Below are 27 questions that you should place on individual 3 x 5 cards and shuffle them so that there is no predetermined order. Place the deck within reach of all the family members. Using two die, the person who begins throws the die and counts down to that number in the deck. This is their question to answer. Once finished, the card is placed in the middle of the deck and the next person throws the die and answers the question. After every full round, the deck is cut or shuffled so that new cards can be chosen. Each person should be free to ansswer as they desire. If the children are smaller, some of the questions may need to be explained. Before the game begins, agree on the length of time that you will continue.
Suggested questions are:
Questions for couples with children
1. Describe a time this past year when you were glad that you were part of this family.
2. What is a pressure you feel because the minister of the church is (you) or a member of this family?
3. Share something that happened at the church this past year that made you proud to be part of the church.
4. Describe something that either did or would make you angry if it happened at the church.
5. Identify either a person or a situation at the church for which you think the family should pray.
6. Was there a time this past year when the congregation needed the pastor and some family experience needed to be changed? How did you feel?
7. Whether you are the pastor or a family member, name four things that are good about being a pastor.
8. Name four things that make being a pastor difficult.
9. What are a couple of things that you think the church expects of the pastor’s spouse or children?
10. If you were to pray for one thing to change in your family, what would it be?
11. What are some fun things that you like to do with the family?
12. Name something new and fun that you would like to do with your family.
13. Describe a time when school activities and ministry created a scheduling problem. How did it make you feel?
14. What is a question about the Christian faith or the Bible that you think would be interesting for the family to spend time discussing?
15. How does it make you feel when a family member chooses not to attend a church function where the pastor has to participate?
16. How balanced are we in responding to children’s homework, health needs, and scheduled activities.
17. How would you feel about our family having a faith discussion time together each week?
18. How would you describe the different attitudes in your family towards the church?
19. How do you feel about how the family decides about vacation time?
20. If you needed to talk to someone outside the family about a crisis, who would it be?
21. What lifestyle changes would you suggest that would help your family be healthier?
22. How does the lack of a two or three day weekend affect our family?
23. Given the pressures of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter on a pastor’s family, what changes might make it more enjoyable?
24. What would you like to talk about as a family regarding how we spend the family money?
25. When you think about how the family jobs are divided up in the family, what changes would you suggest?
26. How would you describe what it is like being a child (teenager, spouse) in a pastor’s family?
27. If you would not get caught, what type of prank would you like to pull off at the church?
Of course you can develop questions of your own. Not all questions will be used each time you play the game.
When was the last time that you had a fairly indepth conversation about your experience of ministry? If you have children, have the children been included in the conversation? If you are married but without children in the home, have you and your spouse had that conversation? If you are within 10 years of retirement, have you and your spouse had the conversation that explores what retirement may mean for the both of you? If you are a single pastor, or educator, have you had that conversation with some other single pastors or educators that you trust?
One of the stresses of ministry is that it is a lonely profession. Despite the fact that our faith is built on the presence of community, most pastors and educators have a vulnerable side that is rarely shared even with their most intimate associates. There are reasons why that conversation needs to respect the boundaries of appropriateness. It can be a mistake to constantly want to discuss how stressed you are or the doubts that you are struggling with among various members of your congregation. In a variety of conversations that I have had with clergy, I sense a level of guilt that they carry because of the impact of their ministry on the well being of their family members.Yet they are not sure how to talk about it. I think that our isolation can be enhanced by our failure to develop a way in which we can explore the impact of our ministry on our family with our family. I also think that if they would have such a conversation with their family members, they might be surprised at the level of understanding and support that they would receive.
Those conversations need to take place at various stages in our lives. It’s different if you are concerned about your young children or your teenagers than it is if you don’t have children in the house. A single pastor or educator has a unique setting but they are not without family. As Jesus made clear, our family does not just consist of our blood relationships. When he said “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34-35), he expanded the definition of family. In the various configurations and at different stages of our journey, we need to be able to sit down with others and explore the broad experiences of our ministry.
Over the next several days, I want to provide a means by which that conversation can be held in what I hope can be an enjoyable context. I will be describing what amounts to a game that you can play with other members of your family. I have created a series of questions that apply to the different configurations of family so we will take one context at a time.
