The life of a preacher’s daughter isn’t what you see in pop culture

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Charis Tshihamba, left, and her dad Paul, an associate pastor in Edina, discuss how their family life is influenced by a deep connection to faith and religious practice.
“I feel like being in a Christian community is really good to be in, so then I’ll keep reminding myself to keep believing.” -- Charis Tshihamba

Historically, preachers’ daughters are expected to be virtuous. They should dress conservatively. Spend more time at church than at parties. They’re “daddy’s little girls.”

Yet many TV shows and movies have skewed that image. For example, “Preachers’ Daughters,” a popular reality TV series on Lifetime, presents four pastors’ daughters and their families as they balance teenage life with religion. The majority of the show depicts the teens in a negative way by testing the boundaries of parental expectations when it comes to premarital sex, dating, drinking, and any other behavior that counteracts with the image of a good Christian girl.

But what are the real pressures facing preachers’ daughters? Do they live up to the positive and negative stereotypes? Or are their family lives pretty normal?

Paul and Andrea Tshihamba, parents of two boys and two girls, said their expectations are the same as those in the Bible. The family—which belongs to Edina’s Christ Presbyterian Just Church, where Paul is an associate pastor—wants their children to be good people, to love others and promote honesty.

“We hope that they would grow up loving their neighbor, caring for others and treating others as they would want to be treated. Not just because that is a simple expectation, but also because that is a reflection of their relationship with God,” Paul said.

Charis Tshihamba, a junior at St. Louis Park Senior High School, said following her parents’ expectations make her a better person.

“I think, decision-making wise, it makes me more truthful to others. Also, when choosing friends, I try to choose as many people to be my friend. Not excluding anyone, because Jesus was friends with everyone. He loved the good people and the bad people,” Charis said.

FAMILY INFLUENCE

A lot of Paul’s religious influence comes from his childhood in the Republic of Congo. After traveling with his father to America for college, they moved back to Africa, which is where Paul began to appreciate religion more.

“I grew up in a home where there was a lot of Christian influence. Early on, my dad was a student in college and then in graduate school. But then when I got into my pre-teens, we moved back to Africa and he very quickly got involved in church work. A lot of people around us were connected somehow with that,” Paul said.

“I definitely have a lot of positive memories growing up. Not a lot of extravagant stuff, but it helped me to appreciate the things that I do have today.”

As for Andrea, she grew up in the small town of Antigo, Wis. But she didn’t get heavily involved with religion until meeting Paul.

“My family grew up in a small town. It was mostly Catholic. We were Baptist and went to church most Sundays, got involved in youth stuff. But I don’t feel my faith got personal until after college,” she said.

The family feels there are misconceptions about growing up in a religious household. Just as many expect fathers in the show “Preachers’ Daughters” to be strict, and their children to be perfect, Miriam Tshihamba, 12, has seen that expectation carry over into her life.

“I think, it seems like my teachers expect me to be perfect, be completely the nicest person. I mean, I’m really nice to people in class. If I do anything bad, it always feels like I’m letting them down,” she said.

Except, thanks to popular culture, some of her peers also believe preachers’ daughters have a rebellious side.

“Then (my peers) got this idea that I was going to be like the preacher’s daughter in ‘Footloose.’ And they actually got to know me and realize I’m not like her. But I’m not perfect, either,” she said.

TRUE TO YOURSELF

As Charis looks beyond her senior year, she is prioritizing Christian colleges.

“It’s not that my parents force me. I actually want to go to one just because I feel like college is kind of a difficult time for faith—just because it’s so busy, you’re getting into a new routine,” she said. “I feel like being in a Christian community is really good to be in, so then I’ll keep reminding myself to keep believing.”

Glancing at today’s youth, it can seem as if teens aren’t as connected with religion, she said. They’re too focused on technology. Too quick to ignore reminders of faith. Too overwhelmed by choices.

“I do think there are a bit more distractions,” Paul said. “On the (other) hand, I think things are the same in every generation in that way.”

“Also, I think, at least in our experience, the core values are becoming more liberal,” Andrea added. “But just today’s culture, I think, is becoming more liberal.”

Charis is doing her best to adapt to those changes and be true to herself when faced with temptation. Whatever stereotype—good or bad—her peers want to place on her, she just laughs it off.

“I am glad to be a preacher’s daughter. Because it’s like a good kickstart to my faith and my influence from the very beginning,” Charis said. “Then I think it helps me be more willing and open to having faith, which leads me to actually have faith. I’m happy just knowing that my family is respectable and (can be) good role models to other families.”

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