This is editor and novelist Karen Ball’s second visit to Words to Go. When I asked some author friends to share with us a week of insider’s perspectives on what it’s like being in the ministry, two wonderful authors stepped up to bat—Karen Ball and Angie Hunt. So today we’ll hear from Karen and tomorrow, Angie. Karen is head of acquisitions for fiction at Broadman and Holman. Will you kill me, Karen, for saying B&H is Beth Moore’s publisher?
KAREN: Not at all!
PATTY: When I heard that Karen was taking the helm for their fiction, I said, “Look out—here comes the boss!” But Karen didn’t come by her calm yet assertive leadership style by chance. Her life was shaped by a succession of realizations, the first having been shaped out of being a “good girl.” You’ll remember when Lisa Samson and I approached this topic a few weeks back. Karen, I understand that you can offer some insight about what it's like to live on the "inside" of ministry life. What concessions did you have to make as a child of a pastor?
KAREN: First, let me say I've always loved being a PK and PGK (pastor's grandkid). I was immeasurably fortunate in that my parents knew their first ministry was their family. That's so rare. In fact, my older brother and I were just talking about this yesterday. We never felt the church came before we did.
PATTY: That is very rare.
KAREN: Even so, I'd heard too many people in other churches make comments about PKs along the lines of, "And she's a pastor's daughter!" or "And her father's a minister!" As though that meant the child was somehow exempt from all the mistakes and idiocy kids seem to embrace. I can't tell you how deeply it impacted my growing-up heart that when a PK acted out, it wasn't the kid who was blamed or criticized, but the pastoral parent.
PATTY: We actually sent our youngest to a summer camp just for PK’s. It was the best thing we ever did for him. Even though I had stood vigil over my kids, they still sensed outside pressure to “be good” rather than to obey Christ.
KAREN As a result of my parent's ministry, I determined early on no one would ever say such things about my dad because of me. So how did I accomplish that? By not letting anyone outside of the family see me angry or upset.
PATTY: That’s a lot for a little kid to take on. You must have looked “perfect” to the world but felt miserable from within.
KAREN: I worked very hard to maintain an image of being happy and content and smart and fun. To be the kind of kid other parents would hold up as a role model. Which meant I internalized a
PATTY: But tamping down has its ultimate costs, doesn’t it?
KAREN: Yes. Little wonder, then, that I ended up with ulcers when I was 16, and again in my 20s, and again... Well, let's just stay it took me a lot of years to realize what I was doing to myself.
PATTY: I think that may be true of a lot of us on many different levels. I both love and hate those realizations.(Hate that they come so late in life)
KAREN: To not just know in my head but in my heart that negative emotions aren't wrong, they're just part of being human. That it's what you do with, or because of, them that matters. I had to learn how to deal with those emotions in a healthy, non self-destructive manner. Shoot, I still have trouble letting anyone see me cry.
PATTY: Been there.
KAREN: That whole "fishbowl" syndrome pastoral families endure can be so harmful. Knowing your parents and their ministries--or even their call from God!--are judged by what you do and say? Devastating.
PATTY: It’s a great lesson, not just for ministry families, but also the church members to know.
KAREN: I know I escaped a lot of the downside of the ministry because of my parents' determination to be parents first, a pastoral family second. That's why I can say I'm a PK who loves the church. It's sad how unusual that is. People need to realize pastoral families are like any other family, just doing their best. And kids are kids, no matter what their parents are called to do.
PATTY: Exactly. We once had a friend who was a children's pastor. When he would come and take our children's ministry pulpit to give us a break in our children's ministry days, he would always pay special attention to our youngest making sure he got picked for the games and things his dad couldn't do because of looking as if he was being given privileges. There are ways that church members can respond to their pastor's children and wife to make them feel special and noticed. Thanks so much for stopping by again today, Karen. I know you are so busy but I love these chats we have. You’re always willing to be authentic. You help us all when you do that.
KAREN: Thanks for having me again, Patty.
Tomorrow, all rise—Angela Elwell Hunt is dropping in to pay us a visit at Words to Go. Angie and I have been friends since the years our ministry was in