Preacher's kid

Last updated
German Pfarrerskinder (preacher's kids) play "church", in a painting by Johann Peter Hasenclever, c. 1847. Hasenclever Die Pfarrerskinder.jpg
German Pfarrerskinder (preacher's kids) play "church", in a painting by Johann Peter Hasenclever, c. 1847.

Preacher's kid is a term to refer to a child of a preacher, pastor, deacon, vicar, lay leader, priest, minister or other similar church leader. Although the phrase can be used in a purely descriptive way, it may also be used as a stereotype.



Children of clergy often experience pressure due to the expectations placed on them, [1] [2] [3] [4] and may develop feelings of isolation and inner conflict as a result. [5] Parental workload (which, by definition, includes working on the weekend) may also be a source of stress. [4] Some writers suggest that there is a "preacher's kid syndrome", in which children of clergy reject religion and the church. [6] Such rebellious children of the clergy are a stock figure in the Southern literature of the United States, [7] and this view is seen as a stereotype. [8] One literary example occurs in Eugene O'Neill's play "The Iceman Cometh" when the traveling salesman Hickey describes his life: "You see, even as a kid I was always restless. I had to keep on the go. You’ve heard the old saying, “Ministers’ sons are sons of guns.” Well, that was me, and then some." Other writers note that children of the clergy (both Christian and Jewish) may often become clergy themselves, [9] such as: Martin Luther King Jr., son of Martin Luther King Sr.; and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. Children of clergy may be more exposed than their peers to the defining events of life. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recalled that he learned much about life, death, poverty, injustice and unemployment as the son of a Church of Scotland minister. [10] The "preacher's kid" phenomenon has been connected with the related phenomenon of "military brats" (children of active-duty military personnel). [11] Children of preachers who are missionaries (missionary kids) may also be third culture kids.


There are two different stereotypes of the preacher's kid: in one, they are perfectly angelic role models, [12] in the other they are rebels at the opposite extreme. [12] [13] The existence of these stereotypes is a source of pressure on children of clergy. [13]

Examples of the negative stereotype include the preacher's son from Maine in the film Gettysburg , described as the "best darn cusser I've ever heard" and Jessica Lovejoy in the "Bart's Girlfriend" episode of The Simpsons . [14] On the sitcom Three's Company , the character Chrissy Snow played by Suzanne Somers played off a variety of stereotypes including the "dumb blonde", but also as daughter of Reverend Luther Snow (Peter Mark Richman), the character – as well as much of the show's humor – was developed around aspects of Chrissy's innocence and naïvety based on a stereotype of her religious upbringing in small town America. The TV series 7th Heaven is also a good example of the pastor's kid stereotype. The Camden family father, Eric (Stephen Collins), is a minister, and he and his wife Annie (Catherine Hicks) have seven children. Sometimes they are perfect angels but most of the time the show displays the trials that the family go through as the children grow up, and often the children are criticized because of who their father is. Lifetime reality TV series Preachers' Daughters follows the lives of Christian preacher's daughters and their families.

An enduring image from popular music is presented in the hit song "Son of a Preacher Man," a ballad of young love remembered, places the minister's son as a "sweet-talkin' son of a preacher man", who is possibly more sensitive to women and thus able to emotionally reach the girl who claims that, "The only one who could ever reach me/Was the son of a preacher man/The only boy who could ever teach me/Was the son of a preacher man." Versions of the recording from major stars like Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin kept this image, drawn from a southern US setting, visible internationally. The "preacher's daughter" is also a pervasive negative stereotype ascribed to female children that has a particular set of connotations, often sexual, rebellious, or dark in nature. The stereotype is typically suggestive of a dual life: one lived as the expected descendant of piety and the other lived wild, outside of the morals of religion, cloaked in secrecy. Songs such as "Preacher's Daughter" by American R&B singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton exhibit this role: "She had a habit that she couldn't really stop, needed money so she had to hit the block, nobody knew it so she steady had to play a role, went to church, but surely tearin' up her soul... she was a Preacher's Daughter."

Other terms

In Scotland, to be "children of the manse" is considered very influential on a person's upbringing. [10]

In German, the terms Pfarrerskind [15] and Priesterkind are used to refer to children of clergy.

Greek surnames with the prefix Papa- and Armenian surnames with the prefix Ter- or Der- refer to people who are the descendants of clergy.

See also

Related Research Articles


A preacher is a person who delivers sermons or homilies on religious topics to an assembly of people. Less common are preachers who preach on the street, or those whose message is not necessarily religious, but who preach components such as a moral or social worldview or philosophy.

