The Courage of Conviction:
Gabrielle Crofford Shares 3 Insights about Family Life in Ministry
Gabrielle Crofford grew up in Suffix County, Delaware, running across the tops of chair rows at Laurel Wesleyan Church. The privilege came with being a pastor’s kid, and as Gabrielle says, she “had total rights to rule the castle.” But the courage to pull sanctuary stunts wasn’t the only take-away from her upbringing. Gabrielle learned the courage, and responsibility, to speak her convictions.
- Highs and Lows of Life as a Pastor’s Kid.
“Ruling the castle” as a pastor’s kid isn’t always fun and games. Gabrielle says, “The hardest part of being a PK is having to share my parents with 500 people.”
500 was roughly the size of Laurel Wesleyan’s congregation and later Real Life Wesleyan in Maryland, where her dad currently pastors. That’s a lot of people for one person to shepherd.
“It’s hard watching the toll it takes on my parents, having to keep up all of these relationships,” explains Gabrielle.
“Sometimes my dad gets called at family birthday parties that someone is on their death bed, and he has to decide to stay or to go. That’s not just a once a year thing; decisions like that come up all the time.”
But for all of the demands, being part of a pastor’s family comes with built-in support structures.
“It’s amazing, the love and overwhelming sense of support we felt from our community all the time. It changed my life,” Gabrielle shares.
- There’s Something Everyone Should Know.
If Gabrielle could tell every congregation member one thing about pastor’s families, it would be that they’re normal.
“I wish people treated our family like every other family,” she explains. “We fight too, and we shop at Walmart!”
Gabrielle’s household includes her parents, 4 younger siblings and her maternal grandmother. It’s a bit of a clan, but life functions like it does in most other families.
“When you treat your pastor’s family like a normal family, it gives everyone in the family a chance to breathe,” explains Gabrielle. “It takes the heavy burden of performance off the kids and lets them know they can make mistakes.”
Gabrielle has seen how holding pastor’s families to unattainable standards can have discouraging effects.
“I’ve seen pastors derided for decisions their adult children have made. But you have to understand, parenting only goes so far. Even as pastor’s kids get older, allow grace for mistakes.”
Observing her parents manage the “fish bowl” aspects of life in ministry instilled in Gabrielle a desire to live life with integrity. “My parents have done an exemplary job being the same at home and in church,” Gabrielle remarks. “What you see is what you get. That’s who I want to become.”
- Finding My Own Voice.
Much of Gabrielle’s character and personality was formed watching her father, in and out of the pulpit, lead a group of people in their spiritual development.
“It takes a strong measure of courage and confidence to try to move a people to action,” remarks Gabrielle. “You’re putting yourself out there addressing a group of people about God’s will. That’s never been lost on me watching my dad preach.”
Gabrielle’s dad helped her find her own voice, even from a young age. As a pastor’s kid, she was often on stage—speaking or singing—so going into her college years, public speaking came easy for Gabrielle.
Now, as an adult, Gabrielle speaks her convictions with courage. “I’m not shy expressing my convictions to the world because that’s what my dad does every week.”
“But, serious responsibility comes with public service,” Gabrielle notes. “You’re responsible for the outcome. I have a passion for mobilizing people, but at the same time, I don’t take it lightly.”
Gabrielle recently wrote an article calling the Wesleyan community to stand by our own convictions. To read what she said, click here.
Gaby Garver is a Wesleyan pastor’s kid with her own share of experience “ruling the castle.” As she became an adult, Gaby realized pastor’s kids have unique insights to share with other lay people, particularly how to effectively partner with pastors and to regain focus on what “Church” is really all about. She’s excited to start sharing the insights of other PK’s with the Wesleyan community. Gaby currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where she volunteers with refugees and teaches English lessons.