I’m sure there are children of deacons and priests who can relate to this, too.
The day Franklin Graham was born, he received a telegram.
“Welcome to this sin-sick world,” the Western Union message said, “and to the challenge you have to walk in your daddy’s footsteps.”
It didn’t take long for Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, to realize that being a preacher’s kid would be both a blessing and a burden.
“I love my parents,” Graham said in a recent interview, “but there came a time where I couldn’t let my parents live my life.”
After a rebellious youth, Graham found a straight and narrow path that took him to the pulpit and the helm of his father’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
But for every Franklin Graham, there’s a Friedrich Nietzsche, the atheist philosopher whose father was a Lutheran minister. For every Condoleezza Rice, there’s an Alice Cooper, the heavy-metal singing, fake-blood spouting son of a preacher man.
Beneath the stereotypes of preacher’s kids as either goody two-shoes or devilish hellions lies a tense and sometimes taxing reality, the children of clergy say. Studies show that many PK’s, as the lingo goes, struggle with issues of identity, privacy and morality. There’s even a support group, Preacher’s Kids International, dedicated to the “celebration and recovery of those who grew up in the parsonage.”
It’s unclear how the pressures of life as a prominent pastor’s child affected Matthew Warren, who took his own life on April 5. Warren was the son of megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
Warren and leaders of his Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., declined to comment on Matthew, who was 27 when he died. After his son’s death, Warren said in a statement that Matthew had “struggled from birth from mental illness, dark holes of depression.”
If Matthew Warren also battled with his role as the son of a world famous pastor and bestselling author, Rick Warren did not mention it in his brief statement.
Still, after Matthew Warren’s death, several pastors and children of clergy stepped forward to offer empathy.
Jay Bakker, the son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, said he identifies with Matthew Warren as a fellow PK and as someone who has also suffered from depression.
“It’s especially hard because his dad wrote the book ‘The Purpose Driven Life,’ which has this incredibly optimistic tone,” Bakker said. “My parents wrote the same kind of books, and it was like, ‘Things are good for everyone else. What’s wrong with me?’ I can’t imagine the pressure he must have felt.”
Preacher’s kids are often considered an extension of their parents’ ministry, Bakker said, and are expected to put on a happy face, even during tough times.
Read it all. And when you pray for deacons and priests, whisper a prayer for their families, too.