On this episode of The Disciple-Making Parent, we delve into the unique challenges and blessings of being a pastor’s kid with Barnabas Piper.
Join us as we explore the pressures of being on display and the expectations that come with it. We discuss the importance of genuine friendships and the need for pastors to advocate for their children. Discover the nuances of being a pastor’s kid in different church sizes and roles, and how parents can navigate the balance of modeling their faith while allowing space for their children’s questions.
Tune in to gain insights and encouragement for raising children in the ministry.
Resources From This Podcast
Topics Covered In This Week’s Podcast
02:43 Why write The Pastor’s Kid?
05:13 Unique challenges of being a pastor’s kid
11:58 Different nuances in different church circumstances
16:45 Pressure on pastors’ kids not to ask questions or express doubts
18:46 One thing parents of all vocations need to do
26:43 On the same road, in different lanes
33:54 How can older church members care for the pastor’s children?
36:50 Exhortations to pastors and wives as parents
44:11 Is there anything you would change in this book in hindsight?
Chap Bettis: Pastors’ kids. Are they saints, or sinners? Little helpers or little hellions? Hi, My name is Chap Bettis, and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. Growing up as a PK, or Pastor’s Kid has its unique challenges as well as unique blessings. In today’s podcast we’re going to be thinking about how we can better serve these young people. If you’re a church member, a pastor, or a pastor’s wife, or maybe even a PK yourself, I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation.
I talked with Barnabas Piper. He’s the author of The Pastor’s Kid: What It’s Like, and How To Help. Barnabas grew up as a pastor’s kid, graduated from Wheaton College, and spent 14 years working in Christian publishing. He began attending Emmanuel Nashville in 2017 and 2018, since God’s call on his life to pastoral ministry. He joined the staff there in 2019 and was called as a pastor in 2020. He loves investing in and shepherding this community, the community of Emmanuel Nashville, and welcomes hurting and weary people to walk with them with Jesus.
You may know him. He’s the author of several books, and he lives in the north suburbs of Nashville with his wife and two daughters. And you’re also the host of The Happy Rant Podcast. Welcome! It’s good to have you.
Barnabas Piper: Yeah. It’s a joy to be on with you.
Chap: Well, let’s talk. We’re going to talk about the book, The Pastor’s Kid. And so I highly recommend it. I’m somewhat late to the game. It’s been out about 9 or 10 years at this point, but I found it very helpful. I a was senior pastor for 25 years, and then now have had this ministry to help parents. And so I wanted to talk about, why did you write it? Which is always the first question. What is a PK and what’s the need you saw that you felt you could fill?
Barnabas: So it’s been more than 10 years since I wrote it. It came out nine years ago, and I guess it’s nice for the book, but it’s bad for pastor’s kids that not a ton has changed in 9 or 10 years in terms of the need for it. So I grew up, my entire upbringing from birth to age 30, my dad was a full-time pastor. He became a senior pastor a few years before I was born. So that was the entirety of my upbringing context, with many pluses and many minuses. And I hope I was faithful to address both in the book.
But what I observed was that there’s a unique set of contexts and pressures and difficulties that pastors’ kids face in their relationship with the Lord and in their relationship with the church and then to some degree relationship with family. And that’s kind of contextual. And there was nothing out there on it.
And so two things happened kind of concurrently. One was my observation of all this general kind of stuff that pastors’ kids are facing, conversations with others. The other was the Lord working in my own life over the years to bring me to a place of recognition of how my upbringing as a pastor’s kid shaped my faith and the hurdles that I had to get over, and just realizing there’s not a lot out there that encourages and addresses the particularities of the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a pastor’s kid. So my hope in the book was to speak honestly, to speak forthrightly, to speak on behalf of pastors’ kids. But then also to speak hopefully, because we believe in a genuine, profound, hopeful gospel. There’s not a different gospel for pastors’ kids, there’s just often a different path to coming to terms with it, let’s say.
