Creative Leadership

Leaders: Stop Pushing Your Dysfunctional Family On Us!

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.

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  1. Your first sentence was interesting, because when I read the title, I instantly though of church pastors. You’re right – most dads would love it if their sons or daughters took after them and followed in heading up the family business. But what brings more joy to a father – having your child follow in your footsteps, or having your child find their true calling and blossom into success in something they actually love to do and are great at doing?

  2. On the dot Phil! When the church/ministry is seen as an inheritance to be left behind for my kids rather than as His Body for which He is the head; Christ’s bride given Him as His inheritance from His Father, for whom He, Christ paid the price, that’s not just not right; its downright dangerous! Its also a misconception about ministry being of levitical order than of the order of Melchizedek. It means they don’t understand the priesthood of all believers. It also means they don’t consider their people as their children like Paul (I Thess); then they won’t be sensitive to see who are the ones God wants them to nurture and raise as leaders; then they won’t be right shepherds to their flock. That’s risky! Sure understand their heart that they don’t want what they have slogged to build up given to waste

  3. But He is the builder of the hand He will take care. A note: We don’t see Moses, Peter, Paul etc doing this for their kids. They it was not theirs but His!

  4. Concerning familial nepotism in the ministry: As a pastor, the first thing I wanted to do, as my kids got older, was to get them out from under the umbrella as the Pastor’s son and daughter. The only way they will discover God’s calling for themselves is to establish an identity of themselves in Christ, not in Pastor Dad. I’ve witnessed too many kids trying to please their Pastor Dads because the ministry was in the family’s name and they had to carry it on, no matter what…Not only does it make dysfunctional kids, but dysfunctional marriages as well…The worse thing for a PK is to have their spouse’s marriage to be to the whole family, not to the individual…

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