Saturday, August 13, 2011




The reason this important factor is not higher is that occasionally I meet an effective pastor who struggles in their marriage - or their kids aren't conforming to their evangelical faith and life. John Wesley and William Carey were two well-known examples. John Wesley married Mary Vazeille in February 1751 but his marriage was not a happy one and the couple separated in 1758. William Carey's first wife Dorothy refused to accompany him to India, but later relented and unhappily joined him there. 'Carey's thirteen-year marriage to [his second wife] Charlotte was a happy one. During that time he was truly in love--perhaps for the first time in his life' writes Ruth Tucker (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions).

A professional man said to his counsellor 'I work from 6 am to 11 pm.' 'Why?' 'Because if I didn't work I'd have to go home!' Marriage is the union of two imperfect people in an impossible relationship. (So a perfect wife is someone with a perfect husband!). Marriages make more enemies than any other relationship. A 45-year-long study of 300 marriages revealed * The degree of neuroticism at the time of engagement is a predictor of marital happiness. Marital happiness depends on one person - preferably both - changing. * The best predictor of divorce is the husband's impulsiveness or stubbornness: if he's not prepared to change, the marriage is in trouble.

It's a miracle we get it right! Fundamental 'incompatibility' is a given in marriage. 'I have known many happy marriages,' said G K Chesterton, 'but never a compatible one'.

Husband and wife have different sexes; different approaches to 'feelings' (some men don't know they've got feelings!); different pressures (since the Industrial Revolution most men work away from home providing only an example of 'temperament' and much less 'teaching' for their children); maybe different personality types (why do Type A's often marry Type B's?); different hobbies and interests; different upbringing in two different families with two different value systems; different roles. And different developmental stages: the mid-life crisis for males involves an awareness that they're married to a wife, not just a job; they want to settle down and narrow their focus, but the wife, with an empty nest looming, wants to broaden her interests.


Our 'vocation' begins with our families. A first grader became curious because her father brought home a briefcase full of papers every evening. Her mother explained, 'Daddy has so much to do that he can't finish it all at the office. That's why he has to bring work home at night.' 'Well,' asked the child innocently, 'why don't they put him in a slower group?' For pastors, too, 'ministry' begins inside your front door to your spouse and family. Our 14-year-old son Paul said to me: 'Dad, you love the church more than you love the family, don't you?' 'Why do you say that?' I asked lamely. 'Well,' he said, 'If someone phones or comes to the front door with a problem we may not see you for the rest of the night - even on "family nights". But if they've made an appointment to see you in your study, we can't interrupt you. So the church can interrupt the family but the family can't interrupt the church: so the church must be more important than the family!' (In logic, that's called a syllogism: this and this therefore that). Anyone out there got a smart response? (Among other changes we turned on phone answering-system on family nights and meal-times).

In my notes I found this (I have no idea who the author was):


During a family mealtime, read this list and ask each person to pick 3 or 4 strengths. Consider the following as symptoms of a strong family. Your goal is to discover the strengths you already have and to prepare your family to get even stronger.

* You catch each other doing things right and you tend to look for the good instead of focusing on the bad.

* You have learned how to argue without losing your temper.

* You deal with each day's problems as they arise, rather than letting them build up.

* You have made family a top priority on your schedule and when the schedule gets tough, family wins.

* You make time for casual conversations. You talk about feelings, intentions, thoughts, experiences, and actions.

* You spend lots of time doing things together as a family and you help each other try new things.

* Your family has a positive view of life. You speak about character and growth more than failures.

* You tell stories about your parents and your childhood (even if your children are tired of hearing them).

* You do something special with your spouse each week - make a date, even if it's just a walk around the block.

* You don't label your family members. You allow each person to grow and change.

* You have expressed your appreciation for each person in your family. Even with its faults, you're proud of your family. You feel blessed.

* You have learned an effective way to resolve conflicts that works for you and your family.

* You get help with problems and frustrations before they become full-blown crises.

* You have found a purpose or mission in your life that is worth fighting for, and you work at it together.

* You've learned when to be flexible and when to be firm.

* You've developed a team spirit around the house. Helping out teaches everyone responsibility. It's a mark of maturity.

* You have heart-to-heart informal talks with each family member on a regular basis.

* You pray with each family member on a regular basis.

* You have found a healthy way of dealing with stress - prayer, music, exercise, relaxation, humour, worship, pets, etc.

* Your family is aware of the rules and expectations at home, and, although the rules may be challenged, they are respected.

* You have found ways to have fun together on a regular basis.

* You eat together at least one meal a day.

* Your family attends church regularly and is involved at church.

* You take a family vacation at least once a year.

* You have developed your own family traditions, including birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, anniversary, and other special days.

* You have learned how to bless each member of your family, and you give blessings regularly.

* You have cried with a family member in the last few months, and you have laughed with a family member in the last few months.

* You share your work life. You let your children see you at work and meet your co-workers.

* You keep your own passion for life alive.

* You share successes as a family, talking about the good things that happen during the day.

* You share inspirational stories of people who stand for the values you appreciate.

* You honour your children's creations and have set aside an area of the house (refrigerator door?) for displaying their creations, awards, and schedules.

* Your family speaks openly about church, faith, and religious issues.

* You have found ways to talk with your children about tough issues like drugs, sex, race, honour, and death.

* Every once in a while you do something crazy with your family.

* When your family faces a crisis, you pull together and find a way to deal with it successfully.

* When you make promises you keep them. (People who keep promises are in that respect like God).

* In your family, Dad is involved with the children. He is the family leader.

* You feel safe and secure within your home.

* You have a challenging, but fulfilling marriage


As Western governments divest themselves of more and more social welfare responsibilities, churches have some wonderful opportunities to care for people outside their fellowships - the homeless, mentally ill, unemployed, asylum-seekers etc. Every solo parent with children should be linked to other families. No single adult in our churches should be chronically lonely. And no one in our church communities should be unemployed or underemployed. Our churches need to sponsor seminars on marriage enrichment and Christian parenting. And I think we Baptists lost something in rejecting the idea of children having god-parents: every kid needs to relate to other 'uncles and aunts in the village'. Let us teach mothers about bonding, and fathers about their strategic role in the developmental/ emotional health of their teenagers (of both sexes). Let us teach young people - and others - about the importance of boundaries for their psychological health, how to sort out good and bad (without inducing false guilt), and how to become a well-put-together adult.

Rowland Croucher
July 2002
A Pastoral Survival Guide [6] ~ 

1 comment:

  1. Let's find ways to devise cheaper housing so BOTH parents don't have to work to afford some kind of security (renting is chronically insecure and plays havoc with schooling and much else).

    Here's one way. Those who die childless (and there are about to be a lot of these demographics being what they are) leave their house to a trust. This trust rents out the houses long-term for the cost of maintenance plus a margin to purchase more stock. This results in a continually expanding pool of affordable housing. The denominations could do this easily - singly or collectively. I don't think they will - they will just treat these problems individualistically and collectively.

    I look forward to hearing sermons on 'this is not by way of hardship but by way of equality' - I don't expect this to happen anytime soon!