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.

Personal Attributes
Another point that struck me was the fact that some expectations existed at all for clergy spouses and children. Expectations regarding the faith and identity of the clergy children and spouses, based solely upon their family connection, were concerning. This suggested to me that not only were these personal attributes to be tailored to the ministry setting, but that these deeply held facets of who they are, were to reflect others’ beliefs about them, rather than their own God-given attributes or actual faith journeys. I wonder at the type of pressure these expectations might put on clergy family members, and would like to know more about how spouses and children feel about them.

Understanding The Clergy Family
Lastly I found it heartbreaking just how many clergy spouses and children felt that who they were, apart from their family connection, was frequently misunderstood. These responses reinforced to me how vital this research is and how important it will be to continue to have conversations with clergy families around Australia about the unique joys and challenges of their lifestyle. The importance of understanding clergy family life inspired us to create public and private forums on Facebook to encourage openness about the realities of clergy family life.

Doing this research has encouraged me to want to further work with clergy families to understand the unique journey that God has given them, and help facilitate the best support possible for them.

- Matt

Doing Ministry Together is available to download free here.

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