.”

. . . You can list, off the top of your head, the 10 commandments, the 12 tribes of Israel, and all 10 plagues in less than 2 minutes.

. . . You speak like a normal person, but when you pray you become either a 17th century English poet or a timid teenage girl.

. . . You ever re-wrote worship choruses as something . . . less wholesome.

. . . You gravitate towards the numbers 3, 7, and 12.

. . . Your first ever concert was a Christian band. Bonus points if it was held at a church.

. . . God is both incredibly familiar and remarkably distant.

. . . You got asked weekly “So, are your going to be a pastor when you grow up?”

Those are the signs you might be a Pastor’s Kid, so … are you?

(For more on the uniqueness of growing up as a PK and working through its challenges, check out Barnabas’ book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity visit his blog and follow him on Twitter.)

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  1. Kristin says

    I’m not sure what it means that I don’t get the bill piper- john joke… Anyways, I miss psalty. I don’t know why. And I have nightmares about the time I was sent to the store(s) days after getting my license to pick up donut holes for a donut man concert. I had to go to 3 stores to get enough. This tradition carried on for years after that. Except it was also to pick up candy canes every christmas. It so humid here that I had to wait to get them till a few days before christmas service, otherwise they’d be melted sticky messes. Which again meant going to every store in our town. Then I had to get the plastic Easter eggs and candy for every Easter, and then the candy for our Halloween party. And then it spread to buying presents for anyone who might’ve gotten their tag left on the angel tree. It wasn’t until the end if my senior year that I realized I became the errand girl for church. As much respect and admiration I have for pastors and church staff members, I thank God he did not call me to be a pastor, church staff member, pastors wife, or staff members wife. I was happy to leave that life behind.

    • Matt says


      Bill Piper wrote the book “90 minutes in Heaven”. John Piper is most vociferously against any of the “heaven tourism” genre of books or experiences. And it’s quite amazing how many people get John and Bill mixed up.

      If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say more people are familiar with Bill, or they remember that “some guy named piper wrote a book about Heaven”. So when they hear something about John Piper, their response tends to be “Oh, the guy that wrote that 90 minutes book?”

      • Scott says


        It was actually “Don” Piper that wrote the 90 Minutes… book.

        This joke has taken on a life of its own!

        • Kristin says

          Wait… So there’s now John, Bill and Don? John is against heaven tourism, and Don is like the tmz of heaven, and Bill has no public opinion on heaven. Got it.

          • Jennifer Bayard says

            John Piper’s books and preaching turn your whole life upside down and you inside out. They are convicting, inspiring, and exhausting all at the same time.

  2. Susan says

    Anyone else remember the Superbook video series with the two kids and the robot transporting back to biblical times? And I remember my first concert being Carman! I have a special spot in my heart for Christian cheesiness.

    But on a serious note, one of the hardest parts of being a pastor’s kid is not feeling like you have the freedom to ask questions.

    • Paula says

      Oh, Susan! My favorites to ask my preacher dad were:
      1. If they drank wine in the Bible, why can’t we?
      2. Doesn’t the Bible say not to “provoke your children to anger?”

    • Collin says

      Susan! I remember Superbook! It was like the first anime I ever watched. I wondered if anyone other than my brother and sister and I knew that show. I’m not a PK, but I hate to hear that you felt like you couldn’t/can’t ask questions. Just start asking them!

  3. Kelli says

    Psalty still haunts my dreams, and I’m not even a PK. I’ve never heard of Donut Man and McGee.

  4. says

    I’m a PK, so I definitely resonate with most of these. I was just explaining to someone who being a PK was a blessing and a curse. I didn’t like it much when I was younger, but I now take great pride in growing up as a PK.

  5. Andrew says

    As a former PK this resonates with me. Some I don’t perhaps because of the difference in traditions. But these really resonated with me: “. . . you involuntarily volunteered for all church functions” and “. . . You yearned for the anonymity of independence then felt totally out of place when you finally received it.” Oh, and singing along with Psalty was my favorite.

  6. Bree says

    I can totally relate to being unintentionally volunteered for everything! I grew up in the parsonage behind the church, which gave us easy access to the building all week long. We always played “church” instead of “house,” and we’re often scolded for playing in the empty baptistry. Good times!

