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Support your Christian vicar/leader

by | Apr 7, 2011 | Christian Relationships | 0 comments

I was reading an article in Keep the Faith magazine recently and was shocked to read that the clergy have the second highest divorce rate among all professions, and being in ministry is possibly the single most stressful and frustrating working profession – more so that medics, lawyers or politicians.

As Christians this must really shock us and inspire us to action – to support our vicars as much as we can. If you are a single Christian yourself then you’ll know how lonely that can be, and of course if you are single because of a marriage breakdown you’ll know how painful that can be. How sad that it’s happening so much to our Christian leaders.

Did you  know that 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse; 66% of pastors and their families feel pressure to model the ideal family to their congregations and communities – and yet never forget they are as human as the rest of us – equally likely to have their ups and downs; 58% of pastors indicate that their spouse works either part-time or full-time outside the home because the family need the income; 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends; 51% of pastors say that internet pornography is a possible temptation for them – with 37% saying it’s a current struggle; 48% of pastors think that being in ministry is hazardous to family wellbeing; 33% of pastors confess ‘inappropriate” sexual behaviour with someone in the church and 13% of pastors have been divorced.

These are really shocking figures that we should give some serious thought to especially when we next think about asking our vicar do something for us, or we complain about something in the church. Is there a temptation to think that our Church leaders should be all things to all people? Counsellor Frank Minirth has summarized the job description of a modern church leaders as follows: “A church leaders is expected to make house calls as willingly as yesterday’s country doctor; to shake hands and smile like a politician on the campaign trail; to entertain like a stand-up comedian; to teach the Scriptures like a theology professor, and to counsel like a psychologist with the wisdom of Solomon. He/she should run the church like a top-level business executive; handle finances like a career accountant, and deal with the public like an expert diplomat at the United Nations.”

It is any wonder that many church leaders are burnt out and confused about what is expected of them and how to live up to these expectations. And is it any wonder that these pressures affect family life.

‘Your Church’ magazine conducted a survey in 2000 which discovered that 61% of pastors would spend less time in  meetings if they could, 37% would spend less time mediating conflict, and 34% would spend less time counseling. If they could gain that time, they would spend it in evangelism (58%); personal devotions (66%); sermon preparation (73%) and prayer (75%).

It’s clear that church leaders need to spend more time carrying out core pastoral disciplines and then be able to spend more time with their families. Church leaders shouldn’t have to carry all the responsibilities for running their church and if you have any role in church leadership then you might take a look at how your church is structured and try to see if your own vicar or pastor is overburdened.

If you have heard of international TV evangelist, Pastor Benny Hill, you will know his marriage sadly broke up. He recently admitted that one of the factors to do with this was putting his ministry before his family. “I was so busy in the ministry, I was so caught up with the ministry, I forgot about my family. That’s probably what broke the whole thing up.” (charismamag.com).

Just as the whole issue of singleness is not really addressed in the Christian church today, so then perhaps we also need to look at supporting marriage particularly for those involved in ministry where the price of failure is so much higher and so much more public. Our experience at friendsfirst tells us that single church leaders can find it incredibly difficult to find their soul mate – and although we have many vicars on our books, many of them would prefer to keep their occupation discreet. And those divorced vicars we have tell us how much harder it is with the added pressure of failure because of being in church ministry.

At the very least please make sure your church leader has their boundaries respected. Respect their day off. If they have family commitments, then that may just be time at home with their family and that is enough for us not to disturb them. Let us do everything in our power to support our church leaders marriages – we pay a hefty price when their marriages go wrong. And of course, keep them in your prayers always.