Chap: And I appreciated that about the book. So you do end on a hopeful note about the advantages of being a pastor’s kid. And yet, there are some unique challenges. And you surveyed a number of pastors’ kids, and one comment or one quotation said, “The reality of being a sinner on display in a ministry family creates quite the spiritual and emotional Molotov cocktail.” So just the explosive idea of this reality that I’m a sinner on display. So what are some of the unique challenges that you felt being a PK? And obviously as you’ve, as you’ve interacted with other pastors’ kids and feel like, Yeah, we have this in common. What are some of those things that you bring out in the book?
Barnabas: Yeah, that comment by one of the people I surveyed, that’s a really succinct way to describe two different things going on that pastors’ kids often face. And when I say often, I mean there’s a ton of commonality across the board for pastors’ kids. Denominationally, church size, there are some differences, but by and large, the pressures and the difficulties are very similar if you’re in a hundred person Methodist church or a 4,000 person Baptist church, the feeling, the internal kind of combustion and pressure is really similar. So the things that stand out to me from hearing from others and then in my own life that are these common pressures are: being on display.
There’s a sense of everybody knows who I am in this church. And that stems from mostly people being kind. That’s the tricky part. Very rarely did I run into instances in my own life or others’ where pastors’ kids were mistreated. That happened a little bit. Mostly it was, you know, you walk into church and somebody greets you by name and you have no idea who they are. That gives you the sense of, Oh. People here are aware of me. And then in an unusual way. Or they ask questions about your personal life because they are aware of you through a newsletter that your dad sent out or something that was said from the pulpit or whatever. And all of those make you feel spotlighted or like in a fish bowl.
So that’s one thing, just the awareness. And so with that, then, comes the feeling of expectation. It is not safe to make mistakes or to have questions. Or to deviate from a good path because everybody will know. I will be a disappointment. I will be judged. And so there’s this pressure that pastors’ kids respond to, some very differently than others. And I think I laid out some different styles of response in there, but stereotypically pastors’ kids are historically seen as kind of the rebels, for good reason. You can find a lengthy list of pastors’ kids who have gone on to some pretty, let’s call it, non-ministerial paths in their life.
But what I noticed was the more subtle responses that a lot of us had. And I’d put myself closer to this category, which is more like you sort of suppress. You put on the facade of what people expect and internally you are a righteous mess: I don’t know what I believe. I’m very angry about this. I don’t think I can express this. It’s not safe to be honest about my struggles. Those kinds of things. You gain the ability to be a chameleon; you kind of go from context to context because that’s what church demands. There’s little old ladies having a lady’s tea and you’re going to walk into that room and be very genteel. And then there’s the worship service and then there’s the prayer meetings and then there’s so on and so forth, service projects, all that stuff. And you put on the right face and all of that leads to the kind of final big bucket issue of Who am I and what do I believe?
There’s a real identity crisis that a lot of pastors’ kids have in terms of, I don’t know what my faith is. I know what my faith is supposed to be, and I don’t know who I am in Christ. I know who I’ve been told that Christ is. And that’s a pretty significant gap oftentimes, and it leads to some real profound struggles for a lot of us.
Chap: Wow, there’s so much there that’s really helpful. First of all, since I read your book, I’ve thought about a little more intentionally about my interaction with our senior pastor’s oldest son, thinking on the one hand with little kids. And in my seminars, I encourage adults to interact with individual kids and know their name. And so I still think that’s absolutely a great exhortation.
But I think what I’m hearing from you is the problem with that, the caution with that for the pastor’s kid is everybodyknows his or her name. Everybody’s watching him as opposed to the other people, the little kids who think, “Oh, Mr. Bettis knows my name. That’s so exciting.” You’re on display. And so I think that’s really helpful.
Barnabas: And I would want to caution people. We have a tendency to overcorrect, so it would be easy for somebody to be like, Oh, I didn’t realize I was hurting the pastor’s kid’s feelings. I’m not going to talk to him anymore. And the fact is, that’s a pressure that is not due to one person’s failings. It’s a cumulative sense when 20 people on a Sunday say something and you just sort of come away with this sense of it. But pastor’s kids need genuine friendships. So if Mr. Bettis has been a meaningful part of the pastor’s kid’s life for 10 or 15 years and you’re greeting by name, you have a relationship that’s, that’s profoundly meaningful. My overall sense of the church growing up was much more familial than antagonistic. I definitely had some issues and I butted heads and got myself in plenty of trouble over the years. But overall, my sense was, This is a place where I belong, and this is my family. And that had to do largely with the meaningful relationships that existed. So, the correction to this is, just be aware of how it might be perceived, not distance yourself from the pastor’s kids.
