19 December 2014

Surviving Christmas (S.T.O.P)

Christmas is frantic for everyone, particularly for clergy families. With all the frantic activities sandwiched in between Christmas carols, nativity set ups, Christmas fetes, and church services, there is little time to stop and see how you're doing or maybe even taking some time to enjoy the activities you've arranged.

This great little S.T.O.P exercise takes no more than a minute out of your day and you can do anywhere - without anyone even noticing! If you can fit this in once a day for 1 minute (or more if that helps), you might just be on your way to holiday sanity.

12 December 2014

Clergy Families Need Your Help

For the past 6 months we have been working our way through hundreds of studies, stories and journal articles about clergy families. We have read about the joys and blessings of ministry, the wonderful communities of accepting church members, and the wonders of Christ working in people's lives. And I would like to say these are the most common stories we come across.

4 December 2014

The Clergy Family Christmas

As the Christmas season is upon us, responses to the study have slowed down. Not surprising, with the busy lives that clergy families lead at this time of the year, but I wanted to take a moment to consider the traditional Clergy Family Christmas - with all the trimmings.

I found a great article written by the Herald Sun "After Church: How Clergy Spend Christmas". It talks about the hospital visits, the shared meals with church members, the many extra services to mark the important dates on the calendar, and the fine balance between family and church expectations at this particularly important time of the year.

25 November 2014

Finances & Ministry: A Delicate Matter.

The more studies we read, the more the topic of finances pops up. While many studies tend to focus on the social and mental health of clergy families, clergy workers and clergy spouses are consistently mentioning the concerns they have with how little ministry actually pays. Now that's not to say that clergy families are demanding more income. In fact, they are often very hesitant to mention it as they are aware that ministry is entered as a God-given calling and asking for a higher salary feels contrary to following that calling.

14 November 2014

7 Things PKs Need From Their Pastor Parent

This blog is based on a great article written by Barnabas Piper. While he assumes that the dad in a clergy family is the pastor, not all clergy families are made this way. After a bit of a read, I've added my thoughts to his '7 Things PKs Need From Their Dad' article to make an Australian Top 7. For the original article, click here.

  1. A Parent, Not A Pastor: Bringing your work home is common for any people-based career. It's hard to leave them (and their problems) behind. By the time pastors come home, they have been problem-solving, listening, and doing enough admin to sink a battleship. All you want to do is get home and tune out for a while. And sometimes that's absolutely fine! But home also has your eager kids (and spouse!) waiting to share their lives with you; to play ball, show you their paintings, ask for your help with homework, or play a game. A simple argument but well put by Barnabas: 'Leave work and be present for your kids. Your children will spit on your pastoring if they miss out on your fathering (parenting).'

7 November 2014

The Marriage and the Ministry

As I have been assisting Rachel with research into what affects the life and health of clergy families, I have read many articles. Some very boring, some overly optimistic (in a terrified sort of way), some bitter, and some filled with hurt. Then there are some that are just all class. I’ve chosen to feature the article by Dr Paddy Ducklow about marriage and ministry depression because it has the most thorough understanding of clergy marriages and the way ministry can affect them that I’ve seen yet.

I don’t want to spend time re-writing his article, so here are a few quotes and my thoughts on some of the topics it covers:
  1. “Spiritualised Adultery” Yep, it got my attention as well. There is a trend among many spouses of ministers that they feel there is ‘another woman’ who is not a person at all, but the church their spouses spend hours listening to, caring for, and thinking of. Ducklow summarises it as “the pastor loving his work more than the domestic life” and discusses why this may happen and what the effects might be.

30 October 2014

A Big Thank-you!

We have been humbled by the response and enthusiasm that has been coming from people about this study. The clergy spouses and children who are willingly sharing their stories, good and hard, as well as registering to help with future research has really encouraged us to keep going and get these results out there so Australia can know what is going on! Thank you to all the universities, church denominations, individuals and Christian groups who are sharing this study, please keep it up!

While we haven't started looking at results, we are very close to our minimum of 100 responses to ensure anonymity for participants. For more on anonymity, have a look at this blog :)

The next entry here is from my very talented research assistant! Trained in science, theology and with a first-hand experience caring for clergy families - as well as being a clergy worker.

