Atlantic Caribbean Union

Ministry Begins at Home

Ministry Begins at Home
In the August 1991 edition of Ministry magazine, John W. Fowler wrote an article with the above caption. Essentially, he underscored the need to pay attention to the pastor’s family, namely the spouse and children. This article, coupled with the current focus in the Inter-American Division on pastors and their families, prompted me to write the following. It is hoped that it will benefit you in some positive way.
Looking Historically at he Pastor’s Family
            John W. Fowler, then secretary of the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, observed from his research that “The Christian church has historically shown a great deal of interest in the work of the pastor, but it has paid little attention to his relationship with his family.”
Additionally, he explains, “For centuries the Christian church viewed marriage and family life in a negative light.” Therefore, in referencing Robert O. Blood, Jr., in his book The Family, Fowler shares: "The Roman Catholic Church did not fully sanctify family life until the end of the sixteenth century. Before that, the church sanctified only what it labeled the 'religious life,' i.e., the life of priests and monastics who escaped the corruptions of the world, and especially the corruptions of family life with its sexual involvements, to live a pure life of celibacy." Accordingly, Blood explained that the "superiority of 'religious vocations' left family life ... a mere concession to the weakness of the flesh."
In looking at Adventists’ position, it is no secret that we identify with the Methodist Church regarding our view on the family life of ministers. However, Fowler points out that the Methodist’s view “was quite similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church.” Fowler adds, “John Wesley often identified the work of the pastors with that of the itinerant ministry of Christ and the apostles. As a result, Methodist ministers were urged not to marry. In fact, Wesley himself did not marry until he was 48 years old, and then only after much soul searching and rewriting of his views of ministerial leadership. Even then, he felt that family life must not interfere with his work for the church.”
Later Thinking
Once again, I was reminded of the need to focus on pastoral families at a special week of prayer event for pastoral families sponsored by the Union Family Life, Ministerial and Shepherdess ministries and Events Coordinator of the South Bahamas Conference, Patrice Gordon, on Tuesday, January 24, 2017. The occasion attracted 14 pastoral couples who viewed a prerecorded but powerful message for pastors, their spouses and children. Additionally, there were exchange of prayers for each other, affirming one another and a light fellowship meal. This coming together was most encouraging and refreshing. Several couples were heard saying, “We need to come together more often.”  
Nevertheless, “While few hard statistics are available, there is a growing awareness that serious problems are brewing that demand the attention of the entire church.”  In the absence of adequate research, we can look around and even at our context and would have to admit there are concerns within the pastoral family and they must be addressed. Charles Bradford, then the president of the North American Division, set up a Pastoral Motivation Committee in 1984 “that conducted an extensive study of pastoral ministry throughout North America to discover the major problems that negatively affect pastoral morale. The report touched on four major areas of concern, one of which was the conflicting demands of a pastor's family and his work.”
Some Practical Steps to Strengthen the Pastoral Family
            For starts the church could be a bit more sensitive to the pastor’s wife and children by not having unrealistic expectation of them. I recalled that my children when younger in playing with their friends would be treated differently from their peers. Grown-ups would remark, “That is Pastor Johnson’s son” and seldom referred to the other child/children with the same expectation of behaving orderly. Unfortunately, it sent the wrong message –other children could be mischievous, but not my child. Also, being identified by one’s father as opposed to one’s name also placed pressure on a pastor’s child.
            Even with a young child, it was expected by some that a pastor’s wife would still attend church regularly thus placing unnecessary expectations on her.
Ellen White, years ago, penned of the minister’s family, “The minister’s duties lie around him, nigh and afar off; but his first duty is to his children. He should not become so engrossed with his outside duties as to neglect the instruction which his children need. He may look upon his home duties as of lesser importance; but in reality they lie at the very foundation of the well-being of individuals and of society” (Gospel Workers, p. 204). It would seem that the Reformer Martin Luther understood this. Happily married to Katherina von Bora, “Luther admitted that family life was demanding, and he talked of marriage as ‘a school for character.’ However, he “worked to alleviate those burdens as best he could. On one occasion his neighbors saw him hanging out diapers. When they laughed, Martin exclaimed, ‘Let them laugh. God and the angels smile in heaven.’"
We, too, as pastors, elders, directors and administrators must do our part to alleviate some of the burdens of our families and make quality time for them and not neglect our work. For it goes without saying if the pastor/leader is happily married and enjoying a healthy family life it is likely to spill over to the church and the church’s influence into the home, society and by extension- the nation. Why not encourage your pastor and his family? Even if he is not meeting your expectation, call him aside and share your concerns and pray with him. Let’s save pastoral families.