Life as an “Ordinary” Pastor’s Kid

Over at the Blazing Center, Barnabas Piper, son of pastor John Piper, has an article on what to do when you meet a pastor’s kid. He’s apparently written a book about what it’s like to grow up in a pastor’s family. As a pastor’s daughter and missionary’s granddaughter, I’m generally interested to hear other “stories from the trenches.” Life in a pastor’s family has its challenges, but it also has great blessings. My friend, Megan Hill, has written a series of great articles on the subject that I highly recommend: part 1, part 2, part 3. (Megan is both a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife, so she knows what she’s talking about.)

Back to Barnabas’ article. I was interested to read his take on being a pastor’s kid. Reading his list, though, I realized that I couldn’t relate to his concerns at all. It took me a minute to realize why: I’m not a celebrity pastor’s kid. Apparently it makes a big difference.

Here are his “seven rules” for meeting pastor’s kids:

  1. Do not ask us “What is it like to be the son or daughter of …?”
  2. Do not quote our dads to us.
  3. Do not ask us anything personal you would not ask of anyone else.
  4. Do not ask us anything about our dads’ positions on anything.
  5. Do not assume you can gain audience with the pastor through us.
  6. Do not assume that we agree with all the utterances of our fathers.
  7. Get to know us.

Taking these one at a time. Here are my thoughts:

1. I can’t imagine anyone asking me what it’s like to be the daughter of Jon Green. I think he’s a great man and a wonderful pastor, but I can’t remember anyone ever asking me that.

2. I’ve never had anyone quote my dad to me. Although I do find great pleasure when people who’ve been blessed by my dad’s ministry tell me about it.

3. Occasionally, after a sermon illustration, people have teased me or my brother about a particular story. Dad has always been very careful not to embarrass us.

4. Again, I’ve never been asked what my dad thinks on any given subject. Except once. Recently someone asked me what his favorite ice cream was. They wanted to surprise him on his birthday.

5. Since my dad is not a celebrity pastor, his congregation all know him very well and have really good access to him. No one has ever had trouble reaching him, and no one has ever asked me to get a message to him. Although I did spend most of my childhood as an unpaid secretary and phone answering service. “No, I’m sorry he can’t come to the phone right now. May I take a message …” It was a shock to me, once I married and moved away, how rarely the phone rings in a non-ministry household.

6. While my dad and I might disagree on any number of non-essential things, I am happy to say that we agree on all the important things. I know that’s not likely true of all or most PK’s, but I’m thankful for a good relationship and shared commitments.

7. This one I can agree on, although it feels tacked on to the list. Of course, people should get to know their pastor’s kids. Many people would be surprised to know that most PK’s are just like every other kid their age.

So, I’m not sure what to think about Barnabas’ article. On the one hand it seems to be a humblebrag of a post, “Life’s so tough when your dad is a celebrity.” On the other, it really doesn’t connect with life as an “ordinary” pastor’s kid. I’m left with a “well, that’s nice, but I can’t really relate.” Although, given the increasing numbers of celebrity pastors in the New Calvinist world, maybe there is a need for a support group. “Hello, my name is _______ and I’m a celebrity pastor’s kid.”