23 October 2014

Why Clergy Family Research Matters (Guest Writer)

I was privileged to receive this note from a retired Australian clergy worker who wanted to share their thoughts on our clergy family research project. With their permission I have included it below. Some great insights and encouraging words.

"A quick note to all those who have passed on the survey for the spouses and adult children of clergy workers, but have not themselves (as clergy with families) had a chance to share their own experiences. As a former clergy worker I have seen many clergy family dynamics, from burnt-out senior clergy at ‘close of business’ Christmas Day, to young families struggling with unhelpful church/family boundary pressures. As I think about these issues, what concerns me the most is that whilst clergy may have fellow workers or regional oversight, there seems to be a serious lack of support for their families.

19 October 2014

A Study In Context

This study is important, I would argue crucial, to better understanding Australian clergy families and how they experience ministry. This particular study has been designed with the help of past international research, talking to individual clergy spouses and children, and several experts in survey design, counselling, ethics, and law. I can now finally cap the number of question drafts at 40 over 4 months of extensive reading and discussions with other professionals.

16 October 2014

Research Project Launched!

**Update: The study has now closed to participants but the results will be available early 2017)**
We are excited to announce that our Clergy Family Research Project is now available online! Officially approved by the Christian Research Association (CRA) Ethics Committee, it is available to any clergy spouse or adult child from any Australian church denomination!

9 October 2014

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper (Book Review)

First of all, I want to say thank you to Barnabas Piper for courageously writing such a difficult book! It is not an easy topic for anyone (let alone the child of a famous minister) to talk about this subject publicly, in the hope that someone will listen and it will make a difference. Without people like him, this topic would go unnoticed and continue causing potentially irreversible damage to individuals and relationships.

3 October 2014

Clergy Kids: Give Them A Break

The quotes in this piece are from a book-chapter called 'Clergy Kids: Give Them A Break' by Catherine Hickem, a Christian psychotherapist, pastor's kid, and clergy wife. I was struck not only by the honesty of her writing but also the empowering words she speaks to clergy parents to care for their children while they too navigate the complexities of ministry. The original article is here if you would like to read it.
Clergy kids have a unique perspective on life. "They are fortunate to be exposed to some of the greatest riches under heaven as well as the deepest pain on earth...they often find themselves caught in a vise between their parents' expectations and those of the church members. As a result, clergy kids are set up to fail."

30 September 2014

Clergy Families - An Australian Psychologist's Perspective

I was speaking to an Australian psychologist who has 30 years experience caring for clergy and their families. They had some very honest insights which they have kindly put in this article. It is insights like this that encourage open discussion about the hard seasons or experiences of ministry. If you would like to share your story anonymously (encouraging or hard), please contact me at clergyfamiliesau@gmail.com.
What’s it like?
  • To have the phone ring and your heart starts racing
  • To be asked to do something, yet again, and you feel like screaming
  • To have to give an encouraging talk and have no ideas
  • To give your best effort talk and get criticised

26 September 2014

15 Ways Churches Can Support Us (Suggestions From Clergy Families)

Churches have a huge range of influence, skills and ability to care for and love clergy families, helping them to thrive under the pressures of ministry rather than crumble and become disheartened. So how can churches help? Of the research and articles I've read, one major request comes up over and over:

Let them be human.

It seems simple enough but in light of biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 4:13 which talks about 'keeping your family in order' and people naturally seeking an example in their church leaders, it can be difficult to remember that clergy families struggle in everyday life just as much as the person sitting next to them in the pews.

So what does this look like? Here are 15 suggestions from clergy families themselves:

1. Encourage them: Clergy families need to know that their efforts are noticed and making a difference. A note, a friendly email, a thank-you, even a hug is more loving and supportive than you can imagine.

20 September 2014

The Fishbowl Experience

I've been reading Barnabas Piper's new book lately and came across a great section, in fact an entire chapter devoted to the topic, which seems to match a lot of other papers that I'd been reading about the 'Fishbowl Experience':

"I can remember my mother telling me at a very young age that we were always being watched. That still stays with me until today." (Barnabas Piper's book 'The Pastor's Kid'). The basic concept behind the 'Fishbowl Experience' is much like its name; you can be watched from all angles.

