Book Review: The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper

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Even though my two brothers and I are all in the ministry and are all married to pastor’s daughters, we did not grow up in a pastor’s home. Our parents are wonderful committed Christians and have always been very involved in church, but, to some degree, we were spared some of the drama that comes from being “Pastor’s Kids.”

My children, however, have never known a time when the church and the ministry were not a big part of their parents’ lives. I hope, for the most part, that is a good thing. But I am sure there are days they wish we could switch off more and separate ministry from home a bit more. I hope that there are certain “perks” that cause them to enjoy being pastor’s kids, but I am sure there are also many challenges that come along with that role.

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper helped me to see some of those challenges and gave me some insight into how to help my kids face those challenges. One big thing it did for me gave me some insight into what it’s like to be the “pastor’s son” or the “pastor’s daughter.”

All of us have no doubt seen children of those in the ministry struggle with their walk with God and at some point walk away from God. It is my earnest prayer that the ministry will not be a barrier to my children coming to know and love God. I hope that being around the ministry will be a blessing rather than a curse. And I am grateful for the honest and at times painful insight Barnabas gives in The Pastor’s Kid that I hope will help all of us who relate to children of those in the ministry.

I would recommend this book not only for pastors and their wives but also for deacons and for church members so they can know how to relate and how not to relate to their pastor’s kids.

Here are a few quotes from the book that I hope give you a flavour of what you can expect:

A child doesn’t know the call of his pastor father. All he knows is the effects it has on his life.

PKs face unique obstacles that create an environment that can lead to significant spiritual, identity, and lifestyle challenges.

We long for those friends and mentors who will willfully set aside all they think they know of us as PKs and get to know us as people.

Many PKs resent church as a place of high expectations and hypocrisy. For others, it is the place of business for their fathers. For me, it was some combination of the above. But my relationship with the church was never pure, unadulterated love.

“I think the greatest challenge of being a PK is developing a personal relationship with God/Jesus, etc. By this I mean it can be easy to assume that the faith of our fathers will blanket our lives and we can just ride their coattails.” – Jon Stepan, PK

But that’s just it—we know all about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we actually know Him.

A PK needs Jesus shown to him, not just told to him.

For many PKs, there is a serious disconnect between what they see from their own dad and what he says about Jesus. Jesus is loving, gracious, forgiving, and sacrificial. Dad is none of those things. Jesus accepts you as you are. Dad demands more. Jesus forgives sins. Dad harps on them. Jesus makes us white as snow. Dad finds every stain. Jesus loves children and is joyful. Dad holes up in his office and keeps a stern countenance.

What the PK needs is parents who not only admit to being sinners but actually admit to sins.

The cultural expectations on pastors are mostly unbiblical, entirely impractical, and generally downright stupid. We each expect the pastor to meet our particular need with expediency and wisdom. It is an untenable situation, a burden no man can bear. 

I suspect that during my growing-up years he thought (hoped?) family devotions might have the strongest effect on me, but it was the times of pure, uninhibited fun that etched themselves in my mind most deeply. 

What the church really needs is a pastor who will drop everything for his family when crisis hits (or ideally, in time to avert a crisis), who consistently makes time for them, and who gives them his best energy. 

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