Chap: That’s good. Well, you obviously have a well-known last name. You grew up in a larger church. So as you’ve thought about this topic, I’m wondering if there’s nuances that you’ve seen. You’ve already addressed one, but I’m thinking of churches that are different sizes. So for example, a large church whose pastor is this distant mega-star and then, Oh, there’s his son, as opposed to a small church of 50 where there’s the pastor. And then maybe thinking about, you’re now a parent. Do you feel like this is pressure has gotten less over time? And then also, just think about the paid pastor versus maybe the lay elder. So are there any nuances to that, or do you feel like, No, it’s it’s similar.
Barnabas: I think there are definitely nuances. And one thing that I will say, I mentioned not a lot has changed in the last 9 or 10 years since I wrote the book. That’s true on the resources for the pastor’s kid side. What I have seen change, and I think this is just with a with a sort of rising generation of pastors, there are some generational shifts in how church cultures and church leadership works. I think by and large, churches do better now at treating pastors’ families as real people, not as sort of this deified first family of the church thing that has been more prevalent in the past. That still exists- having served in full time ministry, I’m sure you feel the tension. And there could still be a gap between the pastor’s family and the church relationally, but that’s gotten better. So that’s a nuance that’s definitely worth acknowledging.
I think the other pieces have to do with how the pastor can address these things. If you pastor a church of 100 people, you legitimately know everybody’s name and you might legitimately know everybody personally, which means that there’s some there’s some unique pressures on your family, but also unique opportunities to address those pressures. You can tell the church in an appropriate context, “Hey, don’t talk to my kid that way.”
One of the stories that stands out in my mind is from a woman I was interviewing about this subject. She grew up as a pastor’s kid and she remembers, she was, I don’t know, climbing over or under church pews after service one Sunday and a lady in the church kind of began to berate her. And her dad stepped away from a conversation and came over and basically said, “Hey, if you have an issue with my child, you can come talk to me,” and was an advocate on behalf of her as the pastor. But in that moment, he was Dad. In the same way that, if somebody started yelling at you at a park, the parent would step in and go, “Hey, you can speak to me if you have an issue with my child.” And so that can happen in a small church with a different relational context than in a big church.
I would say this stuff is more categorical. There’s a sense of pressure, but not a, Man, Mrs. Jones was up in my business again, kind of thing. And so that has to probably be handled even more particularly on the home front. And as is always the case in a large church, relationships always happen in small circles. So it’s incumbent on the pastor’s family to have their meaningful relational circle so that the kids have a safe friend context for honesty and for personality and for all that. So those nuances are different. The pressures are the same. The observation piece is the same. The response to it differs a little bit.
I haven’t thought deeply about the difference between, like, a paid full-time pastor versus a bi-vocational pastor or something like that. I would imagine there are some differences because a bi-vocational pastor is often observed to be a normal working Joe as well as the one who’s bringing the word on Sunday and things like that. And so the perception of the family may vary a little bit, but even then, if somebody is an up-front minister of the gospel- paid pastor, worship pastor, whatever the case may be- the family lives in that glow, if you will, for better and worse. And so I would imagine that bi-vocational pastors’ kids feel this to a pretty reasonable degree as well.
Chap: That’s helpful. That’s helpful. You know, I’ve thought back to your earlier comment, one of the things I argue in The Disciple-Making Parents is in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul says, “Continue in what you’ve learned and become convinced of.” And that’s a normative experience for second generation Christians, learning the faith, but becoming convinced. And I’m interpreting it to say, Yeah, these are well known kids who in the context are expected really not to have that transition. They’re expected just to be super Christian and just not really wrestle with their own faith. So that’s, that’s really helpful. Some unique temptations.