    • della says

      i can relate to most of Matts list. Def a Zoro of sword drils :) o my that’s so me and my siblings. being a PK gave me the shape that I am now. loving it now….btw Kids praise was a hit

  7. Beth says

    That last one … not if you’re a girl. In fact, there could be an entire other list of PK qualities for girls.

    • Kris says

      I beg to differ… I always got “are you going to be a pastor too?” And “since your parents are pastors, why don’t you lead us in prayer?” I eventually started responding with “oh, no. Feel free to lead the way. My parents accepted the pastoral gifting, not me.”

  8. says

    Been there, done most of it, and I didn’t even get a t-shirt. Did you know that being a PK is now a diagnosable disorder according to the DSM-V. I definitely had a love/hate relationship with it.

  9. Jonathan says

    …. if you ever got left at church because you were sleeping on one of the pews. (happened more than once)

  10. Kementari says

    Some of these make me shudder and then smile when I realize that I was not the only one to go through this! I would like to add . . .

    . . . you never got to play a major role in a Church play (because that would have shown favoritism and that is frowned upon!)

    . . . you played hide and seek in the graveyard (or is that just me!)

    P.S. I agree with you Melanie, we deserve a T-shirt!

    • says

      Hide-n-seek in a graveyard sounds kinda cool… (and just a little bit creepy :D )

      Major roles in plays or elsewhere – yeah, there’s certain pressure on PKs regarding this.

    • Kementari says

      that still happens today! even now that we are adults, our dad has to (sometimes) leave vacation because someone died!

      • Rebecca says

        I try to explain this to people and they don’t understand just how frustrating this was. I mean, we didn’t get to even TRY for a vacation that often because we had so little money. So when we would finally have the opportunity and get to our destination (one state away) and have to immediately turn back because someone died. Oy vey! I mean, we had the opportunity to come back and minister to the people. Yeah, that’s what I meant. . .

  11. says

    Carman was my first concert too!! And yes, growing up a PK was hard at times- especially having to Keep up appearances, I was never allowed to join the kids church!! :( Had to sit on the front row during “big church”

  12. says

    Haha, “you recommitted your life to Christ at least 12 times” – so I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE??? Wow, that feels good. When I grew up, I felt like an idiot for asking Jesus to be my Savior every camp and every time there was a conference or something…

    “you involuntarily volunteered for all church functions” – I think I did almost every job at the Church at least once. I preached, I was a Sunday School / small group leader, camp counselor, camp director, worship team bass player (and later singer…)… The only jobs I didn’t do were leader of men / women groups.

  13. Grace says

    I grew up down the street from the Donut Man and was friends with his daughter. Every time I walked in their house I wanted to start singing ‘life without Jesus is like a donut.”

  14. Annette Bowles says

    I loved all of this!! So much of it rang true.

    I was another one who actually swam in the baptistry on a Saturday night prior to a Sunday morning baptism.

    Also to add having many many vacations interrupted due to someone passing or another similar type emergency.

    I was “volunteered, along with my siblings, for pretty much everything all the time.”

  15. Amanda says

    Psalty also reminds me of Gumby for some reason, both if which are in my nightmares. I remember one Sunday we didn’t have any “special music” for the Sunday morning service, so I got voluntold to sing Vacation Bible School songs (complete with motions) with my dad in front of the entire congregation.

  16. says

    This list reads much like a “music minister’s kid” except you need to add…
    Could run a complete soundcheck by the age of 12.

  17. Jess says

    * Your older siblings baptised you in the bath, just like Daddy does!

    BTW, Does anyone else remember GT and the Halo Express? I still sing the Bible verse songs. Just so catchy!

  18. says

    Yes, much nodding & giggling for this PK, though I’m older & have Amy Grant concert nightmares. ;)

    Regarding involuntary volunteerism, my friend Dawn would say it this way: “I got volun-told for ______________.” This word resonates in my soul.

  19. MB says

    You ever re-wrote worship choruses as something . . . less wholesome.

