You might think this post is about reality TV stars, but if so you’ll be disappointed. It’s about the families of some pastors and ministry leaders. For a generation, many Christian broadcasters, ministry leaders, and pastors have been obsessed with the issue of family succession. Obviously, it would be nice if our children followed us into our work. Having a strong and loving family is a wonderful thing, and I think it’s a powerful expression of our witness to the world. However, too many leaders have pushed family members into roles they’re either not qualified for or incapable of doing, and it’s backfired again and again. Here’s a good rule:
People want to hear from a pastor or ministry leader’s family unless it becomes dysfunctional. For instance, if it’s a struggle to keep a family member sober so they can make regular appearances on your ministry TV program, maybe it’s time to get them off the air and get them some real help. If a family member has been through multiple divorces, maybe they’re not the right choice for teaching on how to have a lasting marriage. Competence matters as well. I watched a Christian TV program the other night and cringed as the ministry leader’s young son interviewed a guest. I felt for him. This was obviously not his gift, and it was humiliating and embarrassing. Plus, knowing how so many ministries work, I would bet there was no one there to offer any objective criticism or help. He probably walked off the set thinking he was brilliant, and I’m sure his dad was proud.
I’m not trying to be overly harsh, I just want to send a message to Christian leaders from the congregation they serve or the audience who watches their programming. For all of my career I’ve believed that having a strong family on TV, in the ministry, or in the pulpit was a tangible expression and encouragement to families attending the church or supporting the ministry. I still do. But that ends the moment a family member is pushed beyond what’s ethical, moral, or attainable – all in the name of making your ministry look good to the public.
If you really want to help them – and gain respect – then get them the proper training, the proper advice, and if necessary, the proper help. Anything else is a shortcut to disaster.