19 August 2018

All Saints: The Unexpectedly Australian Movie (Review)

All Saints (2017): 4.5/5 stars
I did not see this film coming! Having seen a few American Christian films that used clich├ęd and heavily out of context bible passages and theological thoughts, I figured I had this one sorted before the opening credits. I expected a triumphant view of ministry and church life (think 7th Heaven). What I got instead was a film that reflected a deep understanding of the nature of church life with its day-to-day joys and the real struggles of ministry. With such a focus on the helping the underdog and the realities of farming and hard work, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t from Australia! For me, the most compelling characters (though many in this film qualify) were Michael, Ye Win, and Forrest.

Based on a true story (make sure you stick around for the credits to see those who inspired the characters) this film focuses on the ministry of pastor Michael Spurlock, his wife Aimee and son Atticus, in an Episcopal church on its last legs in Tennessee. While All Saints is about the church’s journey, Michael’s faith journey is particularly honest and confronts the common difficulties of doubt and uncertainty when you’re a ministry leader. We’ve heard from many clergy families about the complications of being called to work in a small church context, so when the church members of this church showed a mixture of emotions, ranging from hope to bitterness and resignation in the face of the church’s foreclosure approaching, I was encouraged that the filmmakers had done their homework. 

Ye Win
It’s into this captivating church context that a group of refugees from Myanmar arrive. Led by Ye Win, this group reaches out to Michael’s church for help. Here too I was pleasantly surprised, as the character of Ye Win was so convincing as the young former Myanmar soldier now taking responsibility for the needs of the largely non-English speaking refugees escaping persecution. Michael and Ye Win fight to help the vulnerable refugees with the little resources available to their small parish. His dogged determination, personal struggles, and frequent exhaustion reminded and inspired me of the importance of perseverance in difficult ministry situations. 

Enter Forrest, the cantankerous retired farmer and Vietnam Vet who couldn’t talk straighter if he tried! Having grown up in a church full of farmers myself, it feels like this grumpy, wise man could have been based on any one of them. What really rung true for me as we get to know Forrest, through his relationships with Michael and Ye Win, was that for some parishioners, loyalty is very hard won. But if it is, it can be fierce and invaluable. One of my favourite quotes of All Saints comes from Forrest. When Michael has somehow wrangled some resources out of thin air, Forrest looks at him with concern and says “Michael, did you let your stupid off the leash?!” It was a reminder of the importance of having refreshingly honest people around while you journey through ministry!

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. In more ways than I have space for here, it reflects the reality of ministry life, with imperfect characters living out their Christian faith as best they can in difficult times. In particular it addresses the way direction from God can be tested by unexpected challenges. All Saints is engaging, funny, sad, moving and I would highly recommend it to both clergy families and churches in general.

- Matt

We enjoyed this movie so much we have two copies to share with you! If you'd like to enter our August Resource Giveaway, visit our Giveaway page before 24th August 2018. 

-- journeying together with clergy families

15 June 2018

Counselling & Clergy Families: What's It All About? (Interview)

In our recent study, Doing Ministry Together, 62% of respondents felt that clergy and their families would benefit from counselling. We wanted to learn a bit more about what counselling is and how it might help clergy families around Australia. So today, we chat with Valerie Ling, an Australian psychologist and clergy wife, who specialises in preventing ministry burnout and promoting clergy family resilience. She helped us debunk some of the mystery about counselling - and offered some great advice for finding a counselor who suits you.

4 May 2018

Clergy Status in the Age of the Royal Commission (Part I)

Intricate. That is the word I would use to sum up the world of Church and State Law that Hon Keith Mason, AC QC discussed at the Trinity College lecture. It was a helpful lecture about the history and role of Church Law and how the status of clergy within the Church and society is significant relating to the 2017 Royal Commission. Today I will be taking a look at some key points that stood out to me and in Part II we will be exploring the impact on clergy in the light of the Royal Commission.

9 April 2018

Being Seen but not Known (Friendship in MInistry)

Thought & Themes: Seen but not Known
A pastor can seem like he’s known by many — he reveals a bit of himself each week to hundreds or thousands — while he’s really known by few. Revelations of himself during sermons are often like revelations over social media: Controlled vulnerability that keeps people at a distance either through over- or under-sharing.”
Elliott Grudem (Pastors Need Friends Too)
This quote has to be one of the most accurate representations of ministry challenges that I’ve heard to date. It is a difficult but common reality that many clergy and their families face in ministry, often telling me “they think they know me but they don’t know the real, let-my-hair-down me!” 

5 April 2018

PK Place: Take the Journey

Being a clergy kid (PK) is a journey.
It can be fun, it can be challenging, it can be easy, and it can be confusing. So we think it’s important for PKs, while they are on that journey, to have some stuff just for them to help them as they go (read more).

The PK Place has 3 zones:

SNAP It: Packed with crafts, challenges and puzzles to try out with their family and friends (especially great for family game nights or PK catch ups!).  

TAG It: A year-long quest to earn the Summer Mystery Box! Includes 4 school holiday quests that PKs can do with their PK friends or family.

  PK Life: A space to chat about the ups and downs of being a PK, try out some fun quizzes with your family or other PKs you might know and try out some handy ideas and life hacks!