I want to build on yesterday’s discussion about how a church behaves when expectations of leaders are not met.
First, a reality check. We have this illusion that for a church to be faithful, everybody must be nice and there would be no conflict. That does not fit with either our current experience of church life nor that church reflected in the Bible and history. Read 1 Corinthians as one example of the early church’s experience of conflict. So the first stage of our discussion would be to recognize the reality of conflict within the church.
The second stage would be to explore the meaning of the fact that the church began with the experience of denial (Peter) abandonment (all disciples) and betrayal (Judas.) Reflect together on what it means that this was the experience in which the church began. Reflect also on how Jesus responded to those circumstances and what that means for our current church. You might note that Jesus acted to restore all but Judas to the church.
Next, consider how the church covenants together to “speak the truth in love” about their differing expectations and how to respond to them. What does it mean to speak in that way and how can that be built into the relationship between the Session and those that are employed by the church? What is the role of the pastor in that situation? Where is mutual prayer an appropriate part of that discussion? How do we recognize our mutual failings and the steps to improve? How do we recognize when the relationship must be ended? Can that be a mutual decision?
Conflict is not an easy experience in or out of the church but perhaps our own theology can give us some guidance in how to proceed.
I recently talked to a pastor about a negative termination experience at a church. It recalled for me several times when I participated in a severance agreement with a member of a church where I was pastor. Sometimes we handled it better than at other times. In the first experience, the church simply lowered the salary and hoped the person got the hint. That, for me, was not an appropriate way for the church to behave. Another time, I participated in talking with the individual about what was perceived as substandard performance. We set up some criteria for improvement and a time period to review the process. That was better but it was still not without lots of hurt feelings.
I think churches get very confused as to how they should behave. Part of that has to do with a vague theology that translates for many of them into a mandate to be nice. The result often is that there is little direct feedback to the employee until a lot of negative pressure has built up. It would be better if we could learn as a community to “speak the truth in love” from the beginnng but that is rarely the case.
I think that presbyteries should engage in some theological discussion around how churches should behave towards those they employ. What is the proper way that the Body of Christ treats those who are employed by them? It is even more difficult when the negative experience is that between the congregation and the pastor. It would be interesting to have a session and a pastor explore together how they should address the failure of either to live up to expectations. If this could be done before there are any major conflict issues, perhaps they would be better prepared when disappointments did occur.
Tomorrow I will explore how such a theological/biblical discussion might take place.
When a clergy person or a prominent church leader engages in activity that betrays the trust of the congregation, it can have a cancerous effect on the whole congregation. This is especially true when the offence is in the area of sexuality or finances. These two areas of betrayal seem to leave especially deep wounds in the community of faith.
All communities are bult on bonds of trust. When that trust is betrayed, it is expecially difficult to rebuild that trust. We know it with couples who have experienced infidelity but it is even more complex in larger communities. Add to that the fact that a church is centered on faith and obedience to God, and it is even more difficult.
The first step in healing is to name the betrayal and its effect on the larger membership. At such a time it is important that the community avoid any appearance of secrecy because that it the fuel for the type of gossip that can further exacerbate the wounds. There needs to be the opportunity for members to confess to their own pain as a result of the experience.
Having identified and acknowledged the painful effect of the betrayal, it may be helpful to be reminded as a Christian community that the church began with the experience of betrayal. There are a couple of issues that could be explored at this point. Number one, what prevented the early church from being destroyed by Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples all running away? Number two, what was Jesus’ response to the experience of betrayal and what does that suggest for us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
The point here is not to cover over painful wounds with a series of pious words but to genuinely explore the redemptive power of Christ in the Body of Christ. The third task for the church, having named the pain and explored the biblical truths of how to respond to betrayal would be to begin to identify redemptive possibilities that could emerge from their own experience of pain. What we learn in Christ is that no experience of betrayal, denial, or abandonment is so powerful that it can prevent the redemptive power of Christ. To experience the resurrection of Christ in the midst of the wounded Body of Christ is to deepen the healing power of Christ in our midst.