He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him,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!
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)
And while it's quite natural to look to ministry leaders for examples of Christian living, assumptions about how a clergy family should act can lead to an extreme amount of pressure on them to uphold high levels of behaviour and morals, even to the point of feeling like they need to be perfect.
Over the past few years of research and spending time talking with clergy family members around the world, I've seen this conflict of expectations cause a lot of pain and grief. Sometimes it leads to clergy families stifling any normal problems that arise throughout the course of ministry, family, or their personal life. No one wants to be seen struggling, particularly if it might jeopardise a reputation or job.
While I know expectations arise from many sources, sometimes even from ourselves, I wanted to share three things from this passage that struck me (I'd love to hear what you think of this passage):
- There is no mention of the word 'perfect'
- Management is expected by leaders. It is an intentional activity in the family
requiring time, energy, and care
- These guidelines for overseers and their family are not above the need for God's
grace as His people
While few people would say they expect perfection, it doesn't always follow that they see the clergy family members as anything less than a particular set of 'shoulds'. But I honestly believe that when churches and ministry communities share life alongside clergy families it lends to a much richer ministry and life together instead of being at odds with varying expectations.
If you're in ministry or a clergy family, and struggling with this imbalance, I know the pressure to remain silent about your struggles or 'short comings' can feel intimidating or even out of your control. While you might feel embarrassed or pained by falling short of what others expect of you, I want to tell you something I've learnt from many clergy family members:
It's okay to struggle with mental or physical illness.
It's okay if your faith journeys differs from your family or spouse.
It's okay to struggle with raising your kids,
fitting into school, or hitting a rough patch in your marriage.
It's okay to not want to BE in ministry sometimes.
It's okay - because nobody is perfect.
A wise man told me recently, the culture of expectations can be changed one conversation at a time. So I want to suggest it's okay to be imperfect. As a wonderful quote says "You're allowed to be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time." God placed you here as you are, not as others thought you'd be.
Maybe there are small ways you can change or challenge an expectation you find hard to meet. Perhaps you can cut yourself some slack sometimes; I know you're doing your best.
It's okay, nobody's perfect. We're right there with you.
We would love to hear from you or pray with you. Email Rachel or Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- a community of support and encouragement