Barnabas: And one other thought: you asked about nuances. One other thing that has changed in the church. Again, by and large, the church has gotten better for the most part at making room for questions. Doubters have a more of a place in the church now than in the past. There was more of a sense in the past that questions were seen as threats and things like that. We don’t ask those questions here. And that still exists, but often it exists more in our own hearts than it does in the culture of a church. There is a gap between pastors’ kids and everyone else, though.
Take a youth group where there’s a hundred kids. For a 17-year-old to go, “How do we know the Bible is true?” That’s a perfectly reasonable question that I would expect a thoughtful 17-year-old to ask who is trying to become convinced of these things, like you said. If the pastor’s kid raises their hand and goes, “How do we know the Bible is true?” I’d guess it’s going to be crickets in that room. Somebody’s going to go write a letter to the pastor. Things are about to go off the rails. So there’s still a disparity there that exists. I think it’s getting better, but, I mean, I’ve talked to my kids. I know they feel that to a degree, and they have to find the appropriate context for their faith questions, because it doesn’t always feel like they can just raise their hand to go, “I’m not sure I buy what you’re selling.”
Chap: Well that’s helpful. And that leads into the next question, which is, sometimes it’s not so much the church but it’s the parents. And so now you’ve gone from child to parent and so you’re a pastor and parent thinking about your own kids. And again, you have one quote where the person says, “I can remember my mother telling me at a very young age that we were always being watched.” And then I find this next sentence haunting: “That stayed with me until today.” So that still is with this person. Like, I am always being watched.
In one sense, talk about modeling our faith. Kids are watching us, but on the other hand, for a young child to bear that pressure, that’s too much. So talk about the pressure that parents may face where you’re like, I want to know that I’m doing a good job passing the gospel to my kids, andwe are to be an example. And so sometimes it can be in that case, How in the world could you, a 17-year-old, ask that question? I’ve taught you that over and over again. so.
Barnabas: But I laugh because I’m now a full-time pastor. I’ve been a believer for 35 years. And I want reassurance that I’m doing a good job as a parent. I think every parent at every stage feels like, I think I blew it. Like if you get to the end of a day and you have general sense of, Okay, I didn’t blow it today, that’s a good day. But that sets up some of what pastors need to have in our minds, which is that we are not different than any other parents. We are utterly reliant on the Holy Spirit to do the saving work in our kids. And we are absolutely responsible for shepherding them in the right direction. So discipline and conversation and the context of the home and how are we exemplifying our own faith, both the pluses and the minuses.
And the thing that I honed in on in the book, but also just in my own life, is that the piece that pastors often get wrong is an absence of genuine confession and repentance toward their kids. Because I know a lot of pastors’ kids. I had this experience where, there was a lot of talk about sin, a lot of talk about a need for forgiveness and a lot of talk about grace, but not very often was there a look in the eye, I’m sorry for how I sinned against you in this way. Would you please forgive me? And I think parents by and large struggle to do this with our kids, because there’s an authority gap there. But what better model for an ongoing need of the grace of God through Christ is there than looking your six-year-old in the face and going, I’m sorry, I lost my temper. I did not treat you the way that you ought to be treated. I was wrong. Would you please forgive me? And the six-year-old now holds the cards to say, Yeah, I’m not going to hold that sin over your head. And the amazing thing is how ready kids are to forgive when given the opportunity. You know, we get worse at it as we get older. At six and five and eight, they’re just ready to forgive and hug.
And it’s wonderful at 17. They think about it and then you’re like, Ooh, I actually hurt them. And so I say all that to say, the pressure that pastors often feel to get it right with their kids is alleviated largely by just backing off and going, I’m not any less in need of God’s grace now than I was before becoming a minister, and sinning against my kids doesn’t change that. I have a response that’s appropriate as a Christian person: come before the Lord in repentance, and to my kids in that way. And then that models a context for grace and for forgiveness and for this reality so that kids don’t feel any sort of hypocritical gap. What they see is a real parent who’s a real sinner, who’s really in need of grace, and that’s how we’re living life. And, then the pastor should live that way.
