Meet Barnabas Piper, a writer, team member of Ministry Grid, and a contributor to multiple blogs and publications (including WorldMag.com, Leadership Journal, Tabletalk Magazine, Relevant.com, The Gospel Coalition blog, and DesiringGod.org). Barnabas is also a PK—a pastor’s kid, and the son of a Christian-famous one, at that. In anticipation of the release of his new book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (look for a review soon), Barnabas took a few minutes to chat (via email) about the book, the life of a PK and how parents can keep their kids from hating ministry.
I promised I wouldn’t ask you the standard “why’d you write this book” question, and I’m sticking to that. (After all, it’s pretty obvious why you did.) So, here’s the real first question: what impressed me when reading the book is how you managed to keep the tone as positive as you did. How challenging was it maintain this without sugarcoating the real difficulties that come with being a PK?
So much of what passes for “authentic” or “honest” writing these days is simply the lancing of emotional boils all over one’s readers. So my challenge was to be genuinely honest but also tasteful. As I wrote I kept the words “honor your father and mother” at the forefront of my mind to help me be thoughtful and conscientious. At the same time I needed to expose and explain certain realities and do so with clarity. I hope that as I tried to negotiate between honoring my parents and being bluntly forthright I was forceful without being a drag.
One of the things you mentioned in the book is that your theology differs in some respects from your dad’s. What were some of the ways he helped give you space to work out what you believe and how might other pastors do likewise for their kids?
Much of my differing came after I moved away from home. We’ve had some pointed conversations about our differences and have come to an understanding that some topics are best not argued about. To be clear, my dad did not make me believe anything growing up, but for anyone who’s ever listened to him preach or read his writings he leaves little room to disagree. So, for me, it was space that led to my opportunity to think in a different direction. And since then, I have worked to be respectful of his views, not pick needless arguments, and center on those things we do agree on—the essentials of the Christian faith.
While much of your experience is similar to that of the average PK, you’ve also got the added crazy of having a Christian-famous dad. How have you managed to handle the extra-wide bubble and not lose your mind?
Who’s to say I haven’t lost my mind?
Just kidding. Much of it had to do with the fact that the fame for him came gradually as I grew up and didn’t become more pronounced until I was in late high school and then in college. That meant I was a little bit more ready to roll with it and figure it out at a (somewhat) mature level. I haven’t always handled it well. At times I have resented people for how they treated me or gushed over my dad. It’s hard to meet people and for them to have expectations of what I’ll be like because of my last name.
But at some point I realized I could either be annoyed all the time or just roll with it. People aren’t trying to be invasive or to put expectations on me. Many genuinely love my dad, and although that can be weird, it’s generally a kind of nice weird. The bottom line is that I have been shown a lot of grace, and I would be an ingrate not to show some to others, especially when they have good intentions.
My kids aren’t PKs, but they are caught in the bubble due to my day job and extra curricular activities. What advice do you have to help parents like me protect our kids from hating everything about ministry in all its forms?
Help them see that you love them more than ministry and help them see what you love about the ministry. If your kids know you’d drop ministry in a second for them they won’t feel like it’s an imposition. If they see that, while you love ministry, you find greater happiness with them they won’t feel like it’s a rival. If they see that you enjoy it and that it is meaningful to you it will be seen as a positive thing over all, something to be part of rather than fled from.