    Heh. I’ve been in the worship band for years and have done enough of these re-writes in my head to fill an iPod.

    • Christin says

      My personal favorite was reading through the hymnal titles and adding the words “in the bathtub”.

      That one got me through a lot of sermons…

      In grad school my roommate and I discovered that you could read the hymn titles in hymnals of different denominations and it would sound like a sermon from that particular denomination. The Baptist Hymnal missions section is especially good… :-)

  20. David W says

    “. . . the scariest thing you ever dressed up as for Halloween was Goliath.”

    Um, try the Maniac of Gadara!

  21. Jennifer says

    Not a PK, but was the daughter of the sound/technology head as well as the choir coordinator at a relatively large church. And my grandparents were pastors, so I did get a little of that treatment, though not nearly as much. I cannot relate to some, but there are certainly a whole lot that take me down memory lane! I was at the church just as much, if not more, than the Pastor’s kids. Though my name was never uttered from the pulpit!

  22. April says

    My PK-ness doesn’t seem to be as bad as others, but I have a theory. I’m not as messed up as other PKs because my dad wasn’t a pastor my WHOLE life, just since I was 14.

    TRUTH: I didn’t come up with that theory, a friend shared that with me not long after my dad became a pastor. But it does certainly shed some light…

  23. Angela says

    Communion crackers are so awesome, and I had many secret communion bread-breaking in the auditorium closet. Why they don’t sell them next to cheezits in the store I don’t know.

  24. says

    My childhood. It’s here. But the bad part is I’m not even a PK, I just grew up like that.
    Could someone please get some tshirts made? TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY!

  25. Susan Pinder Kennedy says

    I was a Minister of Music’s kid (MOM). And it was actually my MOTHER who was the Minister of Music!! Ohhhh, boy, could I tell a few stories!! I have a few memories:

    MOM’s kids start squirming (..er, singing)…in the “This Little Light of Mine” Choir, at 2 years old.
    I grew up watching my Mother cry from nerves before all church performances.
    MOM’s kids were always the ‘gopher’ for the MOM.
    MOM’s kids helped Mother wash every single choir robe and stole once a year.
    MOM’s kids got towels for the poor Bass in the back row, when a gust of wind knocked over the flowers in the baptistry on said Bass’ head.
    MOMs kids had to learn the Soprano, Alto, and Tenor parts, just in case there weren’t enough singers.
    MOM’s kids had to be perfect, but were SO LOVED by the congregation!

  26. Ben Q says

    First concert was Petra. I was deaf for weeks. It wasn’t in a church though so no bonus points.

  27. David Tresch says

    As a PK I just remember my mom always trying to get us to be quiet in church saying, “boys I want people to look and say ‘oh look here come the Tresch boys’ (insert smile here) and not ‘oh look here come the Tresch boys’ (insert furrowed brow here).

  28. says

    - We always had to “host” visiting missionaries and their families(aka WEIRD kids) at our house when they were in our area…

    – Dad always volunteered you to do extra work around the church(mow the lawn the week the landscaper was gone, make coffee before church, etc)

    – On vacation we ALWAYS visited a church in the town we were in so dad could say hi to an old pastor friend

    – Pastor family week long camps with other pastor families…getting to trade war stories with the other kids—I actually remember one year very clearly because a girl in my group was a backup singer for Barney(early 90’s)

    – The sunday afternoon nap! Even when I wasn’t a pastor it was so ingrained in me that post lunch sundays meant everyone be quiet and go to sleep.

    – Having a pastor dad meant that he usually was flexible enough to get a call from mom midday to come home and “deal” with me….whenever mom went for the phone my legs began to shake because I knew I had really crossed the line

  29. says

    Talking about bad words/ideas for worship songs. When I was about 13 this very sincere and passionate woman sang a special offering song…I forget the name of it, but it was about prayer and the main chorus that was repeated about 100 times was “I feel power when I am on my knees”……

    Needless to say me and my friends(in the back row, because where else to 13 year old boys sit during church) were laughing so hard we were crying…..

    I got in big trouble…..

    • Mallory says

      Sadly, I know exactly what song this is. I had to sing it for an “offering special” several times. And I laughed with my friends about the lyrics after I finished singing.

