IMPORTANCE OF CLERGY FAMILY HEALTH
We continue to comment on the unique role that an interim pastor has in preparing a church to intentionally consider their role in the health of their pastor. It is important to have this conversation before a particular candidate is chosen so that the focus in on the issue of clergy health and not a reflection on a particular personality. This is especially true when we consider the issue of the clergy’s family. To recognize from the beginning that the pastor’s life is impacted by his or her family relationships and that the family members are affected by the pastor’s work is important. Churches can both contribute to and have a negative impact on a pastor’s family and that, in turn, impacts the quality of their ministry within the congregation.
UNIQUE ASPECTS OF CLERGY FAMILIES
The family of clergy is in a unique position. Not only do the long hours and emotional strains of ministry affect the family but also family members often feel like they are in a fishbowl. Because the church is such a public venue, family members can feel the pressure of their own behavior reflecting on the pastor. There is no perfect formula for preventing the destructive culture that plagues all families, but there are ways to improve our chances for having healthy families.
THE PRE-CALL CONVERSATION
The interim can lead the church leadership in this conversation by considering the following questions and other issues that arise from the conversation. Let each question become the basis for a larger conversation.
1. Does the pastor feel the support of the session for his or her attention to the health of the family? How do they convey to the pastor that support?
2. Does the congregation understand the pressures on the pastor’s family created by the fish-bowl nature of the ministry? Name some examples of how this pressure may be experienced by family members.
3. Has there been a conversation on appropriate boundaries for protecting family time while maintaining pastoral availability in times of need? How does the session educate the congregation with respect to this balance?
4. When the pastor experiences negative feedback, does someone recognize its effect on family members and offer them support?
5. Because good pastors work long hours which occasionally interfere with family plans, does the session express thanks to family members for their sacrifice and support? Are there different ways to communicate that thanks to children and to the spouse?
6. Is there a fund to support the pastor and other family members when counseling is a need? Is the pastor encouraged to make use of that fund?
7. Has there been consideration for occasionally inviting the family to a non-church, fun event as a sign of appreciation for their extra efforts?
8. Is the pastor encouraged to occasionally have a conversation with family members about how they are experiencing the effect of being a pastor’s family? The ToolBox of the Pastoral Care Network suggests some games to facilitate that conversation. www.pastoralcarenetwork.org .
9. Does the pastor feel full support for taking a regular day off and a full vacation? Are they encouraged to occasionally engage in special family events to express their own thanks to their family members?
10. Is their conscious support for time for the family of pastors who do not have children in the home or are single? Even single members need time to nurture those who provide family type support.
11. Is there recognition of the importance for taking time to maintain relationships with extended family members?
12. What are the ways that the church provides support at times of illness in the family?
13. Has the session and the pastor had a conversation about the faith resources for maintaining healthy families?
14. In what ways does this attention to issues of family health for the clergy strengthen the congregation’s witness to the importance of family health throughout the congregation?
Which of the following areas might be good for the congregation to consider? Can the session put together a basic plan of family support that they can use to discuss this area as they become acquainted with their new pastor?