Reading through this list of pastors’ kids turned pop stars, it is obvious that the children of ministers vary in how closely they follow in their dad’s footsteps.
Barnabas Piper knows what it is like to be a pastor’s kid. In fact, he may know what it’s like to be the pastor’s kid.
Growing up as the son of John Piper, Barnabas learned the joys and struggles of being a PK. Now, he’s hoping to use that experience to help others with his soon-to-be-released book The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.
Today, Barnabas has found his way to serve in ministry by writing and working with Ministry Grid, an online training solution developed by LifeWay. He was gracious enough to answer some questions about his life, his new book and what Christians need to know about PKs (pastor’s kids).
Aaron: I grew up as a deacon’s kid, which in Baptist circles may be even worse than a pastor’s kid. Do you think any kid who’s parent is deeply involved in church faces some of the scrutiny?
Barnabas: I would say any kid whose parent is involved in a leadership role faces scrutiny, but there is something unique about the scrutiny for the kids of the one whose job it is to lead the church. I’m sure deacons’ or elders’ kids feel it to a degree, but their dads are farmers or bankers or businessmen. PKs dads are beholden to the church every hour of every day.
Aaron: Are there things that may set the pastor’s kid apart from others in terms of expectations and pressures?
Barnabas: Without a doubt. Being the children of the religious leader creates a set of (false) expectations for PKs – perfect behavior, better Bible knowledge, look immaculate, be a leader, follow in dad’s footsteps, etc. All these add up to create a sense of pressure that can be overwhelming.
It also makes it hard for many PKs to figure out who they really are, what God made them to be. They are so burdened by either living up to others’ expectations or rebelling against them that they never develop into the men or women God intended.
Aaron: What one thing would probably surprise most people about growing up as pastor’s kid and not just a pastor’s kid, but the son of one of the most well-known pastors in the world?
Barnabas: On the one hand people would be surprised to now my dad is really plain guy, and I mean that in a complimentary way. He likes cereal and Bob Dylan and What About Bob. He likes playing all sorts of sports and is really competitive.
It’s like Christopher Walken’s character, Bruce Dickinson, says in the famous SNL bit, “I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Except once my pants are on I make gold records.” In my dad’s case it’s famous sermons and best-selling books.
Aaron: Looking back, what do you wish people had known about life as a PK while you were growing up?
Barnabas: Lots of things come to mind, but the biggest thing is that I wish people had viewed me, and other PKS, as normal kids. We needed room to do dumb stuff and be kids. We needed to be applauded for the same things other kids were and reprimanded for the same things. And we needed room to figure out who and what we were like normal kids. The added expectation and scrutiny took a lot of that away.
Aaron: How best can church members encourage their pastor and his family?
Barnabas: Remember that humans are all essentially the same – created in God’s image but also fallen. Pastors, and by extension their families, aren’t any closer to God or more like Him. They are called to a position of leadership and care for a congregation but are prone to the same mistakes and sins that lay people are.
Basically, a good church member can work hard to follow and respect the pastor as a leader but also remove the pedestal he and his family so often get put on. All that happens when someone ends up on a pedestal is a long, inevitable, painful fall.
Aaron: Working in the ministry, though in a different capacity than your dad, what types of things are you trying to do to minimize some of the negatives that come with that?
Barnabas: I am in a position, working with Ministry Grid, that works really well for me at this point in my life because it allows me to actively serve churches and church leaders without being in pastoral ministry.
I don’t believe I am called to the pastorate, but I love the church and know God has given me some gifts to use in ministry. Being in a position to write and be part of ministry is a way of both avoiding the pressures and frustrations I grew up with of vocational church ministry and doing what God has gifted me to do.
Aaron: What can other Christians, who may not be in the ministry, learn from your book?
Barnabas: I think church members who care about their pastor’s family would benefit from getting a glimpse behind the curtain. It would help them demythologize the ministry a bit, while also helping them connect in a genuine way with PKs and pastors.
The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity is available now for pre-order and will be officially released July 1.