February 12, 2010

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?

Even some of Jesus’ first disciples were brothers, right? The ideal is that families share an active, engaged faith. Wouldn’t the logical conclusion of this shared faith be shared ministry?


And no.

Did you know that the word nepotism has its roots in medieval church practice? One pope even went so far as to appoint his nephews, ages 14 and 16, as cardinals.

A husband-wife team ministering together, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in a small church 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?

We attended a church that had a pair of brothers-in-law and a set of sisters on the paid staff of 7. Further complicating the situation was the fact that one of the pastor’s kids was dating the child of one of the relatives. The elder board at the church included relatives of these relatives. Disclosure here – this cozy arrangement included me as I was a part-time staffer and my husband was an elder. When I started getting a paycheck as part of my service to the church, both Bill and I were pretty naive about how very complex these interconnected blood relationships would impact the way decisions were made at the church.

It took about twenty minutes for me to figure out that not all staff meetings happened in the church building. Some also happened at family birthday parties and 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.

I’m curious, dear readers – has your experience with family members heading ministry roles in a church been positive or negative?

September 22, 2009

What makes the Church dangerous?
In no particular order:

1. Love
2. Rabid intentionality about reflecting the risen Christ in deed and word, in that order
3. Signs and wonders
4. Communion
5. Meaningful spiritual friendships
6. Learning put into practice
7. Prayer
8. Its children and teens
9. Gracious countercultural lifestyle
10. Corporate worship as the starting line
11. Generosity
12. Service/justice
13. Mess
14. Truth
The more of the above-listed dangerous things that exist in a local congregation, the safer I feel.

On the other hand…
What makes a congregation dangerous?
Again, in no particular order:

A. Cliques
B. Institutionalism / “…but we’ve always doen it this way…”
C. Favoritism, nepotism
D. Unwritten rules
E. Lies
F. Agendas masquerading as sermons
G. Unteachable leaders
H. Ignoring or pandering to children and teens
I. Gossip
J. Pastors with money or sex secrets
K. Inhospitablity
L. Demonizing all opposition
M. Focus on appearances
N. Control

What would you add to either of these lists?

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