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.
2. Let them be themselves, following their own interests, hobbies and careers outside the church.
3. Let them slip up and make mistakes, just like everyone else.
4.Be welcoming of them as individuals, not just because of their 'status' in the church.
5. Give them space for need family time and establishing home boundaries that care for them.
6. Acknowledge the difficulties of following a calling to ministry - moving to another town or state is a big change!
7. Let the kids be just as cheeky and misbehaved like any other child finding their way.
8. Bring the clergy spouse a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning and ask how they are going.
9. Offer to babysit so clergy parents are able to spend some time together.
10. Surprise them with providing for a physical need they can't afford on a minister's salary.
11. If they're new to the area, suggest a good restaurant, make a hot meal or offer to show them around the town.
12. Pray for them as individuals, really get to know them, rather than know about them.
13. If you have a criticism, don't discuss it publicly. Speak privately to the right person at the right time.
14. Help them have family outings without interruption by having an emergency clergy contact during their days off or using email to leave a message if needed.
15. Let the clergy spouses choose their role in the church, just as each individual has specific gifts and interests, so do clergy spouses.

For those who know clergy families (either in active ministry now or have retired), some suggestions in the following articles may be helpful.
How Churches Can Care For Their Pastor's Children: 7 practical ways churches can offer grace and kindness not only to the pastor's children but also to their spouses who are trying to be a single parent every Sunday while ministering to those who wish to speak to them about personal matters.

Ten Ways To Help Your Pastor, Your Church and Yourself: While this focuses on the pastor, the recommendations by association will significantly help their family also. Many studies on clergy spouses and clergy children suggest they hate hearing their clergy parent/spouse criticised or humiliated by unkind words from people within churches.

What Pastor's Wives Wished Their Husbands and Churches Knew About Them: An Australian article by Rowland Croucher gave clergy spouses a chance to express what they really wanted to tell people but found they couldn't. A big eye-opener!

20 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor: I love this one! Full of lovely, sneaky surprises that help the pastor and their spouse!

What other suggestions would you make?
~ Rachel

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