22 July 2015

Their Choice; Their Responsiblity - Right?

Conversations around the difficulties of clergy family life seem to be happening more often. And while I'm excited that it's beginning to get more attention, where do you start? Are there underlying issues or assumptions that need to be addressed to truly understand the situation? Permit me to put before you some questions I've heard over the years:

"Who really cares how people in ministry are going; isn't it their choice, and therefore their responsibility to look after themselves?"

"They are the ones caring for us, we aren't paid to do their job so why should we?"
"Of all the people having a hard time, why should clergy families get any special attention?"
"Aren't there groups out there who look after them so we don't have to?"
"Doesn't the church just look after their own?"

But if we change the context a little, could these questions apply to other caring careers? No one forces nurses to do their work, but it is widely acknowledge how difficult it can be. No one assumes psychologists are able to indefinitely care for their clients without some sort of support. Paramedics tirelessly put their lives and well being at risk, but they can do so with the confidence and backing of a union and support network. Is the ministry career so isolated from other caring careers that the well-being and health of those who choose it classified as unimportant and dismissed?

The beauty and challenge of caring careers is their ability to affect all areas of your life. The work and care doesn't stop when you leave the office. Just as nurses, doctors, and teachers (to name a few) bring their work home, so clergy families are affected by what happens within their church community. Paid or not, called to ministry or following someone who is, the ministry lifestyle will affect those in it, often long term and in ways that are yet to be fully understood.

Isn't it time to acknowledge that individuals and families in church ministry need the same consistent support as other caring industries receive? Isn't it time to ask the difficult question - have they been left behind?

~ Rachel