1 March 2018

Clergy Families: Same, Same But Different

February Thoughts & Themes: Just Like Everyone Else, Right?! #ACFlife

One of the most common conversations we have with people, is how being a clergy family is different to any other family in another profession. Our answer is usually that clergy families are the same as other families – and also different.

So, how is it similar and why is it different?

21 February 2018

[New!] The Rhythms of Ministry

Themes & Thought! New to 2018, we'll be sharing a musing or reflection with you each month discussing various subjects relating to ministry and family life. We'd love to share the conversation with you below and hear what you think. Let us know if there's something you'd like us to explore and chat about!


The Rhythms of Ministry (January)

There's a lot of talk about a healthy work-life balance, and often how difficult it is to achieve that in professions with unpredictable, but necessary, hours. An article we read recently suggested there were ebbs and flows in ministry you have to work around. This got us thinking! What if ministry is less about a balance and more about working out the busier, quieter, and regular seasons to help you create a rhythm that includes all areas of life? Maybe that means working out what's essential for each season and what can wait for another time. Or perhaps it's creating a written schedule that helps to plan for the busier seasons in the quieter ones. Regardless of what your Ministry Rhythm looks like, and perhaps it changes with each church or family season, understanding it could give you some room to expect the sometimes chaotic hours and not be overwhelmed when the tides change.

What do you think about the Rhythms of Ministry? 

~ Rachel  

February: Just Like Everyone Else, Right?

 www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- Journeying together with clergy families

15 February 2018

5 Things Every Pastor's Kid Should Know

Barnabas Piper's book 'The Pastor's Kid' was one of the first books I ever read about clergy family life. His honesty and passion to see clergy children and clergy families around the world understood and cared for has been truly inspirational.

After reading his book (read my review here), my hunt for helpful resources for clergy kids has stretched far and wide across the internet! In my travels, I came across this wonderful list on a Facebook page for pastor's kids. It struck me recently after completing our research with clergy kids how similar the experience is for PKs across the world.

We know from speaking to many adult clergy kids here in Australia that as they get older, they become more aware of the expectations, circumstances, and needs of their parent's ministry. Many tell us they find it difficult to open up about how they're going because they often don't want to be a burden. Maybe that's where ice cream comes in! If you know a PK, maybe it's worth grabbing an ice cream, hot chocolate or even going for a walk sometime and sharing a chat about what they're enjoying or finding difficult in ministry at the moment? I hope you find this list an encouraging starting point!


"Here are five things I would want to tell to every PK.

1) You Don't Have To Be Perfect: You may feel the pressure of being perfect, but being perfect is an impossible expectation to meet. We aren't perfect. We will never be perfect. The best we can do is strive to be like Jesus.

Cute Shoes: The Unexpected Textbook (Ministry Wives Book Review)

ACF Rating: 4 out of 5 books
I love a good pair of shoes, which if I’m honest is probably part of the reason I chose this book! I’ve been on the hunt for a good resource for ministry wives for several years now, particularly relating to being yourself in the face of ministry expectations and self care. So when I picked up this book, I was looking forward to seasoned advice, personal stories, and even a dash of Aussie humour.
What I didn’t expect was a thoroughly written, humourous texbook for clergy wives called to ministry.

While the title suggests a book about being yourself in ministry, I would argue that it is instead the kind of textbook that makes you think “finally!” when you get into it. 

8 February 2018

Caps, Mishaps & New Schools (Clergy Kid Book Review)

My Magical Life ~ Zach King
ACF Rating: 3 out of 5 books
Suits Ages 7 - 9

Books about what it's like to be a clergy kid (PK) can be a little hard to find, so this month I’m reviewing a book that deals with one issue PKs can come across on a regular basis; changing schools.

Written by a Christian author, they introduce us to Zach, an 11-year-old boy, who wants to find out what makes him special, a feat that is tricky when he comes from a family who all have magical abilities...except him.  

He’s been home-schooled all his life but as time passes, and his family is unsure if Zach does have magical abilities, his parents decide to send him to a ‘normal’ school. What follows is Zach’s exploration, pioneer style, into the world of Horace Greely Middle School. Here he makes friends with some students, the geek Aaron and the outdoorsy Rachel, and discovers the vindictive alpha girl Michelle’s habit for picking on new and unpopular students.
This book deals with themes of friendship, bullying, popularity, loneliness, and testing boundaries in a new school environment, with lots of bubbly creativity. The characters are simple to understand, the magical theme light-hearted, and the focus on struggling to fit in is clear.

Adding to the sense of fun is the augmented reality (AR) facets of the book itself.  A first in my experience, many of the illustrations throughout the book appear to become animated when viewed through a mobile device (Android or Apple). These illustrations really played into the magical theme, and were a lot of fun to explore.

With the number of moves clergy children generally make, and the challenges of fitting into a new environment or school, resources such as My Magical Life may provide excellent opportunities for clergy families to discuss navigating these times, in a playful and relaxed way.

I'd love to know what you think, if there are any other books on changing schools you've found helpful, it would be great to hear from you. 

You can find this book through Book Depository for about $12.

- Matt (PK Place Leader)

www.australianclergyfamilies.com -- journeying together with clergy families