The pastor’s wife leads the worship ministry at their small congregation. Or…the pastor’s son-in-law becomes the youth minister.
It’s only natural that family members serve together at a local congregation, isn’t it?
Yes. And no.
A husband-wife team ministering together can be a beautiful thing. It can model a healthy marriage and the joy that comes from serving together. It can go terribly wrong when the relationship puts a stranglehold on ministry growth, for example, a pastor’s wife who runs the women’s ministry with an iron fist in order to ensure her position is never challenged. Who is there to remove the pastor’s wife from her role if she doesn’t do a good job?
It didn’t take long to discover that not all staff meetings happened in the church building. Some also happened at family birthday parties and during vacations. Plans were hatched and decisions were made in the context of these tight family bonds. I learned through the painful tutorial of experience at the church that blood ties had a powerful insulating quality if someone was toxic in his or her ministry role. Protecting the family was a more powerful motivation than protecting the sheep.
Even with that horrible negative example, I believe there is great power in family doing ministry together. It can be an amazing, countercultural expression of shalom as long as the focus stays on the kingdom, not on tribe.
Has your experience with family members heading ministry roles in a church been positive or negative? Does your church have a policy limiting family from paid staff positions, or a history of encouraging the practice?
*Note: This is an adaptation of a post that originally ran in February, 2010.