4 Generations of Blount Boys.
Having spent a majority of my ministry career in student or family ministry, and having watched numerous ministers struggle with setting boundaries, protecting their family from the “dark side” of ministry and the church, and having recently been asked about those issues when I was the guest on the Surviving The Mire podcast, I feel compelled to write about this issue today.
I believe that all of us (whether you are in ministry or not, whether you are a Christian or not) are part of the family of God. I want to consider and discuss four levels of family. I know that family dysfunction is everywhere, so please allow me to discuss the “ideal” situation for each family level. I believe this is what we should strive for in our families.
1. Your immediate family.
That is Mom, Dad, siblings and you. You might be the parent in the immediate family and you might be a sibling. This is the closest bonding family unit. This is the unit worthy of protecting with boundaries. Parents being present with children is essential. Children need a Dad who loves Jesus and loves his wife to be modeled for them every day. Yes, there are times when the immediate family needs that “getaway time.” No phones, no tablets, not outside interference. Just a time to be present with one another. Those times should be regular and “publicized” so others can understand the boundary being established.
2. Your extended family.
That includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. One regret I have in the way our adult children now behave, is that I don’t think we conveyed the importance of extended family well enough. Yeah, our kids grew up in Appalachia. Yeah, our kids grew up with the influence of grandparents, great-grandparents, great aunts, cousins, a large extended family. I remember when in the early 90’s and we had gone through funerals for both of Peggy’s grandmothers, my mom, and a great aunt who was very close to us, Elliott bemoaned the fact that he had lost so many people he loved. I tried to help him understand how much more rich his early childhood had been because of the influence each of these ladies had been able to have in his life. My grandfather came over for supper at least one night a week, and we were together with him on at least one other day every week. Well, you get the picture. Now, we did not have our noses up the hind ends of parents or grandparents, we asked for and gave a healthy amount of space. I am afraid that our kids have taken that to mean that they should keep plenty of space between them and extended family. That makes me sad indeed. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. deserve a closer relationship than we often give them.
3. Your church family.
It’s one thing to claim to be family in Christ. It’s something else entirely to live like family in Christ. Peggy and I have always practiced an “open door” policy in our home. If you visit our home one time, you get the “nickel tour” (here’s the kitchen, the fridge, the trash can, the bathroom, you get the picture). After that, you are told to never ring the doorbell again, unless the front door is locked. In which case, you may just want to mosey on down the road. Otherwise, come on in. Now, we live in our home, so don’t bring your white gloves. You can bring the attitude of “what can I do to help out around here today?” with you. If you come in at supper time, you may have a feast that has been grilled up, or you may get leftovers. When you come in, you are family. Period. As ministers, we normally don’t get terribly close to people in the congregation, seeking deep friendships with others in ministry in other locations, but we miss out on the chance to be family when we limit our friendships that way.
It’s one thing to claim to be family in Christ. It’s something else entirely to live like family in Christ.
Yes, letting people get close means you can (and probably will) get hurt. Families have been known to do that to one another. Families can also be really good at “kissing and making up” as well!
4. Your family at large.
Scripture teaches that we are all God’s children. We don’t always get along, we don’t see eye-to-eye, and we may even at times say and do things that are hurtful to each other. That can be said of each of the other three family classifications as well. While we may not invite everyone in this family group into our home, we do owe it to them to love them like Jesus does. Christ died on the cross for everyone! God loves everyone! We, too should lead with love. Even with those who do not love us in return. Especially with them. No, it is not easy. It is just what followers of Christ do. It is indeed, how we should then live.
I know that I have just scratched the surface on this subject, and I would love to hear your thoughts as well. Scroll on down and leave your comments so we can have a dialogue together. I love you in Christ because we are family.