26 October 2017

4 Surprising Findings About Clergy Family Life

It’s funny how a few simple conversations can be the start of something bigger. This research wouldn’t have started, or been completed, if it wasn’t for two incredible women God introduced me to through our chats with clergy families. The first was a hard-working ministry wife with 5 kids. Exhausted by the need for another ministry move, she explained how much she enjoyed ministry, but was tired of how little people understood the financial, spiritual, and personal costs that often came with it. I’m so grateful for this conversation; she inspired us to learn more about clergy family life. The second woman was an 18-year-old clergy child (PK). When our survey first opened she wasn’t old enough to participate; but she waited until the final month, when she'd turned 18, and told us about her experience. I won’t soften it, she was distraught. She told us how hard it was as a PK to be misunderstood and unseen as the person she was because of the expectations of others. As difficult as it was for her to tell us about her life, I’m continually inspired by her bravery to speak up, even though she was certain no one would want to hear about it.

20 October 2017

4 Unexpected Discoveries About Clergy Family Life In Australia

Doing Ministry Together has been amazing to be part of and has given me many opportunities to better understand the intricacies of clergy family life. Four points struck me the most.
Consistency of Experience
I was amazed that the experiences of clergy spouses and children were so similar across denominations and generations. The fact that they are so similar regardless of these factors impressed on me just how important this research is to help churches all around Australia to understand how ministry does affect clergy families. 

Home Life Respected
I was surprised just how important appropriate separation of family and ministry spaces was to clergy spouses and children. From the reading we had done, I expected far more of a priority to be placed upon the condition of the housing supplied. Instead, we see families most commonly wanting to have more control over the ministry use of their home. I was shocked to discover that those who did not want things to change actually had a separation between ministry and family life. This sent a clear message to me: that separation of ministry from home life was their highest priority - and it can be achieved.
I’d be very interested in finding out more about how this separation was managed from those who said they were happy with their home use.

10 October 2017

Inside Out & Clergy Families (Review)

What if your emotions were really people? What sort of conversations would they have when it came to a new situation? And what if, like many clergy families, moving house was a difficult change you had to deal with? Well, in Inside Out, this is exactly what 11-year-old Riley has to tackle as her family moves to a new city for her dad’s work. She leaves so much that is familiar and we get a front row seat to the way her mind grapples with this. 

The characters representing Riley emotions are comical and honest: Anger is short-tempered and fiery, Happiness is unstoppably optimistic, and Sadness mopes in true Eeyore fashion. They negotiate for ultimate influence over Riley’s experiences and memories, and are challenged by moving house and community to decide who will be in charge of the response Riley has at different times – or might it be more than one of them at once?

9 October 2017

Practical Ministry & Moving Tool (App Review)

When we first began Australian Clergy Families, we thought it would be a great idea to create an adaptable app that was easy for people in ministry to use which could quickly tell you where the nearest doctor, takeaway, petrol station or school was without having to do a lot of leg work on top of moving or driving to other towns for meetings and events.

Turns out, it already exists! You might already have it, but we love this great, free app and have found it incredibly nifty when visiting a new area, just after moving - or if you're like me and tend to get lost on new roads!

Size: 38.7 MB
Cost: Free
Available On: Android & iDevices

Incredibly easy to use and download, we ran a few tests to see how if it was up for the Australian terrain challenge! We found the nearest petrol station to Coober Pedy, a fish and chip shop in Adelaide, and the closest hospital in Launceston. They even include opening hours, star ratings, website details, and show you where it is on the map.

With the busy end-of-year season approaching, which always includes more travel than normal, we hope this app gives you a friendly helping hand. If you've used it before in your ministry travels, we'd love to know what you think of it!

~ Rachel

www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- a community of support & encouragement for those in ministry

15 September 2017

What's Next: Upcoming Series!

Since launching our paper, Doing Ministry Together, earlier this month we've been asked a few times what our next project will be! Well, we're excited to share with you that starting in early 2018, the second part of our research project will be available here through Catalyst!

Through a series of articles, we'll be exploring key topics from our paper, including the impact particular issues may have on clergy families, what field experts and other research has to say, and some helpful ideas and applications.

