Published by The Good Book Company on June 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir
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Pastors’ kids are often burdened by others’ expectations, but there is a wonderful solution, both at home and in the church: grace. In this revised, refreshed version of Barnabas Piper’s best-known book, the author candidly shares his own experiences as son of pastor and bestselling author John Piper, offering a challenge to our churches and to the families at their very heart: how to care for pastors’ kids and allow them to find their own faith and identity.
The Pastor’s Kid: What it’s Like and How to Help
In The Pastor’s Kid: What it’s Like and How to Help, Barnabas Piper helps PKs, pastors, and church communities take an honest, hard look at what it means for a child to grow up under scrutiny in a ministry family. Although this is absolutely not a tell-all memoir about the author’s experiences growing up as John Piper’s son, he shares lots of illustrative anecdotes about challenges that he faced. Many of them are universal, such as the pressure that he felt to impress people with his biblical knowledge, but some of them are more distinct, since his father is a celebrity pastor. However, because Piper incorporates stories and thoughts from other PKs with different backgrounds, the book always remains generally applicable.
Both Sensitive and Bold
Piper designed this book to apply to people from any church size or denominational background, and he also uses both male and female pronouns throughout the book, instead of only referring to the PK as a “he.” This is a very helpful touch, and he does a great job acknowledging both universal struggles and the diversity of experience. However, even though he is extremely sensitive to PKs and the wounds that they carry, some readers may struggle with how blunt he is about problems with church social dynamics and pastoral parenting. In my opinion, he is simply being direct and honest, and someone can take or leave his comments based on whether or not they apply to their context, but some pastoral parents may find this difficult to read, especially if they are insecure and struggling.
I would encourage pastors and their spouses to read this book despite any nerves or misgivings that they might feel, because Piper writes with a strong, helpful understanding of the challenging dynamics that pastoral families face. He rightly pushes back against the ways that parents and churches often unintentionally hurt, stifle, and manipulate PKs, and he also understands how pastors and their spouses struggle under the unrealistic, demanding expectations that have become increasingly common in the Western church. When churches expect their pastors to be available 24/7 and function as experts on every topic under the sun, they undermine the pastoral family, and Piper encourages Christians to change this culture.
Important for All Christians
Every family and church context is different, but Piper exalts Jesus as the ultimate solution, emphasizing grace as the answer to the legalistic and controlling environments that so often squelch a PK’s ability to develop authentic faith. PKs need the space to process their beliefs without being viewed as failures or a blight on their parents’ ministry, and since Piper has pushed through his own struggles and confusion to love Jesus more and care deeply about the church, I found this book very encouraging. This is a great resource for all Christians, because it can help PKs feel seen, understood, and encouraged in Christ, can help pastoral parents better connect with their children, and is an opportunity for the church at large to better live out the gospel by challenging problematic stereotypes and learning to support church leaders and their children in a grace-focused, understanding way.