I am reposting this 2014 review because the kindle edition $1.99
Summary: A pastor’s kid talks to pastors and other pastor’s kids about being a pastor’s kid.
I am a pastor’s kid. In fact, pastoring is a bit of a family business. My brother, father, and 3 uncles and an aunt are pastors, another uncle is not officially ordained but was the main interim pastor for a small church for several years. Also a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a great-great grandfather were pastors and a great-great-great grandmother was a traveling evangelist in the civil war era (if I have my history right.)
And I know a lot of pastor’s kids. When you go to Wheaton College, there are a lot of pastor’s kids (and Missionary Kids which has its own special set of issues.) I know pastor’s kids that have done well, and those that have not. So I picked up The Pastor’s Kids (a review copy) with interest.
This is a pretty short book (about 140 pages of content or 3 hours of audio). John Piper introduces it and acknowledges that at time the book was hard for him to read because it is being written by his son about the problems of being a pastor’s kid. But John Piper wants to assure the reader that anything critical is about wanting what’s best for the church as a whole and pastor’s families in particular.
The end really hits that tone by concluding with all of the good that can come of being a pastor’s kid. Personally, that is where I and most other pastor’s kids I know end up. All in all, we are glad we were pastor’s kids.
But the main section between the introduction and that concluding chapter can feel a little bit like Barnabas Piper is wagging his finger at you, either because you are a pastor that is not doing enough for your kids, or because you are a church member that expecting too much out of the pastor and his (always his here) family, or because you are the pastor’s kid and you need to take some responsibility for yourself.
All of these things are true individually. Pastors really do need to protect their family and model a balanced Christian life, not just for the sake of their family, but also for the sake of their church. Churches need to have appropriate expectations and allow pastor’s families to not be perfect and express grace. Pastor’s kids need to take some responsibility for how they deal with occasionally inappropriate expectations and sometime rude or intrusive people.
But the tone of the book felt a little off, that may be more of an audiobook issue than actual content issue. Barnabas is reading it himself and it seems a little too intense in his reading.
However, his message is important. Pastor’s kids, like all kids that grow up in the church (just more so) need to discover the grace of Christ personally. That is certainly one of the common issues of a PK. If you absorb the message that image is what is important about Christianity, then you fall into legalism. Barnabas also details a number of other ways that PKs miss the actual message of Christ.
There are also three good chapters about what a PK needs from their church, from their pastor/father and what the church needs from the pastor as a father.
One of the good quotes that I think is about good parenting, not just being a good parent of a pastor’s kid is, ‘when you are a child, play is love.’ Qualities that make good pastors can sometimes make for distant parents. But it does not need to be this way.
The audience is a bit unclear. I think pastors should read it to become better aware of the issues that are common among pastor’s kids. I think a number of lay church members should also read it to get a better idea of the way that churches place undue pressure on the pastor’s family. But in general it is a book that is written to the pastor’s kids themselves. And most of the problems of being a pastor’s kid are set as a child, when you are too young to read the book. By your early 20s or 30s, you either have come to terms with your status and don’t need the book, or you haven’t and in many ways the focus of preventing problems that is in the book, is too late.
I do think this is a book that is worth reading in spite of my concerns. Churches can harm many, albeit unintentionally much of the time, and we should work as hard as we can to avoid or minimize that hurt.
This isn’t really about the book, but as much as I love introductions, and I do and I always read them, there seems to be a Calvinist problem of hitting the reader over the head with their Prolegomena. I have mentioned this in a couple other reviews and the thing that connects all of them is that the books are written by Calvinists. Maybe I am missing another connecting factor or maybe there is not a connecting factor. But hitting the reader over the head with what the book is not going to be (this book) or long theological introduction (Lit, Housewife Theologian) that prejudges the reading (or reader) is off putting. The point of a prolegomena is to disclose how your own biases and presuppositions affect your approach to the content. And quite often what I think is intended to be helpful reader is actually harmful to the book.
One other small complaint is that Barnabas seems to discount the mother in his introduction as someone that is always called into the role of pastor’s wife (therefore seems to require less care because she is called). That seems unfair to me and I think either should have been dropped because it seems dismissive or he needed to actually explore it. This is particularly true because the mother is addressed as part of the problem in several areas, but is never directly addressed in the text with anything that she can do to help the PK. So except for a few negative illustrations the mother (again, always the spouse, never the pastor in this book) is basically ignored.
Christianaudio.com provided a free copy of the audiobook for purposes of review.
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