I mean, that quote you gave about, at a young age my mom told me we’re always being watched. I would like people to watch me be a repenter, be an admitter of my failures and my weaknesses and just go, yeah, I’m wrong a lot. And so that if I’m modeling anything for my church, it’s humility and honesty before the Lord, not I’ve-got-it all-togetherness. Because that’s just nonsense. Yes, I need to model obedience, but the first obedience is repentance.
Chap: That’s really good. I can’t remember who said it, but basically, I’m a much worse sinner than any of you people know. You don’t even know how bad I am. I appreciate that so much.
Barnabas: One more thought on that. Just in line with what you were just saying, Ray Ortlund, who is the founding pastor at our church, who I owe an enormous debt of care to. He cared for me so well when I got to Emmanuel and even was significantly responsible for helping me see my call into ministry. He has said on more than one occasion to our church, “Growing in Christ and spiritual maturity is just learning to repent faster.” Very few things are more freeing to me than that, just the recognition that following Christ just means turning back towards him more readily and faster. And as parents, that’s profoundly freeing because we blow it all the time and we are painfully aware of it. So just repent faster. And that is an active, obedient response to Jesus.
Chap: Yeah, that’s great. You know, I had you look over some of the material in Managing Your Household Well- it’s coming out- and then also just reading your book, I ended up adding a whole section on authenticity because to me that’s what you’re saying. That my dad is the same person at home that he is in the pulpit and then we want that to be positive. Meaning, he loves people. He admits sin, and he’s not he’s not claiming perfection. So just this authenticity in living out the gospel in the home. And then, I love what you said about repenting specifically. I’ve just said to myself, Oh, a lot of times we are sinners who never actually sin, because we’re not actually admitting, that was a specific sin in that moment, unwholesome talk came out of my mouth.
Barnabas: It’s like if you called yourself an author and nobody ever got to see anything that you wrote. Like, if you journal a lot, you’re not an author, you’re a journaler. You have to put something out into the world for that to count. And so we label ourselves as a category, but we don’t act in a manner that’s coherent with the category. So yeah, if we are sinners, if we’re willing to call ourselves that, then we should respond as if we actually do sin. Because our kids are painfully aware of it. They’re really ready to go, That was wrong that you just did.
Chap: Well, we talked already about some assumptions, but talk about as PKs get older. You differentiate their own lane and then different roads and different speeds. And I’ve walked through this with some of my own kids. Because part of what I’ve said to my kids is, “I’ve spent my life studying these things.” I’m not a plumber where, I go to church and then you’re like, “Oh, we’re going off this way.” I love that whole concept. That was very helpful. And I think that’s good for pastors to have in their mind.
Barnabas: Yeah. For the pastor, especially. It’s interesting. I wrote this book before becoming a pastor. And so I wrote it kind of for other people. And now I’m on this side of things. And so it has particular resonance, and my kids are getting older now. They are teenagers, which means that they unfortunately have minds of their own and very strong wills, which I don’t know where they got those from. But the metaphor being just one of the great pressures that pastors feel is we want our kids to turn out right. And often what we mean by that is walking in lockstep with my doctrine and my preferences. Whether that be a lifestyle preference, whether that be a church tradition preference, a denominational preference, whatever it is. And if we are honest with ourselves, how many of us are in lockstep with our parents? It’s a very small number.
Maybe we tend to become more like them as we get older, but not lockstep. We differ. And it’s really hard to let our kids do that. Especially when it comes to matters that are associated with faith because it feels like we might be losing them. So the idea of, same road, different lanes is, if our kids are believers, they are followers of Jesus, we are on the same road.
We are going to the same destination. There’s a glorious future for us. However, if you’re like my dad, you are a speed-limit-upholding, right-lane driver. That is your cruising speed. If you are like me, you are a swerve-around-that-person, get-in-the-left-lane-and-hammer-it-until-you-are-tailgating-somebody-who’s-going-too-slow-in-the-left-lane driver. We are going to the same destination. We’re going to get there at a slightly different speed, slightly different styles. He’s not going to approve of my style. But we’re going to get there.
