Children of Religious Leaders Blog

Han-Eul Lee

haneulleeHan-Eul Lee, 19, grew up as the daughter of a Korean Presbyterian minister in Washington before her dad switched and became a United Methodist minister in California. Today she is studying psychology at the University of Southern California. Hear about her experiences growing up as a PK below.




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Helen Schilling

helenschillingHelen Schilling, 83, grew up as the daughter of a Disciples of Christ minister in Ohio. She worked as a court reporter in night court before opening her own Mexican import shop with items she collected herself from the country. Today she keeps Hospice therapy dogs and visits nursing homes with them. Hear about her experiences as a PK below.




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Stefanie Johnson

stefaniejohnsonStefanie Johnson, 36, grew up as the daughter of a Seventh Day Adventist pastor in Maine before her dad left preaching because of health reasons when she was a teenager. After changing jobs, he still worked for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, but in an administrative role. Today Stefanie works as a grant writer at Adventist University of Health Sciences in Orlando, Fla. Hear about her experiences as a PK below.



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Joshua Lin

josh1Joshua Lin, 27, grew up as the son of a missionary pastor in California and in Taiwan. He came back to the United States for college, and today he works as a relator for Century 21. Hear about his experiences as a PK and an MK (Missionary Kid) below.



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Katharine Zimmerman

katharine2Katharine Zimmerman, 58, is the daughter of a United Methodist Minister in the Florida Conference. She lived in four cities as a child, but finished out her high school years in Orlando, Fla. Today she is a grant consultant and works closely with the Zion Children’s Home in the Bahamas. Read about her experiences as a PK in the Q&A below.

What did you like about growing up as a PK?

I’ve always had a love of travel because of [my father’s work in the Bahamas]. I was not xenophobic, or you just have to be Christian, or American or whatever. There was a real inclusivity that I grew up with. Not even being told that, but that is what I saw. That was a part of growing up in our family.

What was difficult about growing up as a PK?

People didn’t have a sense of boundaries for the pastor and family life, and part of it is somebody could be dying and it could be 11 o’clock or there’s a wedding at 7 p.m. and your dad is there or you get a call on a Sunday afternoon when you could be resting. Churches feel like they should be able to let the pastor and their family know what they want and need and what they should be doing. I didn’t get that a lot, a lot, but it was there. So I don’ t think people in churches have good boundaries about respecting family time or the privacy of the minister’s family.

Did you ever feel stereotyped?

Some people have expectations of what a minister’s child should be like. They think they’re going to be very, very good or just horrible. I have always felt like I was always in between. I never had the need to rebel, but I was very involved in the social rights movements in the ’60s, so I was a questioning child and believed in speaking my truth and was in leadership, so I wasn’t just sitting there on the couch and doing people’s expectations of that. Sometimes people would have the sense of who you ought to be.

Has your upbringing impacted you today?

It came around about five years ago that I could have the opportunity to work with my dad in the Bahamas to build a children’s home for abused kids and all of a sudden I ended up in my ideal job of ending up in international development and I get a laugh out of that because I wasn’t in a place where I was like, ‘Oh I really need to get back to do that,’ I was thinking, ‘My dad is getting older, someone really needs to take his place in the ministry in the Bahamas.’ …All of a sudden my calling as a teenager has happened and I know a lot of that was formed out of the church.

As a 19 year old I wanted to save the world. Well, I won’t. God will save it. I’ll be a part of it. I didn’t know what people needed, but now I can really do what I needed to do and with some maturity to know I’m serving with people, I’m not helping them… I’ve gotten a tickle out of it. That was my big dream as a teenager and now I’m really doing it, and now I’m having a lot more fun. I’m doing it authentically. I’m not worried about how this is going to look or will my life turn out the way I want it to? It’s just feels more in the moment… I’m doing the same thing my family did. I love God’s sense of humor and also, too, it’s become the life that I really love and want.

Heather Pancoast

Heather Pancoast grew up as the daughter of a United Methodist Minister in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. She is currently the assistant camp director at Warren Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park, Fla. Hear her P.K. story below:

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Omar Lopez

omar1Omar Lopez, 26, grew up in Whittier, Calif. and Norwalk, Calif. as the son of a preacher in a non-denominational church closely tied to the Pentecostal tradition. Today he is a barista at Starbucks and serves in ministries at his dad’s church. Read about his experiences in the Q&A below.

What was it like for you to grow up as a PK?

When you grow up in any household or any lifestyle, that’s all you know, but for me it was fun. Being part of a church, there’s always something going on, there’s always some function, and you find your life-long friends. There wasn’t anything I felt like I missed out on, or anything. It was fun.

Are you still a part of your dad’s church?

I still go to my dad’s church now. I’ve never considered leaving unless I’m going into the ministry elsewhere. Someone asked me that recently and I was like, ‘I never thought of that.’ It’s always been a given.

You mentioned some ministries. What are you involved in?

I lead worship. I have a few other ministries: the video announcements, the creative team,  but mostly the worship team. My mom is the head of the worship team, but I’m kind of leading it right now.

What were the best parts about growing up as a PK?

I think for anyone growing up who’s involved, not just a PK, there’s this positive environment because you have these good influences as leaders that have laid out an example of how to live a good life, not just a Christian life.

A cool thing about my church and my fellowship is we are a church-planting movement, so the church we came out of planted 30 to 50 churches, and we’re still connected with them, so we create these friendships. You don’t see them every week, but you do see them at conferences and events. It’s not my close circle, but I know a lot of people and have good friendships. People I’ve known my whole life.

Especially as a pastor’s kid you get to see from a different point of view because you’re always in church so you see people come and go. You get to see different lifestyles and choices people make.

What was hard?

I don’t know if it’s a negative or a bad thing, but I found it annoying when people would compare me to dad, and call me “Little Pastor Omar” because my dad’s Omar, too. It kind of grew old after a while, but I got over it. But what is negative about it? For me as a person, I always considered it a joy.

Were you expected to follow in your dad’s footsteps?

I think for a while people were like, ‘You’re going to grow up to be a pastor just like your dad,’ and I was like, ‘No, I’m not.’ I think I just said that without even considering if God called me to that kind of ministry. I think I said that in defense of my own individuality subconsciously.

Did you ever feel like you were stereotyped?

Oh yeah. For sure. As Christians, people go around and they won’t cuss around a Christian. Even people in the church say things like, ‘Oh, you can’t say that around the pastor’s kid because he’ll tell his parents’ but I was like, ‘No, this is me. I’m not this radio secret service agent who’s going to report to my dad.’

How has your upbringing influenced your life?

I have this worldview that everyone’s on the same page. We all have our own individuality. We all have our need for Jesus. We all have our sin: it needs to be forgiven. So I think growing up, I’ve kind of broadened my worldview. Every single person has value, and I can’t say that that has come from any other influence. It’s always because I’ve been in church and I have this love and value for every person I run into.