Monday, December 14, 2009

Going the Distance - Chapter 7

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 7: The pastor's family
The clergy family lives in the midst of a larger congregational family ... This can be good news or bad news, depending on the quality of the relationship between the two families. (Jack Balswick & Cameron Lee, quoted p99)
The balance between family life and ministry can be a difficult juggling act. Work pressures can push out relationships, and family can be left feeling isolated and alone. Some couples need to honestly assess their work in ministry and their marriage, and ensure that the marriage is not being ignored. Read this heartfelt quote from a minister:
I tried to explain my behaviour as immature zeal to serve God but this was yet another spiritual sounding defense, totally unacceptable. The real issue was whether I loved my work more than I love my wife. The ministry had clearly come between us. I had never imagined that a call could become a seduction that would destroy a marriage. Nor had I been aware of how subtly a ministry can give one an inflated view of one's own importance. (quoted on p1o3)
I'm sure all of us know of ministry marriages that have failed. I wonder how many of them are due to work pressures and the 'other woman' that is actually the job itself.

Brain suggests that a helpful theological mindset, which puts God at the centre, and everything else branching out from that can work to prevent the three pressures which attack healthy family life:
  • workaholism - the drifting into a life dominated by work. Ministers may claim they are 'doing God's work', but surely caring for their marriage and family is also 'God's work'
  • scapegoating - the tendency to misdirect frustrations from work into the ones we love and live with.
  • sublimation - the redirection of energy and time by the spouse (here we are talking about the minister's wife) into other things as a result - usually the children or work.

Throughout the chapter, Brain makes a number of suggestions:
  • Don't be a minister at home - the minister is a husband and father at home, before he is a minister. Our families should be treated as family, not as parishioners
  • Use 'time-outs' as priority times with family. These include meal times, days off and holidays. He makes some observations about whether or not you should be contactable and willing to return on holiday (in almost all cases, Brain says no - you are not indispensable)
  • Don't take each other for granted - talk about issues when they come up, be willing to listen to each other and your children. Give each other time together as a couple and as a family.
    • Don't break promises - take that day off, don't answer the phone, finish the sermon in enough time...

    • Spend time with your children - schedule it in your diary if needed. Do not expect too much of them as clergy kids, but remind them of the benefits of being a clergy kid.
    • Value your family immensely - they will be your family long after you have finished this job or finished your work of ministry.
    He also gives some helpful and biblical advice on how to handle regrets we may have in this area.

    Some things to think about:

    1. How is your family going at balancing both family life and ministry?
    2. What areas could you improve in?

    Next time: Chapter 8 - Sexual temptation in the ministry

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