Sons follow fathers into ministry

LAWRENCE — Josh Longbottom calls his long hair and buttoned-down clothes a "pizza delivery/failed rock star" persona.

He's used to the sideways glances and whispers when people find out what he does for a living.

He's associate pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence, a minister like his father.

Longbottom is a pastor's kid — or PK as they're sometimes known — who later became a minister himself.

"Usually people choke and spit when they find out,'' Longbottom said. "They're like... what?

"My dad was like the first one to say, 'You're going to be a pastor.' And that was really annoying because when I realized that is the appropriate path, it was problematic for me, for my rebellious side."

Longbottom is not the only PK in Lawrence who became a minister.

At the First United Methodist Church in Lawrence, the tradition runs even deeper for the Rev. Tom Brady, the pastor there. His family has six generations of ministers.

"My parents always wanted me to do what I thought would make me happy and that was more important to them," he said. "In fact, there was a point where my father tried to talk me out of it, so I didn't feel too much pressure."

Longbottom resisted becoming a minister, despite his father's conviction that he would become a pastor.

In the Brady family, not only did his father, Merris, question whether Tom would become a pastor, but he recalled his own resistance to becoming a minister.

"I went to college and trained to be a city manager,'' he said. "It was while I was in college, I was asked to take a church just as a lay person, kind of fill in for three months after there was a change, and that's when I got hooked," said Merris Brady, who's now retired and living in Topeka.

"I believe if God calls you into the ministry and if you can do anything else, go ahead and do it, because if God wants you, God's going to have his way."

He said that's how it worked out for his son Tom.

"Of our three kids, he was the least likely of the three that we thought would go into the ministry," Merris Brady said.

Merris Brady said the downside of being a minister is that a pastor lives in a fishbowl. Longbottom said he had no illusions when he did enter the seminary.

"It's not all sunshine and rainbows," Longbottom said. "Church can be an intense thing. It's not always easy on families.

"People are always upset with the pastor for not doing this or that. Other people love the pastor and then they fight over any little intimate detail they can find out about your family life or whatever."

Longbottom ignored his father's prediction for as long as he could, until his mid-20s — after college, a career as a carpenter and plenty of soul-searching.

"When I gave into what I believe is a 'calling' for me, I knew pretty much what it would require for my life," he said. "I was not naive about it in the same way that people who haven't seen behind the curtains are."

Tom Brady said he wouldn't be surprised if one of his children made it a seventh generation of Methodist pastors but isn't pushing any one of them into seminary. But his oldest son, Scott, who is studying health and physical education at the University of Kansas, hasn't ruled it out.

"I've considered it, definitely more than my brother and sister," Scott Brady says. "I guess I have the right last name for it."