Resilient Ministry: Marriage and Family

People think that if you marry a pastor, you’ll get pastored all the time.

The words of the wife of one of the pastors involved in the research behind Resilient Ministry.

I can imagine the wry smiles from any pastor’s wife reading that statement. Worse, the possibility that the wry smiles might hide the pain that comes from a sense of being neglected.

The fourth theme of Resilient Ministry is marriage and family. The researchers identified five marriage and family related challenges for pastors.

  1. The ‘normal’ pressures of marriage and family life. Not unique to pastors and their families.
  2. Ministry as a lifestyle more than a job. There are several important questions for pastors to consider:
    1. How often do you feel like you are truly off the clock?
    2. Does your spouse serve as a ‘nuclear dumping ground’?
    3. What healthy boundaries protect your spouse and children from the emotional stressors of ministry?
    4. Do you assure your children that ministry challenges are not their fault?
  3. The conflicting loyalties of church and home. One of the research participants recalled being at a meeting where potential elders were being examined. One of the candidates was asked whether they were willing to make sacrifices with their family for the sake of the church; the pastor admitted to being unsure what the right answer was. Suggestions for dealing with the challenge of conflicting loyalties were,
    1. Recognising the strategic role of ministry spouses;
    2. Forming a ministry partnership with one’s spouse (‘there are no formulas for determining the role of a spouse in ministry’);
    3. Identify and manage the congregation’s expectations;
    4. Disappoint others;
    5. Managing dual expectations;
    6. Supporting spouses in spiritual development (remember that quote at the start of this post?)
  4. Abandonment from always being on the job: ‘A result of their being “on the job” all of the time is that the spouse and children of pastors often feel abandoned.’ This calls for such steps as investing intentional time, getting a marriage check-up or practicing active listening.
  5. The unmet needs of ministry spouses for confidants. The spouses of pastors need to be able to find safe people, but recognise that it is not possible to protect themselves 100%.

(For more on the book, take a look at the Resilient Ministry website)

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