This series will include subjects like:

Switching Off: The importance of privacy in the
clergy family home
Support & Being Supported: How clergy families
care for each other
Conflicting Family Beliefs: The value of being
on the same page
Understanding Being Misunderstood: How to
address expectations and misunderstandings
Church Life: Embracing your unique place in
God's church

We're looking forward to sharing these topics, and others, with you in 2018. In the meantime, we're working on some fun new projects (details soon!) and can't wait to celebrate Ministry Appreciation Week with you in October!

We're so grateful and humbled to hear that this research is already helping individuals, professionals, and organisations find new ways to care for the clergy families that they know and support. Our hope and prayer is that this will inspire further research and many conversations over the coming months! If we can help you in any way, through prayer, conversation or resources, please let us know.

We know there's so much more to understand about clergy family life in here Australia, and can't wait to keep learning with you! #ACFlife

To read our latest research (Doing Ministry Together: Life in an Australian clergy family), click here.

Australian Clergy Families is a community of support and encouragement

4 September 2017

New Australian Research Now Available!

We're very excited to announce that our latest research paper, Doing Ministry Together: Life in an Australian Clergy Family, is now available!! You can download a free copy or request one of these free printed versions (http://www.australianclergyfamilies.com/publications).

Thank you to everyone who supported this project over the last few years. We couldn't have done it without you!

Blessings, Matt & Rachel Stevens 


Australian Clergy Families is a community of support and encouragement for those in ministry.

1 August 2017

Melbourne Research Launch Event!


 We're excited to announce our upcoming Research Launch Event!

While we'll be publishing our paper online on our website, we're also holding a launch event here in Melbourne where we will share the results of our findings, enjoy a great afternoon tea and conversation about ministry and clergy family life.

We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this project, particularly the Christian Research Association Ethics Committee and those who generously contributed their expertise and experience throughout the project.

With growing interest in clergy family life and well-being here in Australia, we wanted to take the opportunity to share these results with personally and tell you a bit about the people behind the study as well as their overall experience of ministry and clergy family life. We would love if you could join us on Saturday 2nd September at St Columb's Anglican Church, Hawthorn.

There will be an opportunity to ask us any questions you might have and take home your own copy of the official paper.

This Launch Event is part of our ongoing #ACFlife conversation. We will continue to work towards future groups and events and would love to speak with you or your organisation if you're interested receiving the results of our study.

We're looking forward to seeing you on Saturday 2nd September! A warm thank you to St Columb's Anglican Church, Hawthorn for hosting us for this event. Free tickets are already being reserved, so make sure you get yours through EventBrite at www.doingministrytogether.eventbrite.com.au.

If you would like more details about this project or to meet the people behind our study, please visit our Publications page (www.australianclergyfamilies.com/publications).

~ Matt & Rachel Stevens

www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- a community of support & encouragement for those in ministry

17 July 2017

#ACFlife begins at home

We've officially launched #ACFlife today! With their permission as of today, we'll be sharing through our website and Facebook page a few stories and insights each week from participants in our study based around three areas of life:

Our hope is each one will give you great insights into clergy family life experiences and encourage some interesting conversations! Each week here on Catalyst we'll do a roundup of the week's shared experiences.

We know there are many difficulties with openly sharing, discussing and understanding clergy family life here in Australia. We hope and pray that through #ACFlife we can start a bigger conversation that will encourage churches, clergy, and ministry families to better understand each other and enjoy ministry life.

www.australianclergyfamilies.com/publicationsIf you'd like to join the conversation, use the hashtag #ACFlife to share your thoughts and opinions. If there's a topic you're particularly interested in, share one of our subject images. #ACFlife begins with some insights below about how the clergy family home is used for ministry. We can't wait to keep chatting with you about this vital topic.
~ Rachel & Matt Stevens
www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- a community of support & encouragement

6 July 2017

#ACFlife Coming Soon! (Important Study Announcement)

There's 281 people we'd like you to meet! They are a wonderful group of clergy family members from around Australia that we've had the privilege of getting to know over the past few years. While participation in our study was anonymous, we've come to understand and appreciate each person's unique insight and experiences - particularly their way of describing clergy family life. Sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking, and always moving. Through them we've learned so much about clergy family life here in Australia.

