July 25, 2012

Growing a Healthy Mission-Oriented Church

How do you grow your church? As you know, there are about a million books on the subject. But the one thing that these books don't talk about is that a healthy clergy family is a key ingredient. Why?

Dan Dick's research shows that the sicker the church, the more hours the pastor puts in. So if a pastor's family is not healthy enough to survive the stress of back-breaking hours of work at/for the church, pastors will surely fail at their efforts to grow the church. When one parent is away, at work, or otherwise committed, it takes extra effort from the other spouse. If one parent is busy visiting, evangelizing, meeting, administrating, comforting, appearing in court for a wayward church member, the other parent has to take up the slack with the children--their homework, their busy schedules, their daily wants and needs. And since most spouses also work, that means that the spouse has to be healthy enough to meet most or all of the family demands, because there always has to be a parent on-call.

The pastor's spouse has to take up the slack when the demands of the church tax the pastor. But the family, not just spouse, has to have effective (healthy) ways to process and solve their own troubles and conflicts. Too much conflict at home, means that the pastor cannot be as effective at church. This does not mean that the clergy family is supposed to sweep their problems under the rug and not deal with them--most kids I know won't tolerate that anyway for long. But it does mean that when family trials come, the family has to have enough resilience to handle their problems without spilling over into an already demanding church situation.

But be aware, if the church is toxic, the church sickness can easily effect the clergy family, unless the pastor and the family are differentiated from the church family. So spouses need to remind the pastor that their family is not an merely an extension of the church family.

One way to keep healthy clergy families is for the pastor and spouse to keep their priorities straight and make some decisions up front and then clearly communicate those decisions to their family but also to the church. What is most important when? What counts as an emergency? Will the pastor always take a call from a family member, even if in the middle of a meeting or counseling session? Under what circumstance will the parent (no matter which one)leave work to attend to a child? Likewise, what constitutes a church emergency when the pastor may have to pick up and leave immediately?

If you want to grow a healthy mission-oriented church, the pastor's family is essential to make that happen.

Grace, Kathy

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