How Much "Ministry" Should Be Shared With Family?
This is part two of “keeping your kids and your call to ministry.” Read part one here.
As a minister, how much “work” should you discuss with your spouse?
Are you a concealer, revealer, or spiller?
Which one is the right way to be?
I grew up in a pastor’s home. During my 17 years of marriage, I’ve worked in a ministry job. I’ve been mentored by and close to other ministers who were also married. So both through purposed conversation and anecdotally, I’ve seen a wide variety of ways to handle work discussions with a spouse.
As a result, I’ve come to my own conclusions about how to approach this. My method isn’t always perfect, but I’ve created a “church-work discussion” philosophy.
Here are three ways to classify the minister and their handling of “church work” discussions at home:
Concealer: This minister believes little to no work should be discussed with family. They may believe this because they value turning work off at home, or because they want to protect their family from the uglier parts of ministry. They also might want their family to develop a church philosophy from their own personal experiences, instead of from the experiences of their minister parent or spouse.
Revealer: This minister discusses their ministry work at home, but sparingly. They too want their family to have their own church experiences and not be unduly influenced by what happens at the office. They do reveal, but it’s typically general rather than specific, and is driven by a desire for them to process information in a safe place. These conversations leave out names or details that could influence the listener’s opinions about a person or circumstance at the church.
Spiller: This minister doesn’t separate ministry work and home. Whether good or bad, they share their experiences at work, and trust the listener to partner with them in discerning and praying through matters. They feel their call to ministry extends to their spouse, and the spouse can walk alongside them in their work.
My personal method is a cross between concealer and revealer. It’s what works for me and my family. My philosophy could change, but for now it’s a purposeful decision. Here’s why it works for me—
When pressed, it allows me to vent to my wife.
Not specifics, but enough to get something off my chest and allow her to pray with me about it. I encourage all ministers to have a “venting” person. Typically, this person will not be a part of your church. Another minister, a counselor, or extended family member is ideal. Someone you can trust and receive counsel from, as needed.
I share enough to keep my family in the know about things deeply affecting me.
My family’s participation at church is unaffected.
By not sharing the details of work, it allows my family to worship at church without affecting their experience. My test question regarding sharing with my family is this: “Have I shared any detail about a person, that if my wife were to sit next to them during the Lord’s Supper, the issue or detail could impact that spiritual moment?”
It allows my kids to have a healthy and positive view of church.
Over time, my kids will discover the church and its people can be challenging. For the most part, I want this to be a result of their self-discovery, rather than a result of me announcing at dinner I’ve had a rough day because of “people.” Learning the church vicariously through me may not be best for them.
Bottom line for me: I, Brian, was called to vocational ministry. Not my family. While they share in it, I don’t want to routinely transpose my work on them.
I believe a spouse can effectively support their minister spouse without knowing the ins and outs of ministry work.
Those are the benefits of my choice about how much I take home. But my concealer/revealer philosophy has a shadow side too. If it’s not guided by the Spirit, it can…
- Keep me secluded
- Leave family feeling out of touch with something that takes so much of my time
- Prohibit me from sharing “everything” with my best friend (in my case, my wife)
Whatever amount of church-talk you bring home, have a plan. Know why you are sharing what you are sharing. Will it benefit your family to know something? Will it burden them? Discuss your plan with your family. Pray about it, and allow your choice to be an encouragement to you – and them.
p.s. I’ve written this under the assumption that a minister understands and respects the required confidences of their job. When it’s confidential, we should all be “concealers.”