I made a decision before I ever was a professional minister in the local church to serve in the church as a family. My parents modeled that, and as I was courting my dear love as a young adult we forged an agreement that we had to learn to do ministry together if we were to marry. That was back when cell phones were coming of age and before Facebook existed.
Ministry is a family business. From church plants to megachurch employment, my family has always seen it this way. Sometimes it has been on the stage with me in front of thousands singing together, or in quiet places like our living room praying with dear friends. My wife has ran sound and tech in a church plant as well as filled the role of leadership in children’s ministry. She has been the “tentmaker” in lean times, working to pay our bills on top of all of this.
Years ago, a mentor and influencer of mine shared how he kept his family involved in his creative arts ministry. The thinking was since holidays were often times of heavy hours, why not include his wife and kids in the very ministry where he was spending those hours. One could sing, one could paint sets and all of them could be together. I took his advice and never regretted it, even though I knew some could never understand this decision.
People resent talent. There, I said it. When I discovered my own girl could sing I allowed her–as I did any young person with talent–to join our worship team. She grew in the process and people were blessed by her leadership of worship along my side. Of course, some people chose to see this as a threat. Sometimes serving as a family has a down side. We have experienced that first hand.
In other cases, a lead pastor’s spouse is treated either as someone who has to be at every function or banned from any official input. Why not come up with a way institutionally to help facilitate what we all know already exists? Many resent that a spouse has influence they do not possess. Is there not a way to help support the gifts and call of a ministry leader’s spouse and family that neither excludes them from the organizational structure or healthy boundaries?
A healthy situation will see to it that the gifts and call of each member of that ministry family is empowered. Unhealthy situations will make these issues taboo to even mention and use institutional policy and politics to wet blanket God’s unique calling to a family set apart for longterm, vocational service. When a minister’s family misbehaves or things go awry it is pretty messy, too. But, if our institutions are about keeping things smooth and not about the people in them I believe they have failed.
Ministry should be a family business for all of us. Sometimes one of us is out front. Sometimes, not. But, if we are to raise up others for works of service, should that not also include our own spouse and children? This thick tension to live this out as a family exists not because of bad intentions but because of institution-over-people thinking. And, what does being a professional minister mean anyway?