Barnabas Piper. The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith And Identity. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2014. 160 pp. $12.99.
Church and Ministry
The pastor’s kid (PK) life is filled with unique challenges. Perhaps no PK understands this better than Barnabas Piper, son of the celebrated pastor and prolific author, John Piper. Barnabas, a life-long PK and talented writer, describes the complex life of PKs in his book, The Pastor’s Kid.
Rather than posing as a research or pastoral ministry expert, and certainly with no desire to hurt, Barnabas writes honestly and frankly to PKs, pastors, and congregants, gingerly putting a finger on a tight muscle in the Church. He massages the tension with insights from dozens of PKs; he serves as a voice for many wishing to see a better way out of this tight spot.
PKs have a bad reputation – one that comes with its reasons. They live inside a fishbowl, ogled by everyone in the church. And it’s not an environment of their choosing; they’re just along for the ride. Piper points out, “Dad and Mom might be following God’s call, but these kids are just following Dad and Mom. What choice do they have?” (26). Having the freedom to flounder in the fishbowl is not a luxury granted to PKs. And developing an identity of one’s own is difficult in these circumstances.
Though The Pastor’s Kid doesn’t promise to fix your kid, it doesn’t leave them helpless either. Without bemoaning the PK life by casting blame on pastors and churches, The Pastor’s Kid effectively directs all to apply grace to the PK dilemma. If ever you feel burned by this book, John Piper’s foreword suggests, “Take a break from the heat, and jump in the pool of chapter eight. There is a stream of grace that runs through this book…but it becomes a pool at the end” (12). That’s exactly right! Each consecutive chapter kindly, not spitefully, presents concern and vision for PKs to find their way.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Pastor, here are three reasons why you must read The Pastor’s Kid.
First, Piper invites you into the inner workings of PKs; you’ll learn how PKs think! Just as Piper says, “Pastors need to be aware of their children’s struggles and take the necessary steps to create supportive, safe, strong, open spaces for them” (143). You might be a PK, yourself, so you might get the picture, but many pastors aren’t. You’ll learn the tricks of the trade and to read whether yours is an onion, politician, chameleon or rebel without a cause (cf. 64-72). I found this book to be an inestimable resource to get how my kids tick.
Second, you’ll be reminded that your son or daughter needs freedom. PKs need margin to be sinners and freedom to find their way. Piper writes, “The constant pressure to be something, do something, and believe something creates enormous confusion for PKs” (60). The crushing weight PKs feel often comes through legalistic, perfection-driven, expectations from parents and congregations. PKs are expected to be carbon copies of their parents. But that’s just not possible.
Third, The Pastor’s Kid reorients parenting towards a life-altering lens of grace. Though pastors preach grace often, there is no place where they lack it more than in parenting. Piper reminds us: “PKs struggle with grace. We have seen it so often skewed or hidden or distant. But Jesus showed everyone the markers of true grace. Such markers are what can make grace real to the jaded and damaged PK. We need these from our parent and our churches alike” (87-88). More than anything, PKs need grace, and Piper applies it abundantly.
There’s much more to say, which is why you must read Pastor’s Kid. Pastor, read The Pastor’s Kid, and read it with your kids!
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Pastor’s Kid provides a compelling testimony of God’s grace to and for PKs.