13 September 2014

7 Benefits of Being in a Clergy Family

The purpose of Catalyst is to tell both sides of the story. While there are many negative elements (as we've seen), I wanted to also send a thank you to Anton, an adult clergy kid (PK) who wrote down a list of the great opportunities that come with being in a clergy family. If you'd like to see the full article, have a peek here.
  1. You are exposed to the bible and Christianity frequently (this includes being able to have access to a trained minister whenever you have a question!) 
  2. You end up knowing more about the bible, doctrine and ethics than many other people in the church. 

10 September 2014

'Why I'm Not A Pastor's Wife' and Other Humourous Tales.

I've been reading lots of research filled with sad statistics and personal stories, but they got me thinking that sometimes the most poignant messages speak through humour. So I googled 'Christian Humour Pastor's Wives', and while it came up with a few funny tidbits, a number of book titles surprised me, such as: 'Why I'm not a Pastor's Wife', '10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me' or (my favourite) 'Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots'.
It surprised me how few Christian comics relating to pastor's families came up. Maybe it shouldn't? While hunting, I found a great article by Embracing Grace entitled: "20 Things Every Pastor's Wife Wants You To Know About Her." A fabulous list, including some of the following:
  • She is not perfect…in any way.
  • Because she needs to minister to many ladies and keep many confidences, it may seem at times like she doesn’t want to be as close to you as you want to be to her. But like you, she desires to have close friends.
  • She often changes plans and gives up personal time with her husband because one of the flock needs the pastor. 

26 August 2014

First Thoughts on The Pastor's Kid - By Barnabas Piper

It's here! I managed to get my hands on a copy of Barabas Piper's new book 'The Pastor's Kid' and so far it's excellent! He's written in such a way that it is very approachable, easy to read and feels very relevant to read. He uses many personal examples in his writing but is very clear from the start that he isn't out to 'expose' his family and its flaws. I'm quite relieved personally, the point is not to bring down a prominent Christian theologian, but to delve into issues that all pastor's kids (PKs) face. He is very thorough too!

20 August 2014

Why Do Clergy Workers Burn Out?

I was sent an article written by an Australian researcher Grant Bickerton regarding the stresses that Australian clergy workers face. Here's a quote I found from an article in The Briefing (an online magazine run by Matthias Media) I thought worth sharing.

When stress at work becomes chronic, it results in burnout. Burnout is defined as a combination of three symptoms:
  • Emotional exhaustion: “All my energy has been spent and I just can’t give any more.”
  • Increasing depersonalization or cynicism about work: “Ministry would be great if it weren’t for parishioners.”
  • Low personal accomplishment: “I’m not having any real impact here anyway”
According to their research, nearly HALF of 4,400 survey participants were on the edge of burnout! They stated:

16 August 2014

Can You Have A Dream Clergy House?!

I've been looking at the idea of home recently, particularly the difference between a 'standard' home and a 'clergy' home. I came across two definitions, interestingly from two contrasting sources. The fact that it was difficult to find a reliable source that defined clergy homes was interesting to me...
Home - The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household (Oxford).
Clergy Home - The residence, or former residence, of one or more priests or ministers of religion (Wikipedia).

12 August 2014

"Moving Is Hard"

I've been reading up recently on the effects of moving on clergy families. Like with anyone else, moving home, school, and community can be very distressing. A study I read recently said on average the study participants moved every 2.5 years!!

You move away from the house you know, the church you know, the friends and family nearby and into a whole new environment. Some research has looked at how moving affects clergy spouses and they often feel extremely lonely and take on the difficult task of working out where the best grocery store is, which local school is the best for their children and what take away food is cheap and reliable. They often also lose their jobs when they move and move so frequently that they are unable to maintain a stable job.

5 August 2014

3 Major Clergy Family Experiences

I've read over 100 papers now and have noticed that there are 3 significant themes that continually come up for clergy families. As you may already know, there are a lot of statistics on how ministry affects clergy workers. I read a fantastic paper the other day discovered that very few ministers enjoy doing admin and also find that admin takes up most of their working time. No surprises there! I'm still hunting for Australian-based research but I thought it worthwhile putting up the 3 major themes that are coming up from international papers (America and Europe mostly).