Universal priesthood

The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers is a principle in some branches of Christianity which abrogates the doctrine of holy orders found in some other branches, including the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Derived from the Bible and elaborated in the theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the principle became prominent as a tenet of Protestant Christian doctrine, though the exact meaning of the belief and its implications vary widely among denominations.

A pastor, is the leader of a Christian congregation who also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation. In Protestantism, a pastor may be ordained or not while in the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches, the pastor is always an ordained priest. Pastors are to act like shepherds by caring for the flock, and this care includes teaching. The New Testament typically uses the words "bishops" and "presbyter" to indicate the ordained leadership in early Christianity. Likewise, Peter instructs these particular servants to "act like shepherds" as they "oversee" the flock of God. The words "bishop" and "presbyter" were sometimes used in an interchangeable way, such as in Titus 1:5-6. However, there is ongoing dispute between branches of Christianity over whether there are two ordained classes or three. In the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodox Church bishops, priests, and deacons are those who have been ordained with apostolic lineage. In most Protestant denominations and non-denominational churches, in contrast, bishops are rejected, as well as the doctrine of apostolic succession.

Olympia Brown American suffragist and Universalist minister

Olympia Brown was an American minister and suffragist. She was the first woman to be ordained as clergy with the consent of her denomination. Brown was also an articulate advocate for women's rights and one of the few first generation suffragists who were able to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Godparent Person who sponsors a childs baptism

A godparent, in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who bears witness to a child's christening and later is willing to help in their catechesis, as well as their lifelong spiritual formation. In the past, in some countries, the role carried some legal obligations as well as religious responsibilities. In both religious and civil views, a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child's upbringing and personal development, to offer mentorship or claim legal guardianship of the child if anything should happen to the parents. A male godparent is a godfather, and a female godparent is a godmother. The child is a godchild.

Katharina von Bora Protestant reformer, wife of Martin Luther

Katharina von Bora, after her wedding Katharina Luther, also referred to as "die Lutherin", was the wife of Martin Luther, German reformer and a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation. Beyond what is found in the writings of Luther and some of his contemporaries, little is known about her. Despite this, Katharina is often considered one of the most important participants in the Reformation because of her role in helping to define Protestant family life and setting the tone for clergy marriages.

Jack Hyles

Jack Frasure Hyles was a leading figure in the Independent Baptist movement, having pastored the First Baptist Church of Hammond in Hammond, Indiana, from August 1959 until his death. He was well known for being an innovator of the church bus ministry that brought thousands of people each week from surrounding towns to Hammond for services. Hyles built First Baptist up from fewer than a thousand members to a membership of 100,000. In 1993 and again in 1994, it was reported that 20,000 people attended First Baptist every Sunday, making it the most attended Baptist church in the United States. In 2001, at the time of Hyles's death, 20,000 people were attending church services and Sunday school each week. He was the senior pastor during several sexual abuse scandals, and his doctrinal positions often put him at odds with other Christians — even with other fundamentalist Baptists.

Martin Luther King Sr.

Martin Luther King Sr. was an African American Baptist pastor, missionary, and an early figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was the father and namesake of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Alberta Williams King Mother of Martin Luther King Jr.

Alberta Christine Williams King was Martin Luther King Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She was shot and killed in the church by Marcus Wayne Chenault, a 23-year-old black male six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Circuit rider (religious)

Circuit rider clergy, in the earliest years of the United States, were clergy assigned to travel around specific geographic territories to minister to settlers and organize congregations. Circuit riders were clergy in the Methodist Episcopal Church and related denominations, although similar itinerant preachers could be found in other faiths as well, particularly among minority faith groups.

Clerical collar Detachable collar worn by Christian clergy

A clerical collar, clergy collar, Roman collar or, informally, dog collar is an item of Christian clerical clothing. The collar closes at the back of the neck, presenting a seamless front. The shirt may have the collar built in. The clerical collar is almost always white and was originally made of cotton or linen but is now frequently made of plastic. Sometimes it is attached with a collaret or collarino that covers the white collar almost completely, except for a small white square at the base of the throat, and sometimes with the top edge of the collar exposed to mimic the collar of a cassock. It may simply be a detachable tab of white in the front of the clerical shirt. The clerical shirt is traditionally black, but today is available in a variety of colors depending on the wearer's preference. Once the clerical collar is removed the garment is indistinguishable from any other shirt. When clergy are delivering sermons, they sometimes attach preaching bands to their clerical collar.

