Everything I Need To Know I Learned as a Preachers’ Kid, Tiffany Kinnard-Payton

What would Jesus do? This is the question that runs through my mind as a student who has violated almost every university policy in the handbook, and never responded to a single email all year, proceeds to explain to me how their lack of accountability, preparation and organization in their request for housing is entirely my fault. I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and begin.

“Dear Student, I understand your frustration at the situation your find yourself in. It is my hope that we can work together to find a solution. Please know that I am committed to helping you as much as I can, given the current restrictions brought about by your late request. I cannot promise that the solution will be exactly want you want, but I will do what I can to make sure this process is helpful and thoughtful. How does that sound?”

I pause as I prepare for the upcoming verbal tirade to continue. “I’m sorry.” “This really hasn’t been my semester. I don’t mean to sound upset at you. I’m just mad at the situation, but I do want to stay on campus. Can you help me?”

Thank you Jesus! I send a small praise up to God at my desk, as I and the student begin to review viable options for housing.  

I remember a day just starting out in the field where my response would have been less than desirable as I was just beginning to break the surface of how to effectively utilize my Counseling and Higher Education training. It was in those moments that I came to rely on something that had gotten me though many challenging situations-the lessons I learned as a preacher’s kid.  

I am sure that most PKs, as those of us who are children of preachers are affectionately called, can remember many days spent in our churches, and navigating through this sometimes complicated path.  I can remember sitting in church babbling praise songs, and playing a tambourine before I could talk. I watched my mother lead the Ministry for the Deaf, and my dad work tirelessly as the assistant pastor.  We spent at least 4 nights a week at the church, and when we weren’t at church, we were doing something in the community associated with our church.

The life of a PK came with some notoriety, and perks (first dibs on choir solos, and the best parts in the Christmas plays), but it wasn’t all fun and games. There were many days spent in the “PK fishbowl” being looked at as the beacon for what was supposed to be appropriate, just, and spiritually acceptable. Imagine the pressure! Having to watch were you went, who you were with, what you said, and how you said it. I’ll say it-being a PK was hard…and still is. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I learned some of the most important lessons that I use every day in Student Affairs from being a preacher’s kid.

Lesson # 1: Taking time for reflection is a priority.

There is so many times as professionals that we look back at our responses to a situation as say, “I wish I could get a do-over.” We respond without taking the time to think about the impact that our words have on our students and our colleagues. Whenever my sister and I would ask for advice about a situation going on in our lives, my mother would ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” The question alone would give me pause to think about whether my response was reflective of that. I will admit that there were times when I didn’t do what Jesus would do, but the question still remained, and allowed me to search myself for ways to improve and develop into a more thoughtful person. Now days, I try to think about that before I talk to a parent, or a student who’s “special file” is filled with loads of educational sanctioning. Personally, I try to never miss a day of prayer. For me that’s another way to reflect before I speak. I like having conversation with God, even if they are just simple ones like, God, I need your help today. Help me to be who you have called me to be. Amen.

Lesson # 2 God wasn’t a snob

One day my dad gave a sermon about Mary Magdalene. I can remember thinking, “seriously? This lady is doing WAY too much!” After church, I asked my dad, “Daddy, how did Jesus love her despite her faults?” My dad said that if you look in the Bible, God never spent much time with the politicians, mayors, Pharisees, etc. He spent most of his time with the people who needed him most-the lame, deaf, sick, meek, poor, and the unloved.  He talked to them with respect and honor as if they were kings and queens. God never looked down at people, he used is time to see life through the eyes of those people. His candor reflected his love for them and desire for them to love one another. He said that if you truly love God, you love ALL that he has created, not just the things or people that are pleasing in your eyes. This lesson has helped me in working effectively with students from many walks of life. It’s not just the students that listen to feedback, or are actively engaged on campus that deserve our help. It’s the students that have challenges in those departments that sometimes need our help the most.

Lesson #3 Value Integrity-God Demands it

My mother would always say, “Preacher’s kids are supposed to be an example. Be a role model, even when no one is looking.” This has always stayed with me, especially working in Student Affairs. Our integrity is what gives us credibility with our students, and allow them to trust us to help them. I work every day to strive to bring integrity to my work, my service to the campus, and to myself.

These lessons, along with many others, continue to help me grow emotionally, spiritually, and professionally. I challenge you to find a little PK in yourself today, and use it to make a difference.

Tiffany Kinnard-Payton is the Associate Director of Residence Life at Walsh University. Finder her on Twitter: @TK_Kinnard.

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