3. My family is not the picture perfect family you think it is or wish it were.
Real families have real struggles. Preachers have real families. Therefore our families struggle. That means that sometimes there are real challenges in a preacher’s marriage. I am not talking about the petty disputes over toilet seats that are easy to reference in the pulpit. I am talking about the incredibly tense interchanges that you don’t mention in a sermon. Husbands and wives can really clash, or really drift, or really struggle, and that is really true for preachers too. It is easy to assume that a preacher’s marriage is healthy and easy, but healthy marriages are not usually easy. If there is a healthy marriage then that is the fruit of God’s grace to overcome lots of sin, and it is the result of lots of difficult decisions along the way, including lots of forgiveness in both directions. Only the most naïve can say, “you’re lucky, you have a good marriage.” And sometimes they will say it.
And then there is parenting, another great arena for luck! “You are lucky, you have easy children.” Guess again. Some children may be more compliant than others, but every child needs parenting. And parenting involves heartache. The preacher’s children throw tantrums, sin foolishly, and sometimes rebel along the way. I think there are times when a preacher would do well to pull back from preaching ministry to give their energy to parenting ministry, but there is never a time when a preacher has an easy life as a parent. Parenting includes heartache, and real fear, disappointments, concern, sleepless nights, and so on.
And it needs saying that the “problem” is not always with the non-preaching spouse or the children. It could be, but it could also be the other way around too. Sometimes a preacher may not be a good spouse or a good parent. There may be times when the preacher vulnerably acknowledges their personal weakness or the challenges at home, but no congregation wants a weekly update on the preacher’s family soap opera. And typically no preacher wants to expose their family so that everyone knows the struggles they face at home.
Am I saying that all you see is false? Not at all. What I am saying is that the preacher’s family is a real family, with real sin, real tension, real disagreements, real weaknesses, real discussions, real disciplining, real parenting and real inadequacy. If the fruit that is visible is good, then praise God, not luck. (If the fruit is obviously not good, maybe the preacher needs releasing from some burdens to be able to prioritise their ministry at home. I can never fathom churches watching helplessly as their pastor’s marriage collapses or their child goes off the rails!)
The preacher’s family life is real, whether you get to see the inner workings or not!