28 July 2014

6 Ways To Care For Pastor's Spouses

I found this refreshingly helpful article that I thought was worth sharing! While it is based on caring for the wives of pastors, I think gender does not necessarily mean these points become invalid. It also helpfully gives churches a practical insight and suggestions to care for them in sensitive ways. Written by Ryan Huguley, I've included the direct link for more details on his 6 top tips:
  1. Remember that Sundays are a work day 
  2. Pray for them personally 
  3. Have realistic expectations of them as a clergy spouse 
  4. Encourage them 
  5. Go talk to them after the service 
  6. Don't forget they have normal kids!
"Sadly this isn't true for everyone. Regardless of who you are, or where you go to church, we can all do a better job of loving and serving the women married to those God has called to lead our churches. So how will you more intentionally serve your pastor's wife this Sunday?"

Is there anything you would add to this list?

Clergy Families & The Bible

Most Christian circles agree that church and life practises needs to be based on biblical teachings. While this applies to Christians in general, there is very little guidance that comes specifically for clergy families. I've come across 3 key verses in the bible that researchers state are influential to how churches and individuals view the role and presence of a clergy family. I thought it might be worthwhile exploring these verses a bit further and opening them up for discussion.

24 July 2014

Australian Clergy Wives' Resources

Bit of a noteworthy day today in my research; I found some Australian resources for clergy wives! I thought they'd be worth sharing with you:
  1. The Lutheran church of Queensland is running a Clergy Spouse Retreat in September! Details at https://register.eventarc.com/24624/2014-pastors-wives-retreat

23 July 2014

Clergy Family Project Details

Firstly, thank you to everyone who is participating and showing an interest in this research! With your help, we can gain a better understanding of ministry and clergy families. I've written a few posts on this project but thought it might be worth having all the important ones in the same place for easy reference.

20 July 2014

All 16 Church Denominations

I'm spending the next few weeks leading up to the survey being available contacting church denominations to see if they can help me spread the word about this research. It's been quite the eye opener for me personally finding out the names of different church bodies, specifically those who can marry and have children. So far I've contacted:

7th Day Adventists

16 July 2014

Within In A Crowd, Without Losing Your Voice.

Few people who give their personal story also give their personal name. They often write in fear that their experiences of ministry will be read by church communities and jeopardise their parent and/or spouse's job. Stories I'm reading include: "a person at my dad's church" or "this one lady at my husband's church...". The need for this anonymity is completely understandable, very saddening, and quite unique.

I was speaking to someone the other day about the complexities of the clergy household and job and they were quite surprised at the concept of a 'family package': you get the minister, you get the family. This began a half hour discussion trying to find a similar situation in the secular work environment. Long story short, we couldn't find one.

14 July 2014

Does the Clergy Work/Life Balance Exist?

I have been researching burnout and the desire for a work/life balance amongst clergy workers recently and came across this great study. The results were, for me, very eye-opening. A researcher in America (Koehler) asked the spouses of paid clergy workers to keep a log book of their husband or wives' paid ministry hours. The results were quite startling:

11 July 2014

"The Problem With Being A Preacher's Kid Is That You Can't Be A Normal Christian" (Kari)

I have found many stories in my research so far, many are incredibly honest, and beautifully written. This particular article really caught my attention. This extremely honest piece is written by an American preacher's kid named Kari Morris. Her personal story gels with many I've read but few have been this straight-forward and heart-achingly written. I've included an excerpt here relating to church being different for clergy kids. The full article is well worth a read so I've included the link (original blog contains explicit language).

The Problem With Bein' A Preacher's Kid 
-a monologue by Kari Morris-

The problem with being a preacher’s kid is that you can’t be a normal Christian.

10 July 2014

Clergy Appreciation Month

In my research travels I've come across many interesting concepts that other countries are using to care for clergy and their families. This one in particular caught my eye as quite unusual...the first I heard of it I had visions of elaborately staged events with formal wear and glittering trophies..."and the most sermons preached in 2014 goes to....".

