Harry Potter and The Preacher’s Kid

Guest Author: Sam Willcut

Yes, I freely admit that I am a fan of Harry Potter; thus, I was excited when my oldest son brought home the newly released printed script of the play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (Trust me, this article contains NO SPOILERS [for those who have yet to read it]). Because it is in script format, it was an easy and quick read, picking up where “Deathly Hallows” left off and telling the story about a grown-up Harry Potter and his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter (again, not spoiling anything). According to the play’s official website (harrypottertheplay.com), its premise includes that “…Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy that he never wanted….” For those who enjoyed the original seven Harry Potter books, it offers up an enticing plot to consider how it must feel to be the son of a famous father.

Therefore, as I read the script and was intrigued by the general dialogue between struggling famous father, Harry Potter, and his child who felt as if it was a curse to be his offspring: “I’m not as good as you are! I didn’t ask to be your son!” (Of course, I’m paraphrasing), I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to my youth and the conversations that many preacher’s kids have had with their fathers: “I’m not as good as you are! I didn’t ask to be a preacher’s kid!” Indeed, the similarities are quite striking.

With this unique struggle that preacher’s kids share (reminding me of Lord Business in the Lego Movie asking, “CAN YOU FEEL ME?”), I thought I would offer a few suggestions to consider:

  1. Be yourself. Just because you are the child of a preacher and a preacher’s wife does not mean that you must become a preacher or a preacher’s wife, too. While I happened to follow in the example of my father (as well as other preachers who have inspired me in my youth), my brother did not become a preacher, and my sister is not a preacher’s wife. Yet, they are equally productive Christians in the kingdom (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12ff). The analogy of the church being members of the body can extend to this as well—just because our parents may be an eye or a hand does not mean that we have to grow up to be that same functioning member of the body. I still remember him telling me that if I chose not to be a preacher, he would still be very proud of me. He let me be myself.
  2. Serve God above everyone and everything. Remember that your first priority is to God. My life does not revolve around trying to please my earthly father (as much as I love him), but my life DOES revolve around pleasing my Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:33), and because of this, my parents are pleased. In other words, do not let the unique relationship that you have with your parents get in the way of doing what everyone else must also do—put God first and serve Him daily (Luke 9:23). As PK’s, we are no different than anyone else—we must make the conscious decision to follow Jesus or suffer the consequences. This does not necessarily come easier to us than non-PKs, but it is just as much of a priority as with everyone else—my first and foremost responsibility is to please my Father in Heaven.
  3. Live a balanced life rather than a life of extremes. As a PK, I always remembered feeling that our family was living in a glass bubble, constantly scrutinized by the members of the congregation where my father labored, but I appreciate my family striving to live a normal, balanced life. The temptation of a preacher’s family is to live a perfect life, because as a church leader, our father desires to set an example for the rest of the congregation. As a preacher’s kid, I may have unattainable expectations as the “Golden Child.” Yet, God doesn’t expect perfection from anyone, including and especially preacher’s kids. On the other extreme, you may have heard that preacher’s kids are the worst (the running joke among PK’s is that preacher’s kids are not the worst, but that elder’s kids are actually the worst, but I digress). In my humble opinion, I do think PK’s get a bad rap—so many of the preacher’s kids that I know are not the worst, but are godly individuals. Unfortunately, as is often the case (especially today and seen with our media), a few bad examples ruin the reputation of everyone else. Indeed, it may be true that some preacher’s kids revolt and rebel against the position they find themselves and run to the other extreme of living wicked and unruly lives. Rather than either extreme (perfection versus defiance), live a faithful and balanced life.
  4. Do not be ashamed of being a PK. It is often the case that because of the bad reputations against PK’s, some are ashamed of such. They fail to inform their friends at school or even their co-workers at work for fear of being treated differently. May I say that there is nothing about which to be ashamed if you are a preacher’s kid? I never asked to be one—it is who I am. Yet, the Bible is replete with passages that warn against shame and to what it may lead.
  5. Thank God for the blessing of being reared by godly parents. If you come from a preacher’s family, then it is likely the case that most have been in such the majority (if not entirety) of their childhood, which means that we had an opportunity to be reared by godly parents. This is a tremendous blessing that we share with others (non-PK’s) who were reared by godly parents, and it is a blessing that we should not trivialize or minimize. Considering the godlessness that has infiltrated our world, it is a blessing that I was placed in the home of godly parents. Again, I didn’t have a choice, and the alternative is that I could have been born in a Muslim home in Iraq or a home here in USA by atheists. The frightening possibilities abound, and they cause me both to shudder and to thank God continuously in prayer.
  6. Do not become complacent. The aforementioned blessing may also be a temptation for a curse—have we ever noticed that the Christians who had to work themselves out of denominationalism or truly be converted out of extreme worldliness seem to be much more convicted than those who grew up in Christian homes, by and large? Why is this? One prominent reason is the threat of complacency, and to a PK, it is a very real threat. Have we ever heard the axiom: “Familiarity breeds contempt”? Such is true more often than not. Our familiarity with the church, the Bible and things of a religious nature may cause us to lose our attraction to it. As a PK, have I become so familiar with these things that I no longer value them? Fight the urge from the devil to lose what you once loved (cf. Revelation 2:4-5).

Therefore, being a preacher’s kid does not mean that you are a cursed child! While it offers unique opportunities, it can be one of the richest blessings in your life. May these insights be of help to those fellow preacher’s kids who may be struggling with living in the shadow of their family.

  1. Reply
    Patty August 24, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Being a preacher’s kid in my case meant seeing the private side of Mom and Dad. It did not live up to the public assumptions for our home life. In the middle of a “cuss out” for my misbehavior, the phone would ring and the sweetest voice would answer, “Baptist parsonage”, but following the call the “cuss out” would continue.

    It also meant that out of town visits to his family saw Dad regress to smoking and drinking to excess. I idolized my dad and had a struggle integrating the two sets of parents into reality.

  2. Reply
    Sam August 24, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    So very sorry for your experiences. Of course, while some other PK’s may be able to identify with similar experiences, others may not. Additionally, such may be true of any home that is supposed to be “Christian.” It only reinforces that we are all prone to sin (including parents), and that our ultimate role model is Jesus Christ!

  3. Reply
    J Hurst August 25, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I had the “danged if you do” experience frequently as a PK. Growing up as the son of a preacher/missionary wasn’t easy. I never had any close friends growing up because I was scared to get close to anyone. We were constantly moving and my experiences with church kids weren’t positive. Being judged with the “holy spotlight” wasn’t fun, especially when the people doing the judging were some of the biggest screw-ups you could possibly come across. My parents were great examples though. I’m not sure how they did it. Personally, I felt like being a preacher was just something I had to do because it was what I was mainly exposed to. I looked at life as though I had only one option and that was being a preacher. What a depressing way to look at things. It took me awhile to figure out that I had to make my own way in life, rather than to live up to expectations that weren’t realistic, nor were they even being imposed on me by anyone but myself. I’ve grown up quite a bit since then, but I still feel like the Peter of the congregation sometimes. Perhaps I’m a little bit jaded by the ministry having seen firsthand how petty and manipulative that some people are in the church. What I’ve learned over the years is that there is a far greater number of good people trying their best to help each other grow.

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