Helping Clergy Families

A great privilege and joy of my work with the Renewal Fellowship is that I get to have a lot of one-on-one conversations with our denomination’s ministers. There are many areas of discussion. I have shared some of the heartbreaking issues that many of our clergy face. What I am going to talk about now however is another common area of concern. There is some unique additional stress for clergy families, much to do with living highly visible lives.

Recently, in a discussion with a minister who was sharing his life and challenges, he revealed some of the specific issues of his ministry, especially as it impacted his kids. This was not a new experience for me. Many ministers with kids at home have issues with schools, moving, congregational expectations and constant scrutiny (real or imagined). This conversation took a different turn when my new friend proposed something he felt would go a long way towards helping families like his.

What he suggested was a gathering of clergy families, kids included, that brought together many of his peers going through similar challenges. He wasn’t too specific about the form of this gathering. He was focused on being able to connect with other families, with opportunities for the kids and spouses to share with others who would understand what they dealt with. What it meant to be a spouse or child of clergy.

Something in me resonated instantly. I have benefitted from friendships and regular gatherings with other ministers that had kids at home when Ruth and I were experiencing the same thing. I also have had ministers share with me how important Music Camp and Dorothy Lake Family Camp were to them and their kids.

Many of our clergy families have neither the resources nor the opportunities to make this happen. It would take a lot of work and money to make this happen. It would take the Holy Spirit igniting a movement in the hearts of many people.

So here is your challenge Canadian Presbyterians. Who is willing to serve in this type of ministry? Who would cook, clean, counsel, babysit or whatever is needed to give these families some time together without the weight of leadership or household tasks? Who is willing to financially support such a project?

I resist proposing anything more specific at this point. If there is interest from both the clergy families and the church at large, putting together a planning group will come. More importantly, I have often seen God’s people come together with the resources, the venue and the volunteers for an idea that serves those who labour daily in the King’s vineyard.

Published in The Presbyterian Record on May 1, 2016.

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