The Pastor’s Kid

I haven’t done a book review in years. For no particular reason, here’s one now.

I’ve been looking forward to Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid for a few months, and got to it on vacation last week. Short review: I appreciated it, and recommend it especially to fellow pastors.

Slightly longer review: The book is worth the price (and the quick, easy read) simply to get that there are challenges inherent to being a PK. Barnabas has done us pastors a favor by sharing out of his own experience what some of those challenges are. He also offers advice on how pastors can help their kids through those challenges, maximize the benefits of being a PK, and perhaps lessen the drawbacks.

Since I work overseas and our church culture is different, I think my kids avoid some of the grief that PK’s in the States get. We haven’t seen much of people in the church bossing them around, or expecting more out of them than they do other kids. (They get MK/TCK issues instead. You’re welcome, guys!) But reading about the in-home challenges, the ways that simply having ministry parents impacts kids, was good for me. My two biggest takeaways:

1. Be your kids’ dad before you’re their pastor. Don’t look at every conversation as a way to make a spiritual point. Focus on knowing your kids, making them feel known and enjoyed. Of course, teaching your kids about the Gospel is an important part of being a dad, as Barnabas would agree, but they don’t need to ever doubt that you love being their dad first.

2. Have shared hobbies and passions with your kids, other than Bible/theology/spiritual stuff. Invite them into that if they’re interested, but show them you’re a normal human being who likes to have fun, and likes to have fun with them. This hit me especially because I have one kid I think might be into that kind of stuff, and one who might not. It would be bad for the one who’s wired more like me to have more access than the other.

The strength of the book is in pointing out the challenges PK’s face. As far as weaknesses, I would have appreciated more on the advantages. He does mention some, like learning the Bible well, but I would say the overall message of the book is that being a PK is hard. That left me feeling kind of bummed for my kids, maybe even a little guilty. More on the positives would have been nice, but that could also be me wanting Barnabas to tell a story that’s not really his so that I’ll feel better.

The book also could have benefited from more stories and illustrations. There were lots of quotes from PK’s, which showed that Barnabas had interacted with lots of them in researching and writing. Sharing more anecdotes from Barnabas’ life and others would have helped me understand his points better.

These small things aside, this really is a good book. I imagine PK’s would enjoy hearing that others’ experiences are similar, and pastors should listen to Barnabas’ perspective even when it’s hard for us to hear.

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