Barnabas Piper, oldest son of John Piper, has written a book about being a PK (pastor’s kid): The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.
John Piper has written the forward to the book. He writes that it was painful to read this book for three reasons: “First, it exposes sins and weaknesses and imperfections in me. Second, it is not always clear which of its criticisms attach to me and the church I love. Third, this is my son, and he is writing out of his own sorrows.” Piper notes that this is not a slash and burn testimony, but rather a book that addresses hurts and pains without ending there. Rather it pushes through that, without downplaying the reality of them, to the other side so that it becomes a book about healing and grace.
Trevin Wax conducted an interview with Barnabas Piper about this book. I include a couple of questions from that interview. This first one focuses on the sameness a PK has with other kids growing up, but also some of the uniquenesses of being a PK.
Trevin: What is it about pastors’ kids that has led to the PK label and brought additional, spiritual challenges that are unique?
Barnabas: That’s a really good question. If there is no difference between PKs and any other child under scrutiny, my book is a big waste of time!
The biggest difference between PKs and any other children of well-known parents is the spiritual aspect of things, especially the “calling” aspect of pastoral ministry. A singer might be known widely, but they are known for a talent. A politician is known for a position. A pastor is known for being close to God, at least tacitly if not explicitly. With that closeness to God, the call to ministry, comes a public life and all the requisite scrutiny.
All those other public positions are about what someone does – even the president of the United States. So for their kids to do something different or to be a different kind of person is generally more acceptable. If their kids are total screw-ups it has little bearing on what they do.
A pastor, though is about being something, really being a whole lot of somethings, for a group of people. If a PK goes down a divergent path (even a moral one), it calls into question the identity of the pastor in the eyes of the congregation.
Here is another question that focuses on the matter of the pastor pastoring his family. Is this a good way to think about parenting or not?
Trevin: I hear people talking today about the need for a pastor to “pastor his family” first. You say this is bad advice. Why?
Barnabas: It’s bad advice because of what the term “pastor” has come to mean. I know people mean well by using it, but “pastor” is a job title loaded with a thousand expectations.
Pastors are, in many cases, expected to be supermen – morally superior, intellectually sound, theologians, counselors, preachers, teachers, businessmen, accountants, strategists, leaders, etc. If they bring those same sorts of expectations home nobody will benefit. Either they will think too much of themselves or feel like a failure.
Pastors’ kids don’t want superman. They want a present, loving father.
Barnabas was also asked about the benefits of growing up a PK. Please read the complete interview to read his response.
Recognizing that God knows the days and places of our lives before one of them came to be (Ps. 139; Matt. 10:30; Lk. 12:7), knowing that God has placed us in families and vocations by His sovereign design (Acts 17:26), for His ultimate glory and our good, ponder these questions:
For those of you are pastors, what did you recognize as unique blessings and challenges of being a P and PF (pastor and pastor’s family), and what did that entail for you as you parented your children at home and at the church, and for those of you who are on the other side of raising young children, what counsel and advice would you to those in the midst of those child-rearing years?
For those of you who are PKs, what would you say are the blessings and challenges of being raised as a PK in a PK home, and for those who are called into a similar sort of ministry, what will you do the same and what will you do differently, and if not, what counsel would you give to others who are?