And now, we'd like to introduce them to you! In the weeks leading up to the release our Australian-first paper, we'll be sharing some of the highlights, hardships and everyday moments of life in a ministry family as told by the participants in our study.

Starting Monday 17th July, you'll start seeing the following hashtag around...

15 June 2017

Ministry Moments (Resource Review)

Ministry is filled with many wonderful moments and highlights! Some are easy to recognise: the big ones like achieving a long term church goal or finishing the Christmas season, while others are more difficult to measure, like making it through a hard day in one piece or receiving an encouraging note from a church member who was grateful for your hospitality. It's often these highlights that stay with you and can be encouraging when times in ministry are harder.

While we regularly read and review a wide range of written resources, I was inspired after reading the recent research about self-care and flourishing in ministry to try this practical, low-fuss ministry tool. This resource is a great way to celebrate the great moment in your ministry journey and encourage you in the harder times.

25 May 2017

It's Okay, Pobody's Nerfect (Clergy Families & 1 Tim 3)

I've spent a lot of time reflecting on clergy families and 1 Timothy 3! While there are few biblical passages relating to clergy families, these verses can provide some helpful guidelines. If taken too far however, it seems to become a stick to admonish clergy and their families with who are seen to 'fall below the line', particularly the following verses:
He 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 Tim 3:4-5 (NIV)
I was reminded by The Pastor's Family that sometimes churches and even its leadership, can believe that being this model family is a prerequisite for ministry that should require no effort to maintain or become. Most families I know would probably disagree with that idea!

9 May 2017

Get Things Done While Caring For Yourself (Life Balance App Review)

Ever heard of the Pomodoro Method for productivity? Neither had we - until a friend recommended an app that they thought might help clergy and their families juggle their busy lives. The Pomodoro Method aims to help you to be more productive throughout your day by focusing on one task at a time with brief, scheduled self-care breaks in between each task; not easy to do when you have a million things to do at home, church, or work! While there are lots of apps out there for productivity, from a health promotion perspective, the Pomodoro Method has a lot going for it.

24 April 2017

A Clergy Husband's Survival Guide (Book Review)

Finding resources for clergy husbands is actually quite difficult. While there is a generous supply of personal stories online, this book is a rare find, even though a vast majority of Australian denominations now accept female clergy in some form or another.

A Clergy Husband’s Survival Guide fits all our good reads criteria! It’s affordable, recent, easy to read, short, and friendly.

20 April 2017

Clergy Family Research: Our Two Part Series

**UPDATE** The official paper is now released & available online
 I recently attended a lecture from a researcher about the gap between research being done and research being used. It was a great reminder to me of the importance of having useable information when you're out in the real world. It has also inspired us to make sure that the data we have gathered from our own research is a practical tool where it might be needed.

3 April 2017

The Pressure To Burn Out (Interview)

News & Views Interview
Our topic this month is burnout and self care. Matt has worked in a wide range of Christian ministries in paid and volunteer positions over the last 15 years and has seen many sides of the coin. I asked him 4 questions about his experience...

1) What is your experience of burnout in ministry?
I have seen burnout do many things to ministry workers. Some people become very guarded, others become cynical about the work and disengage with it somewhat. Some bury themselves even further into their work forgetting about self-care and their relationships and some even leave ministry. But many, like myself when I first began ministry, continue to work through the tiredness without realising that they are burning out.

29 March 2017

Fishbowl Living: Pebbles Of Truth (Book Review)

What I love most about ACF is meeting clergy family members. I love hearing their experiences, understanding their challenges and learning how they enjoy the good and work through the hard. Fishbowl Living is like having one of those conversations...

9 March 2017

Don't Explore The Flower Cupboard Without Prayer & Fasting (Book Review)

Observational humour, at its best, seems to me to be the art of seeing what is strange and slightly ridiculous about the details of life, and the world, and engaging with it gently. “Rules for Reverends” does this elegantly. It presents the reality of clergy life, with all its quirks and contradictions, in short pithy statements, and does so in an honest and kind way.

The range of topics that are covered are quite wide, from organisational eccentricities to the day to day of pastoral care with the sick or those in need. For example: on worship: “The tiptoeing thing people do when they’re late into church doesn’t work.”

2 March 2017

What Clergy Homes Really Look Like...

