There’s an old saying that it’s often the cobbler’s children who go without shoes. The same concern can be raised in the parsonage — can it be a place where people are nurtured in faith?
The families of clergy and lay church leaders live in the same world as the members of their congregations. They deal with time management, work overload, personal and relational conflicts, dreams of affirmation and success, loneliness, uncertainty and needs for significant relationships and community support.
More often than not, however, activities in the congregation and the needs of its members take precedence. Even so, the authenticity of discipleship and ministry among our leaders is essentially dependent on the attention given to their own personal and family dynamics.
The parsonage is the place where tough decisions are made — the same tough choices about priorities and purchases that tax any family. And it’s clear that, if we are to grow in faithful living, we need to address the things that choke off the fullness of life that God intended for us.
Remember that keeping the sabbath is especially important for those who serve in pastoral roles — and their families. This can be particularly difficult for church leaders because the sabbath is a work day. To keep the sabbath in the parsonage means not only claiming time for worship but also re-claiming time for family and friends.
It means making time for rest and play. Those who live in the parsonage must follow through on commitments. This requires the practice of saying “no” to that which crowds God out and “yes” to a way of life that makes space for God.
Here are ways that congregations can support pastors’ families:
- Respect your pastor and his or her family’s need for sabbath time.
- Take the initiative. Give attention to the pastor’s salary and benefits.
- Engage in an honest conversation about the perceptions and expectations of a pastor’s family and work together to find realistic resolutions.
- Schedule meetings that honor family time as a priority. Incorporate several meetings on the same night and set the agenda to accommodate family needs.
- Nurture the understanding that the pastor’s family is just as vulnerable as any other. Honor their privacy and any family challenges that may surface. Support them with prayer and encouragement.
- Gather a mutual ministry committee to assist in maintaining realistic expectations for ministry and establishing guidelines for nurturing healthy and balanced lifestyles.
If you are a pastor or church leader, consider these ideas:
- Take a proactive approach to family time! Engage in long-range planning and set aside time with your spouse or family members that can be honored as you schedule other programs and activities.
- Give the needs of the members of your family the same importance you would for any other congregation member. Embrace and support them as the occasions arise. Don’t minimize or postpone problems that need to be dealt with.
- Let grace flow into your home. Take time to find creative ways to nurture faith through devotions, conversation, conflict resolution and daily decision-making.