And we need to differentiate between if our kids veer off the road- you know, they’re not professing faith. Don’t confuse changing denominations with changing faiths. Don’t confuse, say, if you’re a teetotaler and your kid chooses to drink, they’re not abandoning the faith. That’s a lifestyle choice that falls within the realm of wisdom and freedom. There’s a lot of conversation that can be had about that. I would encourage you not to have it with your kids. That’s not going to go well. But it’s those things where we look and go, The Lord is taking us on his road in the right place.
Where we carry great burden and concern for our kids is if they exit, and they go a different road towards an abandonment of faith. And I can’t imagine anything more painful. My kids are both professing believers and I pray, like the verse you said earlier from 2 Timothy, that they would become ever more convinced of these things so that they thrive in faith as they get older. Maybe even in a way that I didn’t do until well, well into my twenties. But right now we’re on the same road and they’re in different lanes than I am. They ask questions that I didn’t ask at 14 and 17. I wish I would have. They feel more free to ask those questions. And to me, I look at that and I go, This seems like an evidence of God’s grace. We get to have conversations that are a little bit more honest, a little bit more open about struggles or doubts or questions or “I’m not sure what the Bible means here.” So I think that that falls especially on the pastor parents to recognize the road versus lane differentiation, because especially as they get older, it’s easy to feel like, “Agh, they’re lost.” And in fact, they’re not lost. They’re just a mile behind you or a mile ahead of you in a different lane.
Chap: That’s good. I might switch that analogy, I think as a parent, who likes to think of themselves as the fast driver in the left lane. Maybe a different analogy is you give your children a certain deposit of wealth, and then you hope they invest it and you see them start to squander it, or you think squander it. And so you’re like, Okay, some of this is just maturity. You get to say a lot of things to your teenagers. When they’re in their twenties, you get to say less, and they’ve got to learn from their own mistakes. Their walk; they’re accountable. We’re not in control or even influencing as much. They will stand and give an account themselves. And so maybe they go slower or faster, spiritually, than we would hope.
Barnabas: One of the things along these lines, just in this vein, that has become more and more meaningful, but also kind of high pressure to me in the last year or two as my kids are getting older, getting near to being out on their own, going off to college, is the reality that it is very difficult for me to have faith that God will do in my kids’ lives exactly what He did in my life. I feel like I have to do in their life what God did in my life. And I am incapable of that. The Lord’s grace to me between the ages of birth 28 was astounding despite my best efforts at ignoring, dodging, ducking, and avoiding it, and my kids are way better than I was. And yet I still struggle to just trust that the Lord’s grace that rescued me is the same grace that is available to them. And there’s no reason to think that he won’t exhibit it to them in a profound way. And that is a humbling thing as a parent, to just come to the recognition of, Well, think back to what the Lord did for you. He can do the same for them. And in fact, he already is, maybe just in ways you haven’t totally observed yet.
Chap: That’s good. Well, we need to wind up our time here, but let me give you a chance to speak to three different people. So first talk to the church member, maybe the older church member, somebody my age, perhaps who feels like the kids are a little out of control or not like they were. We’ve already talked about this a little bit, but what would you say if you could talk to somebody in your church who is in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. What are some things- again, I feel like I may be asking you to rehash the whole conversation we’ve had, but what are some specific things?
Barnabas: Yeah, I’ll try to keep it very practical. I think the number one thing you can do for a pastor’s family and the pastor’s kids is pray for them by name. Prayer is not the last thing you can do, and it’s not the least thing you can do. It’s absolutely the best thing you can do. And prayer will change your heart towards other people, which is a thing that sometimes we don’t want. We would like to be a little bit judgmental or bitter, but. . . So knowing your pastor’s family by name and praying for them is good. What I would also say, and this is true for any member, is before you approach personally, take stock of what your relationship is. There was an instance where my older daughter, her car broke down on the way to church because her first car is the appropriate piece of junk for a first car.