Women in the Protestant Reformation

The status of Women in the Protestant Reformation was promoted to be the role of wife and mother, just as the men's role was that of husband, father, or son. I practice, however, many women played important roles during the Reformation, and their roles were affected and influenced in several ways during it.

Religion of black Americans

Religion of black Americans refers to the religious and spiritual practices of African Americans. Historians generally agree that the religious life of black Americans "forms the foundation of their community life." Before 1775 there was scattered evidence of organized religion among black people in the Thirteen Colonies. The Methodist and Baptist churches became much more active in the 1780s. Their growth was quite rapid for the next 150 years, until they covered a majority of the people.

Robert Sylvester Graetz Jr. was a Lutheran clergyman who, as the white pastor of a black congregation in Montgomery, Alabama, openly supported the Montgomery bus boycott, a landmark event of the civil rights movement.

Luther Alexander Gotwald

Luther Alexander Gotwald, D.D. (1833–1900) was a professor of theology in the Wittenberg Theological Seminary in the United States. He was tried for heresy by the board of directors at Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, on April 4 and 5, 1893, which put on trial many key issues that Lutherans still debate today.

Ordination of women in Methodism

Methodist views on the ordination of women in the rite of holy orders are diverse.

Ida B. Robinson was an American Pentecostal-Holiness and Charismatic denominational leader. She was the founder, first Senior Bishop and President of the Mount Sinai Holy Church of America, Inc. Robinson formed the organization in response to her vision and Divine Call to secure an organizational home where women preachers would be welcomed and encouraged. Mount Sinai Holy Church of America is the only organization founded by an African-American woman that held consistent female leadership from its founding in 1924 until February 2001.

Lydia Emelie Gruchy

Lydia Emelie Gruchy was a French-born Canadian who became the first woman ordained to the ministry of the United Church of Canada. She was the first woman to enroll in theological studies, to graduate from a Presbyterian theological college and also the first woman to be granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in Canada.


  1. Thomas W. Klink, "The Ministry as Career and Crisis", in Pastoral Psychology, v. 20 no. 6 pp. 13-19 (Springer: 1969)
  2. Flanagan, Kieran (2009). A Sociology of Spirituality. Ashgate Publishing. p. 194. ISBN   1-4094-0259-2.
  3. Douglas F. Campbell (August 18–20, 1995). "The Clergy Family in Canada: Focus on Adult PK's". Paper read at the annual meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, Washington, D.C. Erindale College, University of Toronto. Archived from the original on 2006-10-07. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  4. 1 2 J. Elizabeth Norrell, "Clergy Family Satisfaction Archived 2011-02-02 at the Wayback Machine ," Family Science Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, November, 1989 pp. 337-346.
  5. Levitz, Yisrael N.; Twerski, Abraham J. (2005). A practical guide to rabbinic counseling. Feldheim Publishers. p. 374. ISBN   1-58330-834-2.
  6. Edwards, David Lawrence (1995). Glimpses of God: seeing the divine in the ordinary . Chalice Press. p.  61. ISBN   0-8272-1239-9.
  7. Ramsey, G. Lee (2008). Preachers and misfits, prophets and thieves: the minister in southern fiction. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 8. ISBN   0-664-23224-8.
  8. Ford, Aundria H. Hawkins (2010). From the Pastor's Daughter: A Testimony of Life in the Ministry Through the Eyes of the Pastor's Child. Tate Publishing. p. 88. ISBN   1-60799-803-3.
  9. David Peterson, "Preachers' kids; The children of preachers saw life in their church or synagogue from the inside. Many rejected the preacher's life, but others were drawn to follow their father's footsteps." ( Minneapolis Star Tribune , byline Oct. 11, 1997, accessed Nov. 21, 2008)
  10. 1 2 Taylor, Alan (18 August 2007). "To the manse born". The Herald (Scotland). Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  11. Kruger, Roger (2008). In Jars of Clay: Reflections on the Art of Pastoring. Hillcrest Publishing Group. p. 26. ISBN   1-934248-83-5.
  12. 1 2 Fichter, Joseph Henry (1992). Wives of Catholic Clergy. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 152. ISBN   1-55612-474-0.
  13. 1 2 Tara J. Allman, An Analysis of the Stereotypes of Preacher’s Kids and its Application on their Spouses, Masters thesis, Marshall University, 2007.
  14. Pinsky, Mark I. (2007). The gospel according to the Simpsons (2nd ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. p.  85. ISBN   0-664-23160-8.
  15. Würzberg, Anja (2005). Ich: Pfarrerskind: Vom Leben in der heiligen Familienfirma. Lutherisches Verlagshaus. ISBN   3-7859-0927-6.

Further reading