The Pastor's Kid Barnabas PiperBarnabas Piper has lived his life as the son of one of the most well-known pastors in the world. In his new book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity he shares about his own experiences growing up with John Piper as his father.

The book has been getting some attention, and for good reason. Barnabas talked with dozens of PKs (pastor’s kids), and his book relays some of their stories in order to give the reader a better understanding of life in that bubble.

The Pastor’s Kid is an honest look at life as a PK, but not an overly critical look. He is open about the difficulties that come with having a father in the ministry, but he also recognizes the benefits that can develop and grow from this experience. Here’s a book that gives a voice to PKs, helps pastors avoid some of the common pitfalls, and encourages churches to better understand the pressures on their pastor and his family.

Barnabas talked some with me recently about his book, what makes PKs unique, as well as the challenges and blessings of seeing church life up close and personal.

Trevin: One of the questions I had as I started reading your book was about the common “fishbowl” illustration. Pastors’ kids grow up in an environment in which people are always watching them. I wonder, though, how much of this could be applied to any family where the parent is well known in the community and/or a family’s faith is on display.

  • Are singers’ kids expected to have good singers’ voices?
  • Are politicians’ kids expected to be savvy and personable?
  • Are doctors’ kids expected to have a knack for medicine?

So my question is this: 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.

Trevin: In your conversations with other PKs, you mention the common sentiment that a child will feel toward the church: a sense of rivalry. Lots of kids probably feel a sense of rivalry toward the place where their fathers or mothers work. How does the feeling of rivalry with the church impact a PK spiritually, more so than another kid’s feeling of rivalry with the office?