Saturday, August 2, 2014

"The Pastor's Kid." a reflection.

My daughter and Chelsea, her youth leader and PK buddy
I never pre-order books. But I pre-ordered this one the moment I heard about it, for a couple of reasons. The first was that I'd been thinking about writing on the peculiar phenomena of PK's myself for some time. Maybe even just a blog or two. My first thought was, "Aah, he beat me too it." The truth is that Barnabas Piper, the son of renown preacher and writer John Piper, has an insight and a reach that I may never have, so I'm glad he's done it. It's long overdue, I think.The second more obvious reason, is that I'm a PK myself and my kids are PK's, so I spend a good deal of time reflecting on what  my parents did that I'd want to pass on to my kids. After all, if being a PK was so bad, I'd never have become a pastor. There are certainly some things I experienced that I wouldn't want to pass on to them though, so I want to keep learning and growing as a father to PK's. The truth is I want my kids, and the kids of every couple in vocational ministry to grow up to love and serve Jesus and His church, whether vocationally or not. My wife and I are so grateful that my kids love the church we lead. I hope they always do.

Being a PK is like living in a fish bowl. Barnabas's fish bowl was just bigger and more pressured than most, and he suffered under a feeling of being known of, rather than being known. He makes a profound point when he says the unique pressure a PK faces is that their behavior can literally cause their dad to lose his job. That pressure pushes so many PK's into dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Barnabas's story is one of recovering from the hypocrisy of knowing all about God but not really knowing God Himself. He does a masterful job of describing the complexity of recovering from this PK hypocrisy, and discovering his own faith journey. He's brutally honest about his own wrestles, but fairly vague about his parents shortcomings. I would have preferred if he'd been more specific, although he did describe how his father's God was huge but inaccessible and that he was too serious. Barnabas had to discover a more accessible God.  What is clear in John Piper's foreword is that the book caused him some painful reflection, and yet he commends it to readers. I do too.

For more, click The-Pastors-Kid-Finding-Identity

A few insights in the book that impacted me:
1) Don't manipulate your kids into behaving for fear of making you look bad. That may get results initially, but it will ultimately make your kids either hypocrites or rebels.
2) Don't preach to your kids. They don't need another sermon. Have conversations with them. Be their Dad, not their pastor. 
3) Play with your kids and be affectionate with them. (Barnabas treasures the memories of playing with John more than any sermon or family devotion) 
4) When you confess your sins in front of your family be specific. Vague confessions encourage your kids to be vague with you too. 
5) Find ways to show that this is not just your job, like visiting another church when you're on vacation. 
6) Establish their identity first as children of the Father, not children of a pastor. 

Some random things I'd add, in no particular order.
1) Don't use your kids in sermon illustrations unless you've asked them first. 
It only intensifies the fishbowl feeling.
2) Don't answer the phone during dinner time. Let the kids know that family time is sacred.
3) Celebrate stories of God's provision to your family, and moments of his undeniable power.
4) Allow them space to process the pain of their friends who've moved on to be part of a new church plant. or just plain moved.   
5) Pray that they'd encounter the Holy Spirit at a young age. 
6) Empower younger leaders in the church to disciple your kids too. 
You don't have the whole package.
7) Allow them space to wrestle in faith without the pressure to believe because they ought to.
8) Encourage them to talk about the dynamics of being a PK. You'd be surprised how acutely they feel  it.

How about other insights from PK's, or parents or PK's? 

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