Lifetime and Your Preacher's Daughter
“I think preacher’s kids are a lot more wild than regular kids. I’ve met preachers kids that are worse than some of the kids who don’t even go to church,” says Kolby (16), one of the three teenage girls featured in Lifetime Network’s latest project, Preacher’s Daughter.* The show’s March 12th debut introduced viewers to “what happens at home after the sermon,” giving an up-close look at three pastor’s families, particularly the relationship between the girls and their fathers. While the innocent Kolby navigates the new world of dating, Taylor (17) pushes the envelope of her independence with comments like her desire to be a porn star because of all the attention she would get. Meanwhile, there’s the tenderhearted Olivia (18), a teen mom whose wild side caught up with her last summer.
Despite the TV trend of absent or abdicating dads, Preacher’s Daughter shows three fathers who are involved, protective, and loving toward their daughters. Kolby’s father, lovingly hears out her request for greater independence and ensures his daughter that he’ll protect her from any young man who would try to cross the line. “It doesn’t matter how fast he can run, I can still catch him.” (Gotta love it!) Taylor’s dad admits that he’s made a lot of mistakes with his other children, something he wants to remedy for his spirited 17-year-old without pushing her even further away (What parent can’t relate?) And after his daughter was pregnant, Olivia’s father influenced her to keep her baby and gave her a promise ring, symbolizing her forgiveness and restoration. When Olivia further confessed to lying about some of her wrong choices, he and his wife responded with tears of heartbreak rather than shouts of anger. After Episode 1, “Two Thumbs Up” to Lifetime for finding pastors’ families who seem legit.
But despite the character of their respective fathers, their daughters’ rebellion (or its consequences) seems to be the focus of the show. As Preacher’s Daughter highlights, it isn’t easy being a pastor’s daughter. While she won’t have a reality TV crew following her around, chances are the pastor’s daughter in your church can relate to some of the frustrations that the show reveals. As a former Preacher’s Daughter (and since they didn’t call me to be on the show!), here’s how you can invest in and encourage the Preacher’s Daughter in your church.
Don’t assume she’s a Christian
Sure, she probably knows more biblical truths that your typical teen, maybe can even rattle off the Roman Road or Way of the Master evangelism strategies, but don’t assume that she knows Jesus personally. While there are many factors to a preacher’s kids being “worse than some of the kids who don’t even go to church,” I wonder whether those statistics would change if we noticed their souls as much as we notice their behavior. Perhaps the reason your Preacher’s Daughter doesn’t act like a believer is because she isn’t one. (Matt. 7:18-23)
Do share Jesus with her
Even though your Preacher’s Daughter has grown up hearing the gospel and learning God’s Word, she still needs to hear that God wants her heart, not just her head-knowledge. Invite her to talk about where she is in her relationship with God. If she’s questioning whether she’s truly a Christian she might feel too embarrassed or ashamed to express her doubts. What will people think of me or my parents if they found out I’m not saved? Make sure your Preacher’s Daughter knows her own, personal need to believe in, know, and follow Christ and engage her on the question of her personal relationship with God.
Don’t hold her to higher standard
Your Preacher’s Daughter probably feels like she lives in a fishbowl where her flaws are magnified and her choices scrutinized. Along with that, she’s keenly aware that her mistakes are seen as a reflection of her parents. But your Preacher’s Daughter faces the same issues, temptations, and sin-struggles as every other girl in your church. Make sure to avoid comparing her with other girls her age (and vice versa) or expecting a higher standard of morality because her dad is the pastor. Ultimately, her life, like the lives of others, is measured by who her Savior is, rather than who her dad is. (Gal. 6:4-5)
Do give her the freedom to make mistakes
Instead of holding her to a higher standard or comparing her to other girls her age, remind your Preacher’s Daughter that there’s no pressure for perfection. If she has a sin-struggle or is headed for a downward spiral, she may never speak up about it for fear of discrediting her father or being judged. And the longer she feels the need to keep up a façade, the further she’ll go in the wrong direction. Make sure your church is a safe place for your Preacher’s Daughter to stumble, and, instead of judgment and shame, there’s forgiveness and restoration when she confesses and turns from sin.
Don’t treat her like she’s an extension of her parents’ ministry
If you ever have a disagreement with your pastor, it’s between you and your pastor…not you and your pastor’s family. You may not even realize you are doing it. But, as one former pastor’s kid shared, he found that people in his father’s church took out their resentment either by overtly unkind statements or cold and distant attitudes.** Your Preacher’s Daughter can sense when people are unfairly taking out their frustration on her. (1 Pt. 3:8)
Do realize that she feels like an extension of her parents’ ministry
Your Pastor’s Daughter is likely perceptive to behind the scenes conflict within your church. Even if she doesn’t know the details, she’s probably aware whenever her parents are feeling the stress of the ministry. Like any other girl, if her parents are criticized or treated unfairly, she feels it. Depending on her experiences, she may want to give up on “church people” in general. Take the opportunity to care about and show interest in her life for who she is.
Don’t express any expectation that she’ll go into ministry
I wish I could say this with a million exclamation points!!! As a pastor’s daughter, I’m thankful that I didn’t feel pressure to go into a ministry from those in my church, most likely because I never felt such pressure from my parents. Even well-meaning compliments can be construed as an unspoken, but deeply felt, expectation to go into vocational ministry. She may even feel as though she’ll be disappointing others if she pursues a different course. On a personal note, the less your Preacher’s Daughter is encouraged to consider going into the ministry, the more obvious the work of the Spirit will be if she is called to ministry! (1 Cor. 12:4-5)
Do encourage her to serve God with her natural talents
Encourage your Preacher’s Daughter to use her natural talents for God’s glory, whatever they may be! Make sure she knows that she doesn’t need to get a paycheck from a church to be serving the Lord and fulfilling His purpose for her life. Tune into her strengths and encourage her to see them as opportunities to display and communicate Christ to her world.
It’s going to be interesting to see the directions that Kolby, Taylor and Olivia choose to go. But along with the built-in drama of reality TV, Lifetime’s Preacher’s Daughters also brings the opportunity for a reality check for the Preacher’s Daughter in your church. Is it assumed that she’s a believer even though her life suggests that she may not be a follower of Christ? Does she feel trapped by unrealistic expectations or snubbed by others’ resentment toward her father? Does she feel pressured into the ministry even though she’s gifted in another direction? You can help change her stereotype as being “worse than some kids who don’t even go to church” and be the difference in your Preacher’s Daughter’s life.
*Viewer Discretion/Discernment Advised. Some content is a bit…um….downright shocking.
**Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Armour Patterson, A Handbook for Parents in Ministry: Training Up a Child While Answering the Call, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2004), 175.
Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.com and is pursuing a PhD in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. When she’s not reading for her classes (a rare occasion!), she loves hanging out with friends, eating sushi, learning new words and shopping with her mom. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Follow her Twitter!