A New Resource for Pastoral Families by Ivan Williams and Donna Jackson (North American Division)
The most recent research on Adventist ministerial families in the North American Division was conducted by Andrews University and Southern Adventist University, released in 2013.
The results, referenced in several of the articles in this resource, At Home: Conversation Starters, reveal that pastoral families in that territory have some significant vulnerabilities that warrant addressing.
They also recognise that these vulnerabilities are set in the midst of the digital revolution which is drastically changing the way our families learn, play, interact, and even worship.
Thus, they have created an original resource—At Home: Conversation Starters—to assist in strengthening, enriching, and restoring their families.
- Healthy Communication
- Surviving a Marriage Crisis
- Help a Suicidal Child
- Freedom from Pornography
Roller coasters! Some like them, some don’t. Are you an up-front-rider who thrills with the ups and downs and when the ride is over races back to the line to do it all over again? Or are you a white-knuckler—dreading the next jerk, turn, dip and drop while wishing you had never gotten yourself onto this stress rail in the first place? Read the full article.
Along with Jesus’ disciples, we cannot resist asking, “Master, how many times can my brother wrong me and I must forgive him? Would seven times be enough?” (Matthew 18:21, Phillips). For that matter, just how often should we forgive our family members and church members? We know Christ forgives our debts—but how do we forgive our debtors?
In many subtle ways, ministry experiences can unintentionally hurt the members of a ministerial family and, at times, inflict emotional wounds when priorities are out of order. Read the full article.
The statistics on depression force us to realize our need to become educated regarding recognition, prevention, and better management of this common illness so we can share hope beyond the pain and tears.
The reality of this great need in our church has become urgent, and we must continue to increase awareness by providing opportunities for conversation to help those who are hurting. Read the full article.
The most powerful tool in managing family finances comprises of living within your income. However, we live in a culture that has a difficult time doing this, and preachers are not immune from this. Even before they enter the parish, seminary students pile up loans. In fact, seminarians are responsible for a total of $1 trillion of the national student debt.[i] Of all types of debt, three areas stand out as the heaviest: mortgages, student loans, and credit cards.
If you are not living within your means, what would it take? Read the full article.
Nothing produces mixed feelings quite like moving. And whether you are disappointed or delighted at the thought of a new home, one fact remains constant: moving is stressful. Thankfully, the Bible overflows with encouragement for anyone who yearns for a place to call home. “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NKJV).
Moving is not unique to pastors, but many non-ministerial couples have a chance to discuss the idea of moving for several months. Then they decide together on where and when to move. Usually this is a shared choice that comes from within the relationship. It is still stressful at times but usually easier because the couple has made the choice together, to suit their needs and life plans.
But when a ministerial family is asked to move, they usually experience a different dynamic. Ministerial moves can be sudden, unexpected, and non-negotiable. The move often benefits one spouse while seriously disadvantaging the other. The understanding that a “call” is from God can make it more difficult for spouses of pastors to express concerns and powerful emotions. They might think that talking about negative feelings will be considered a lack of faith, and feel isolated with their difficult feelings, not having anyone with whom to talk or find comfort. Read the full article.
What would life be like if we could neither hear nor speak to other humans? Undoubtedly, communication and companionship are among God’s greatest gifts to His children. In the Garden of Eden He said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18, NKJV).
Nevertheless, it is entirely normal for families to sometimes find communication challenging. We can easily misunderstand or hurt each other without realising it.
Communication in a ministerial family has added complexities. Sometimes this is because the pastor, the pastor’s ministry, the pastor’s priorities, and God can get all mixed up. If a family member says something that might sound unsupportive or critical of the pastor or the ministry, they can feel as if they are also speaking against God. This can make family members feel guilty and prevent them from expressing their needs, hopes, and concerns. It is important for ministerial families to separate God’s hopes, desires, and wishes from those of their congregation or church employers. Read the full article.
Pastoral families are subjected to far more outside pressures than most Christian families. However, a number of pitfalls can be avoided if parents learn to listen. How many members are quick to come to the pastor or his or her spouse to report on their children’s behaviour is amazing to me. Yet, those same parents do not stop to listen to what their own children say. Pastoral parents must remember, people may mean well but they do not always do well. Members will tolerate the same behaviour in their children, which they feel the pastor’s children should not do. Read the full article.
Most marriages will experience a crisis at some point, and some marriages will experience several major crises during the course of the relationship. Crises are part of our “post-fall” experience. There is never a “good” time to experience a crisis – and they usually arrive unexpectedly and uninvited. Some crises will come from the interaction in the relationship, and others will come from outside the relationship, such as illness, caring for elderly relatives, natural disasters, economic recessions, etc. But they can all load extra pressure onto a relationship already struggling and exhausted.
Any crisis in our lives, including a crisis in a ministry marriage, can be the start of a journey into deeper closeness, especially if the couple can talk about how they are feeling, listen to each other’s experiences, grow in their understanding of themselves and each other, and show loving empathy to each other. When our relationships are broken and hurting, we can give the pieces to God and work with Him to create something new and beautiful. Through His loving power we can be “made perfect in our weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, NIV). Read the full article.
There are few situations as devastating for a parent as discovering that your child is experiencing a degree of pain so seemingly unbearable that suicide appears to offer relief. It is unrealistic to believe that the ministry profession inoculates the pastoralfamily from the emotional brokenness that touches all of humanity. When a ministry parent carries misinformation, misunderstanding, and/or shame about their child’s emotional crisis, they may inadvertently miss the subtle and overt signs that their child’s depression has crossed into the territory of suicidal ideation and suicide planning. Your commitment to become informed and act upon the learned information may save their life. Read the full article.
Freedom from pornography
Pastoral families are constantly on display. We live in the proverbial “fish bowl” and there is very little we can do to avoid it. Couple that with pastoral ministry being a high pressure profession, many pastors can fall into unhealthy escapes. Quickly becoming the most common escape is pornography.
It is devastating when pastoral families are in crisis because of the pastor’s pornography use. Not only is there the internal fallout likely due to the lying and hiding of the illicit behaviour from other family members (including the spouse), but there’s the pressure to keep the problem hidden for fear of losing a job. Such a scenario creates a rather intense and highly pressurised environment that destabilises the health and well-being of the ministry family while stifling the ministry’s effectiveness. Read the full article.
For more information, please visit North American Ministerial Families resouce page.