Barnabas: And two different guys from our church recognized her, saw the young lady in need and pulled over to help. And they both knew who she was and she recognized them, but didn’t know them. And so she accepted their help. They were great. And I asked later, “Oh, who helped you?” Because I wanted to say thank you. And she goes, “I don’t know.” She’s like, “One of them is a guy who plays guitar. And the other one is a guy with a beard.” And I’m like, “That’s half the guys at our church.” And so what that clued me into it was just this disparity between knowledge. And so they did a kind thing, and in any other instance that would have been, you introduce yourself, you know Hey, I’m so-and-so, I go to church with you, that kind of thing. And so just taking stock of that, so that you’re approaching the pastor’s kids with a context appropriate to the relationship you have so that they don’t feel known when they don’t know you, but rather feel like you’re a real person introducing yourself. That kind of thing. So those are just two small- well, they’re very significant, but they’re very doable things that I would encourage any member to do.
Chap: That’s good. Well, you’ve hinted at it, but now let’s talk to the pastor and maybe the pastor’s wife. Just, what have you learned? So you were a pastor’s kid, and we all have the advantage of seeing our parents’ strengths and mistakes. And so now you’re making your own mistakes and trying to do things right. But what’s the exhortation that you feel?
Barnabas: A couple things. The first is, your kids are not doing as well as they seem on this particular front. They might be thriving in other areas of life and cumulatively, but odds are there are pressures they are feeling at church that they have not communicated. Either because they didn’t know how or they don’t know they can. My conversations with my kids has changed since I’ve been on staff at the church, just as they’ve gone from middle school to high school, and they’ve been able to speak more freely about frustrations and things. So what I would say is, ask. Make the assumption that the pressures are there and just say, Hey, how are you experiencing this? Do you ever feel like people are watching you? Is it hard for you? Is it hard for you when I stand up front and do stuff? Do you feel like, “He’s just talking on and on again.” Those kinds of things, because they need a context to be able to address that, and that kind of takes some of the power out of the pressure. It’s a bit of a release valve, and it allows you to talk to them like a loving parent, not like a ministry figure. So that’s one thing, is just come straight at these things with gentle questions.
The second thing is, pour into your family as family. I’m going to say something. You and I might profoundly disagree on this, but I’m going to go for it. Anyway, in pastors’ families, particularly worship in the home needs to look different than it does for other families. Because pastor’s kids are around worship and exposure to scripture more than every other kid. If you are an accountant, and then your kids go to public school, for example, they hear Bible on Sundays and maybe on midweek if they, if you do a youth group thing or whatever. If you’re a pastor, it’s all the time, which means doing daily family devotions might actually be driving a wedge between your kids and the Bible. You need to just have a conscientiousness about how to do that in a way that is drawing them into a love of scripture, not making them think, Oh, this thing again, more homework.
Alongside that is just very simple, like have more fun. It is very easy for pastors to devote the best part of our energies to those who we’re not related to, and our kids need more laughter. They need more movies. They need more sports or more music or more games or more puzzles, whatever those things are that your family just loves. Be the one who leads the fun. Because when I think back on my childhood, I don’t know if I remember any sermons my dad preached. I remember him teaching me how to field a ground ball. I remember him playing basketball in the driveway. I remember him teaching me how to put a worm on a hook. I have this lengthy list of memories of time spent with him doing fun things which all engender fondness in my heart. Those are the things that make me love my dad. I admire his preaching. I love him for doing a backflip off a rope swing into a pond and showing me that he could do that when I was little. Those kinds of things. So be that person for your kids. Those are the kind of the two things. One is the gentle questions, and the other is create an environment in the home that is joyful, not high pressure.
Chap: I appreciate that a lot. As you were making the first comment, what hit me was a couple of things. One was, I think good counseling helps articulate what’s going on in our heart. So by saying, “You may be feeling this pressure,” you’re actually proactively speaking to something the kids might not be able to articulate. And then somewhat different but related, you basically said, “Do you feel like I’m being inauthentic?” I think the whole idea of using kids in your sermon illustrations has gone by the wayside. I think, except for one case, I always got permission before I did, but that’s not really what you’re speaking to. What you’re speaking to is as our kids get older, “Do you feel like I’m projecting a persona that’s not true?”