8 July 2014

Seven Things Pastor's Wives Wish They Had Been Told

In my hunt for articles and research, I was sent the link to this great article by Thom S. Rainer, an American writer who writes for Christian Post. He titled this article: Seven Things Pastors' Wives Wish They Had Been Told Before They Became Pastors' Wivesand it's fabulous! The delicacy and depth he goes into with the interviews is inspiring. I'm so grateful there are writers out there really listening to what these people have to say. He goes on to talk about seven common experiences which I thought were worth sharing (read the full paper here.):
  1.  I wish someone had told me just to be myself (it's surprising and sad how often these women feel they aren't able to be who they are or say what they think or believe). 

2 July 2014

How Many Clergy Families Are There In Australia?

I got to thinking 'how many pastor's families there are in Australia?' There is little, collective data available to the public, short of National Surveys by the ABS, So using the methodology of an article I read recently (Preacher's Kids are the Worst: Results of a survey among Dutch clergy children) and relevant Australian Beauru of Statistics data from 1994 (click here to see the article), I've done some rough maths (as a snapshot in time):

As 1994 was the most recent data I could find relating to clergy I have used their details. In 1994, there were a total of 12,283 ministers of Christian religion. Subtracting religions that have celibate ministers (Catholic and Orthodox) that leaves us with 10,118.

27 June 2014

Aussie Clergy Family Statistics

I'm sad to say there is an extreme lack of statistics or information (apart from anecdotal stories) relating to how ministry affects pastors' spouses and children. A group in Australia called John Mark Ministries have preliminary information on pastors and their spouses. They state that 40% of Australian pastors experience burnout and 47% of their spouses experience burnout too - higher in their partners! But I'm into week 4 of research and cannot find information on their children at all.

That's where I need your help. I believe churches in Australia want, and ought, to know how their clergy families are going in ministry. There should be current information out there about this group and I want to use all the resources possible to turn these individual stories into part of a bigger picture, one that helps us learn the truth (good and bad) and make any changes that might need to be made so these people are loved, nurtured and looked after while they do ministry across Australia. Contact me at clergyfamiliesau@gmail.com.

19 June 2014

FAQ: Your Research

Frequently Asked Questions
Are you doing this research on behalf of another organisation?
No. I am conducting this as an independent researcher, with measures in place to ensure I maintain the national standards of ethical research, as well as speaking to various ethical committees and universities who will be assisting me in creating a thorough, ethically-sound survey. I have a Degree in Health Promotion & Diploma in Theology.

18 June 2014

Clergy Parents: Regrets & Successes In Raising PKs

Clergy family research efforts are quite significant in the US. This great research comes from the Barna Group in 2013 relating to clergy parent regrets and perceived successes in raising their children during their ministry. The article explores areas of faith, ministry and parenting but these statistics really caught my attention as so little is known about this topic in Australia:
Of the clergy who participated:

14 June 2014

Clergy Wives: "Oh My, That's A Tall Order"

Matt found this great little skit from Thom S. Rainer, which I just had to share here! Humour is so often the best way to share a truth too :) "One pastor’s wife told us that her role was like getting a job for which she never applied. She wrote this funny script in her response":

Husband: “Honey, I got you a job today.”

Wife: “Really? Okay, but I wasn’t looking for a job. I have plenty to do here running the household and raising the kids. That was our plan, right? Me stay home with the kids so you could fully dedicate yourself to the ministry.”

13 June 2014

What's a PK anyway?

There are so many abbreviations around I have trouble keeping up! But despite the continents apart, the different nationalities and cultural differences, the sentence "I'm a PK" seems to be understood.

PK = Pastor's Kid/Clergy Kid/Preacher's Kid/Minister's Kid

What's underlying are many similarities, despite denomination or institution. I want to share with you some of the things PKs have written about or shared with us to give you an idea of the realities of the life that comes with the title.

PKs are interlinked with similarities. They know that weekends are often the busiest time of the week. They understand that religion isn't very popular anymore and at the same time, in the church environment, everyone is looking not only at your mum and dad for guidance, help and biblical insight, but also at YOU, watching with a close eye to see what you do, where you go, who you hang out with, how 'Christian' you are in everyday life.