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.
Sadly, nearly every positive story also comes with a difficult one, even experiences that no one should go through. Studies about severe burnout, 'the walking wounded', depression, anxiety, and poverty. Personal stories explaining how difficult life in a ministry household can be, and how they've been affected by suicide, identity crisis, personality disorders, divorce, sexual assault, and domestic violence. These are hard experiences to read about but harder still to go through.
I am immensely grateful for the individuals who have seen the sadness and despair of these situations and offered their support to clergy families. Individuals who offer cups of tea on Sundays, or a cooked meal. For organisations like John Mark Ministries and Radiant Pastors Wives who provide resources and support for clergy and their spouses. And for some church denominations who run camps or catch ups for clergy kids.
We began our ACF website in the hope of pulling these resources together in one place for clergy family members to go to and find support and community.
We hope and pray that one day clergy families will be part of a bigger support and resource network. That bible colleges will incorporate training on personal boundaries, administration, avoiding burnout and self-care - not just for clergy workers but also their spouses. We hope that all clergy kids will be part of a bigger network, with counsellors, peer group,s and activities to help ease the difficulties of ministry life. And we pray that churches will remember that clergy families are people too. They make mistakes, they need encouragement, and they are working hard to meet their churches needs.
It is not an easy subject to talk about - the burnout and collapse of people in caring professions never is. But they need your help, support, and encouragement. They need a shoulder to cry on, a friend to confide in, and a community that allows them to be themselves.
support page for clergy families to find and use.
We have several ideas going for 2015, but many need the help of others who are interested in supporting these families. If you are interested in knowing more, please email us.
~ Matt & Rachel