I am not a pastor's kid. I didn't even grow up in the church. But in the 15 years I've spent in the pews, I've always taken notice of the pastor's kid. Most of us do. And in the process, we often develop unfair ideas of what a pastor's kid is—or should be. To many a pastor's kid is a spiritual prodigy, a prayer warrior, scriptural concordance, and Christ-like service machine all rolled into one.
I am exaggerating, but, as Barnabas Piper (son of well-known pastor, John Piper) points out in The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (Cook, 2014), the expectations placed on pastors' kids are often unfair and downright dangerous. And Barnabas seeks to show that. "My aim is to raise awareness of the struggles of PKs and give a voice to a group of people who are often well recognized but little known."
In pursuing this goal, Barnabas provides a frank, gutsy look at the faith and identity of the children of spiritual leaders. Barnabas writes in a memoir style, tying together research and his personal experiences. He provides real-life stories and numerous quotations from interviews with fellow PKs. Along the way Barnabas addresses popular stereotypes of PKs, the "rollercoaster" of PK expectations, and identity issues among PKs.
In the first four chapters, Barnabas invites readers into his personal experiences as he seeks to redefine the stereotypes many hold about PKs. In Chapter 5, "What a PK Needs More Than Anything," Barnabas provides advice for helping give what any and every PK needs—a rich understanding and application of grace. The children of pastors need to know and experience Christ for themselves. He stresses that it is not safe to assume faith is simply inherited. Barnabas writes poignantly about the spiritual challenges PKs face.
"Finding God was the greatest challenge. Being raised in an atmosphere where God was ministry, vocation, and hobby makes it hard to be amazed by the gospel. Being raised where life is always about showing God to a group makes it hard to see God individually."
Many who look to John Piper for inspiration and insight may pick up The Pastor's Kid for Chapters 6 and 7 alone. Barnabas writes candidly and respectfully about his father and gives readers a front row seat to being raised by a famous pastor. He also challenges pastors to make sure they're being a dad to their children, not simply their pastor.
Some have critiqued the book for what they see as a negative tone. Barnabas concedes he may have appeared to be hard on pastors, their children, and their congregations. But that candor is exactly what enables him to raise awareness about the struggles PKs face. The Pastor's Kid is a great read for pastors, pastors' kids, and for everyone who cares about them.—Jason Brueckner