28 July 2014

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.

He (an overseer) must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) - 1 Timothy 3: 4-5

This particular verse pops up a lot in research and church denominational papers as the only biblical verse relating to a clergy family. The premise is if a paid clergy worker cannot manage this own family then why put him in charge of God's church? The argument is by extension that the family becomes a resume (if you will) that reflects how effective a minister is.
Understandably, this can put significant pressure not only on clergy themselves, but also their spouse and children as role models to other families. The find they must live within the expectations of a particular church and their particular, perhaps unconscious, interpretation of this verse.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will - Romans 12:2

While this verse depicts the Christian example of godly living, it has also been taken as the standard to which clergy families are measured against. A particular paper I read recently suggested that as people look to their leaders for guidance, they also in turn look to the leader's family to model perfection. A tall order for any family!

Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? - 1 Corinthians 9:5

This final verse is used by a researcher as an example of how little is said in the bible about a leader's family. To quote his paper: "The only thing mentioned in scripture about minister's wives is simply the declaration that pastors may marry....St Paul discusses the right to marry and to take their wives along with them on their missionary endeavours." (The Problems Facing A Pastor's Wife Today, Ronald V. Ash). A simple but effective statement.

These three verses are ones I've come across which provide little guidance but appear to have the biggest impact on church beliefs and cultures relating to the clergy family. My hope is to prompt a conversation here about these verses, and add to them the insights of others.

Two final thoughts:
 - "God created the family before he created the church."
 - "It is significant that there is no qualifications or regulations set up for the pastor's wife. This indicates that essentially, she is a private person and not directly involved in the public ministry of her husband."

Food for thought.