      In case you wanted to know the name so you can look it up and chuckle all over again, the song is called On My Knees by Jaci Velasquez. The chorus says “I get on my knees, I get on my knees, there I am before the love that changes me, see I don’t know how but there’s power when I’m on my knees.”

  30. Christy says

    How about the fact that my principal attended our church (where Dad was pastor), and when I got in trouble (only once), it was a double guilt trip when he said, “I can’t believe YOU, my PASTOR’s daughter would do such a thing! Your father would be so disappointed.” As if other fathers wouldn’t be disappointed…

  31. Amy says

    You don’t have to be a pastor’s kid to have Psalty, the Donut Man, and McGee haunt your dreams. Believe me…the horrors! >_>

  32. Tisha says

    I’m the daughter of a minister of music and activities. I’ve attended more senior adult luncheons and men’s breakfasts than most senior adults or men have. And my first concert was Sandi Patty. Fish bowl mentality haunts my actions to this day.

    • Tara says

      Ha Ha, No Pentecostal would be a pretty different list John Piper and so his son are Baptist. They would pretty much negate everything a Pentecostal holds to…

  33. Mike Thurston says

    Bill Gothard Seminars. Shoney’s on Sunday nights. My sisters wearing culottes. I remember when I was thirteen, my dad found my U2 Sunday Bloody Sunday cassette tape… He thought it had to be satanic, ha!

  34. says

    Yep. I still doodle with pencils when I go back home. I remember my dad wanted to see my sermon notes after every sermon and what he got was an elaborate 1 hour work of art.
    I would also add that your a PK if:
    – you were expected to be best friends with every kid at church and then harassed by their parents for not doing so
    – your dad told you he would lose his job if you ever got in trouble at school
    – had to sit in the front row for everyone to stare at during the sermon
    – you lived across the parking lot from the church and had a weekly homeless person show up at your front door asking for money and food
    – you were expected to start a high school Bible study

  35. Charissa Lee says

    “. . . you thought your name was So-and-so’s-son (or daughter).”

    This is so true. It came to a point people forgot my name and could only recognise me when I said I’m the Pastor’s daughter. *Sigh*
    And there will be times where people will be like, “Hey! I know you! you’re the Pastor’s daughter…errr…what’s your name again?”

    Oh! I think one more point should be added on.
    “You might be a Pastor’s kid if …you’re the last one to leave church” :-P

  36. Jacque says

    We call it being “voluntold” and it happens waaaaayyyyy too often.

    And does anyone else remember Bible Man movies?

  37. says

    … your Halloween dress up options were limited to previous Christmas pageants [for years, I was the only one at Harvest Festival dressed as a shepherd/wise man/angel].

    … you knew where the extra sugar packets, children’s church cookies, Hawaiian punch, and leftover wedding reception cake was hidden [the longer Dad chatted after service Sunday morning, the more my siblings and I would consume].

    … you were (and maybe still are) a professional secret-keeper [parishioners calling our home phone after hours needing immediate counsel meant I knew waay more than I was supposed to].

    … the need to keep up appearances is deeply ingrained [even in my 30s, I find myself looking over my shoulder in case I’m being watched and my behavior evaluated as the pastor’s daughter].

  38. Barb says

    These apply to deacon’s kids as well! We were often first to church and last to leave. I knew I had to be on my best behavior! Also, my best friends were the PK’s so we were all in the same boat.
    I knew Psalty and the Donut Man so well! Also Hide ‘Em in your Heart.
    Loved the one about prayer! It is so true!

  39. says

    Yup, I’m a PK, married to a PK, my dad was a PK, hubby’s dad was a PK, most of my cousins were PK’s — I think I qualify for most of your list. Glad to have found your site — going exploring now

    Carol Graham
    Author – Battered Hope

  40. Tara says

    Yes! All of these are true! My dad had a deal that if he used us in a sermon we’d get ten bucks every time. It at least made the embarrassment worth it.
    Anybody remember Adventures in Odyssey? Psalty and McGhee and Adventures in Odyssey.
    You can also add, “oh you’re dad’s a pastor, I can’t date you…”

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