Australian Clergy Families began as many ideas do, with curiousity. Among other questions about the influences of ministry on clergy families, I wondered if there were housing standards that had to be met for a house to be considered suitable for both ministry and family life. Turns out, there are - and extensive ones at that! After getting my hands on one of these documents outlining the 'must haves', Matt & I attempted to draw one, and soon found ourselves lost in an unusual labyrinth of requests. Gardens overlooking kitchens, multiple bathrooms and sheds, 5 rooms, verandas of specific lengths...it began to feel like even Pemberley might not match up!

7 February 2017

It's Time For Change

Things need to change.

We won't beat around the bush, research about clergy and clergy family life isn't pretty. While those called to ministry experience some wonderful and unique joys, too often they are accompanied by extreme challenges and difficulties. Over the last 3 years, we've had the privilege of sharing life with hundreds of clergy family members. We've celebrated the joys, prayed through the challenges, and wished fervently there was more we could do when life became difficult.

But regardless of the difficulties faced, we are constantly reminded of the need for absolute confidentiality. Many clergy family members we speak to fear for their jobs, their safety, their families, sometimes even their lives...in Australia. Instead, they often bear their burdens alone.

We find it heartbreaking that clergy families can live with fear and resignation, accepting the phrase "but that's just how it is."

This needs to change. Which is what Catalyst is about. In our small corner of Australia, we want to help make a difference. So many of the difficulties that clergy families face are completely preventable. We want to be a voice for the difficulties and challenges that go untold. We want to advocate for change where it's needed.

We don't believe this needs to be loud, rude, or violent to be effective. Change starts with one person standing up for what is right. We believe it is right for people in ministry, and their families, to have a safe place to challenge or be challenged. Whatever we share here will be well thought out, carefully researched, and fairly put.

Can we encourage you to join us? Share one of our articles, write a comment, or pray for change where it is needed. We are always keen to hear your experience or perspective, so please contact us, or think about sharing your story.

We're looking forward to spending time with you here, and seeing God work through His people wherever change might be needed.

~ Rachel & Matt Stevens

ACF is a community of support and encouragement for clergy families around Australia.
To learn more about us, click here.

19 January 2017

We Love Good News...

Thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, and the skills of a clever designer, we can officially announce we are launching a BRAND NEW WEBSITE!! This website is the second of three changes coming to Australian Clergy Families.

The shiny new website will have easier access to resources and supports, more features, and new ways to connect with us and others. We're thrilled with this development as it means we'll not only be able to continue offering what we do now, but also have a better platform to introduce some new innovations - just wait for part three! So when will it be up and running?

The Pastor's Family (Book Review)

It takes a lot for a book to get on my reading list. I have very strict criteria that it must meet before I’ll open the first page – in case you’re wondering here’s what this book had to go through just to get on the shelf. And I'm excited to say it did not disappoint! My only concern is that with a book so jam-packed with helpful guidance how am I going to do it justice in a short amount of time?!

The Pastor's Family is written by an American clergy couple who know how little free time their audience has, and are keen to create an easy-to-read, personal, resource book for clergy couples. It's also a short read, always a bonus if you can only pick it up for 10 minutes at a time :)

18 January 2017

Guest Speaker: Lost Voices of the Clergy Family

 Today we are excited to introduce our guest speaker: Rev Dr Brian Jones. Brian is from the UK and has done extensive research and work with pastor's kids (PKs). He contacted us recently to share his work and resources with clergy families here in Australia. His passion is to ensure that the stories of clergy families are heard and respected - right up our alley! We hope you enjoy his post below and take a moment to check out his website and PK social forum, which we've also added to our library. 
Exploring the impact of parental church-based ministry on clergy children

First Things First: Planning For Ministry & Life in 2017

I love getting my brand-new calendar. I love how clean it is and ready to be filled with lots of plans, ideas, events and memories :) But I also know how quickly it can fill up, especially at the start of the year. Which is why I was excited to find someone who truly understood the busyness of ministry and family life:

"Ministry can be incredibly unpredictable. There is no way to schedule funerals six months in advance or to know when a family in your church (or your own family, for that matter) will go through a major life crisis.  But taking time at the beginning of the year to schedule time for your key responsibilities will get you much closer than just hoping the time will create itself."
- PaulChappell.com