Book Review: The Pastor’s Kid

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A few days ago, my Dad gave me this book, ‘The Pastor’s Kid’ by Barnabas Piper, to read to see whether it was a useful resource, but also to give my opinion on the book as he has never read it. As a Pastor’s Kid (PK) myself, I thought that it would be helpful to give some insight on what I read and whether I thought it was a good representation of how the average PK feels. But before I start, it is important to note that we are all different and every PK’s experience will differ, both culturally and on an individual basis. I mean, even my experience compared to my brother’s has it’s own unique set of privileges and challenges as our characters are incredibly varied.

Almost as soon as I started reading this book, I was struck by just how whiney it was. It felt as if there were absolutely no positives to being a PK what so ever! Piper clearly faced many challenges as a PK, and I understand that American culture is very different to the UK, but I have to question whether the book could have been written in a way that expressed what he went through without me feeling as if he was consistently criticising the way his parents raised him. As well as this, the extensive use of vocabulary used by Piper can be seen to have a detrimental effect, causing the reader to be confused as to what he was trying to convey, like the fact that grace changes everything, and only see the negatives of being a PK.

Moreover, whilst reading, I was struck by just how much Piper was talking to the wider congregation about what being a PK is like, rather than talking to PKs about how to deal with some of the challenges that come their way. Whilst this is helpful to those who may not understand what goes on after church on a Sunday, my problem with this is that there was a seriously negative light cast onto pastors and how they are doing their job. Being a pastor is probably one of the most difficult jobs around and I understand, first hand that it can be difficult for them to balance family life with the running of the church. Yet, it appeared to me that Piper was suggesting a lack of parenting from that pastor. Not all pastors (and their spouses) completely neglect their children – if any! It seemed to me as if Piper is making severe generalisations that just cannot be made. Pastors are very hard-working men and without their God-given gifts and abilities, the church would be a mess; that is why God placed them in that position after all. It is by the grace of God that they are in that position. But, more than this, most pastors work hard to make sure their family is in a good place and gets to spend time with them. So, Piper’s generalisation here is not applicable to everyone, like many others in his book. I am afraid that this could only be relevant to him and the “dozen” other PKs that he spoke to.

Furthermore, it could be seen that Piper portrays being a PK as a curse something no one should have to go through. Yes, it does come with its challenges, like anything. Dad spends a lot of time at meetings or praying with people, trying to find new venues or is just trying to finish his work for the day. But when I was speaking to a friend of mine who’s dad is a builder, she said that it was much the same for her; her dad will work long days until a specific job is done, they will often be unsociable hours and he will often work on Saturdays. So PKs aren’t on their own here. But aside from this, there are also some amazing privileges that PKs get to experience. Piper does touch on this in the closing few pages of the book, highlighting the fact that us PKs get some amazing opportunities. But the way he puts it, especially after a book seemingly full of pessimistic comments, just makes it seem in vain, like he is trying his hardest, searching his brain for something that can be considered a positive. Without the opportunities being a PK has brought me, I would not have met half the people I have, I might not be 25 days away from moving to South Africa. My faith has grown immensely by having parents so in love with Jesus, living by his example, not only in church but at home, and by having them pray with me, even when I never wanted to. Therefore, being a PK is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, I love it.

But more than anything else, the thing that got me about this book was that it was supposed to be biblically based and looking to the Bible for help, yet I could only find one piece of scripture in the whole book. Other than that, it was a book full of Piper’s own opinion, that could be seen as unable to apply to anyone else. If it had been rooted in scripture and started every chapter with a Bible verse rather than a criticism of being a PK, then I probably would have been more likely to accept some more of the points Piper made; but it wasn’t. And I would consider that as a problem. Although Piper makes the point that we all need grace to be able to help us with what we are doing, where we are placed and how we react to it (a good point well made), it could be argued that it would be more helpful if he could have found more verses to help bring more of God into the book, rather than what just comes across as an opinion.

Overall, although there are some valid points made about expectations placed upon PKs to be perfect children and his comments on how grace can help us all, I found it difficult to read this book. I just found that it was too negative and made being a PK seem like such, for want of a better word, a bad thing. Would I recommend this book? Unfortunately not. But that is not to say that it would not apply to other people. Without a doubt, there are those who have found being a PK a real challenge and without hesitation would wish to change their position. But, my experiences as a PK makes it difficult to say that I agree with this book. Maybe I have just been fortunate. Who knows? Yet, I would like to assume that there are many, like me, who have also had very positive experiences – and I thank God for that.

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