Playing second fiddle to his church

So I am about to finish college, and I’m going to the graduation ceremony this weekend. That means that my dad has to take off for work. My dad is the pastor of a small church. We’ve been at this current church for 20 years. Since churches in our area have opened in this pandemic, he’s done a normal live sermon and a separate video sermon posted online for people at home. (2 different topics too, so double the normal work load).
This week he wants me to take over for the online sermon so he can “have this week off”. I don’t want to do it. First, my parents want me to tell everyone about my life was in college and my spiritual life. But, growing up with my dad’s job, I had a really screwed up experience due to this church. And I didn’t notice that until I saw a healthy church in college. I don’t want to turn into this poster child everyone expects out of me. I have severe anxiety every Sunday and Wednesday night because I have to act like someone I’m not or my dad’s job is harder.
Second, my dad is only doing this because he’s scared to piss off church people. He constantly bends over backwards and lets church people steamroll him. That’s part of why I have so many issues with this place. He puts our lives on the sideline all the time. He’s scared he won’t look busy enough to them and when we actually need help (ie cleaning up the mold growing in the church house we live in), he’ll get shut down by his board and told how he’s robbing the church. I am tired of him people pleasing when it hurts us. He never gets a real break. I don’t want to do something to enable what’s going on.
My parents keep saying I owe it to the church to give like this grand speech over my spiritual life and college because these people watched me grow up. But these people have hurt our family. Heck, it was church people who convinced my parents to not have me tested for ADHD and Autism as a kid, and now today as an adult I don’t have any explanation or closure for why I struggle with things more than my peers. I don’t owe these people any explanation. But if I refuse, my parents will throw me under the bus and I won’t get to have any sort of break between the class I finished and my last classes that start next week. I don’t want anything to do with this church anymore. But leaving really is out of the question if it could cost my dad his job. But will it? Idk, but family should be first priority over job, regardless of “spiritual calling”.


I believe that’s called being between a rock and a hard place. My impression is that you and your dad are surrounded by judgmental people who have unreasonable expectations. I was on a church board once. Often, the members were so contentious and judgmental that I thought I would be better off hanging out in a bar, and I never go into bars. They treated the minister like crap too.

I attended a small cult-like church as I was growing up. I don’t believe any of the members were benefiting spiritually.

You need to take care of yourself, and that includes not subjecting yourself to an unhealthy religious environment. It’s horrible that your dad has to worry about keeping his job all the time. He would be far better off at church in which he felt secure and appreciated. It’s also terribly unfair that you are expected to compromise your own spiritual understanding in an attempt to protect your dad’s position.

You don’t owe the church anything. The number one value in any valid church is unconditional love. That means the church should love and accept you even if you don’t put on a dog and pony show.

It sounds like the church leaders rely heavily on emotional blackmail to get what they want. That is the absolute opposite of unconditional love. Unfortunately, the behavior is contagious, as your parents are burdening you with it as well.

Maybe your dad can’t afford to leave the church. It might be easier for you to go along with their agenda for the time being. Doing a couple of 15 or 20 minute talks might make things easier for you in the short term.

He needs to work on his own people pleasing issues, without dragging you into it.

There will come a time when you won’t have to worry about being thrown under the bus, is you will be staying somewhere else.


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