Chap: And thanks for that last thing. You know, I would say a mistake I made as a young dad- and Ephesians 6 says that children are to obey their parents. And that is a mark of a godly home. But the fact is that we serve a triune God, who is joyful and loving. I look back now and would say the godliest home is the one that has the joy there.
Yeah. That that’s, um, that there. And I think that’s attractive when our kids are 25, to look back and go, Yeah, my dad loves Jesus and he wants me to, and we had a really joyful home.
Barnabas: Yeah. And I think, you just made a comment that that clued me in and reminded me, there’s a perception in parenting today, let’s say parents who are under 40, where the idea of insisting on obedience and having fun are at odds with one another, like you can’t be a joyful, fun parent and a disciplinarian parent, and that’s utter rubbish. Because as parents, one of the things that is imbued in us as image bearers of God is the capacity to honor God in both ways. “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” And it’s my job to insist on that happening and appropriately discipline. And that’s a whole other conversation, and it looks different for different kids. And the other is God delighting in his children and God singing over his children. And there is so much gladness, in the Bible and in the presence of the Lord. So we have the capacity and the mandate to do both. And in fact, you’re going to have a lot more fun if your kids listen to you. So set up a life at home so that they listen to me because then we have the freedom to go do crazy fun stuff without things going off the rails quite as often. They’re going to happen, but not as often.
So I think for younger parents, we have to think more holistically about God as Father so that we can parent our children both with appropriate structure and profound joy and gladness.
Chap: Amen. Amen. Amen. I say it in an article I had TGC post, and in some of my materials, authority and affection.Parenting is about authority and affection. So both/and, not one to the exclusion of the other.
Well, let me just ask you this last question. You know, one of the blessings and the curses of a book is that it’s what you’re thinking in the moment. It’s a snapshot. And then people who read it 10 years later say, Hmm, I didn’t know he thought that or whatever. Whether it could be the tone or what you actually said, but we all do grow and change. So I’m wondering if there’s any things that you would emphasize more, change, as you’ve matured as a parent. Any tweaks, I guess. It’s a really good book! I’m not trying to, I’m not trying to critique it at all. I enjoyed it a lot, but we learn, we mature, life changes us.
Barnabas: I think that’s a great question. I had an interesting experience a few years ago. So the book released nine-ish years ago and then it re-released with a different publisher a few years later, and so I had a chance to re-read the audio book. Which is good because I think my first recording was really bad, but that meant that I got to go back and basically hear my own words out loud, which is basically a lengthy experience of being held accountable, which was really, really helpful. And what I came away with was I would not fundamentally change anything in the book truth-wise. I think a couple things I would adjust or add. I would put more into the good news for pastor’s kids, particularly now that I’m in ministry. Every week I encounter something. I have a found that I don’t even know that I’m prepared to handle, but I’m more prepared than I realized because of the foundation that I was given in my home and in my church. Scriptural foundation, wisdom foundation, and I’m not conscientiously asking what would my dad do, but there was teaching, there was context. So just leaning a little bit more into the upbringing you have received. It very well could be a foundation that you don’t even know you need. So that’s one piece.
Nine years have passed, so I think I would want to address some of the contextual things a little bit differently, such as deconstruction. I speak some about doubts in there and there’s a lot of overlap, but so much of what’s happening with younger professing believers and deconstruction is not an abandonment of the faith. It’s an abandonment of church tradition, and there’s a lot of good in that. There’s also risks in that. But I would probably want to address that to the parents, saying, Hey, if this is how your kids are navigating things, sort of a deconstruction of the tradition they grew up in, don’t take it as a personal insult. Don’t necessarily fear for their salvation. But again, think road and lanes. They are discovering and coming to convictions about how and when to go where they’re going. And that’s different than abandoning the faith. But I think contextually and kind of the time culturally, I would want to address that maybe a little more thoroughly, and appropriate to the moment that we’re in.
Chap: Well, that’s really good. Well, Barnabas, thank you. This, this has been a lot of fun, to pick your brain about this. The book is The Pastor’s Kid, and so I highly recommend it for pastors, for elders, and even for concerned church members as well. So thanks so much and the Lord bless your ministry there at Emmanuel.
Barnabas: Yeah, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful to be on with you.