Do You Know & Watch for Pastor Family Problems & Patterns?
Thom Rainer wrote a very insightful article called Seven Ways the Pastor’s Family Comes Under Attack. From unreasonable family member commitment expectations to the stress of low pay which negatively impacts the pastor’s family, there are many trials. Thom’s list is a good one for describing hardships for ministry families. The list also mentions pastor’s children rebelling. That is an example of an internal ministry family dynamic struggle. Internal obstacles are as real as any others. For the sake of time today, the focus will be internal pastor family problems, specifically generational dysfunction. All families face this problem, but perhaps it is compounded by ministry stresses for pastors’ families. This is about identifying and fortifying families against negative patterns that have been established by parents and grandparents.
In the Bible, Joseph’s family provides a good example of this….
Pastor Family Problems: 3 Dysfunction Examples from Joseph’s Family
Look at Joseph’s grandparents. They had twin boys named Esau (Joseph’s uncle) and Jacob (Joseph’s dad). Isaac loved Esau… but Rebekah loved Jacob. And that was the beginning of serious troubles between the brothers.
Jacob had partiality for Rachel (and her two sons) which eventually doomed his family to the same strife he had experienced in his father’s household. Then Jacob (sometimes called Israel) loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he was the son of his old age. He showered him with attention, protected him, and gave him the soft jobs in the family business.
That was not a good formula for family peace and harmony. Being drawn to one child more than another, for whatever reason, is the breeding ground of dysfunction in the family unit.
By deception, Jacob stole the family birthright. His mother, Rebekah, helped trick Isaac into giving the blessing to Jacob. This trickery led to Esau becoming enraged because of his stolen birthright. So, again Rebekah joined with Jacob in a plot, this time to have Isaac send Jacob away to their family home. It was under the guise of Jacob finding a wife but in reality it was so Esau wouldn’t kill him.
Then the tables turned. The deceiver, Jacob, got deceived. Laban promised his younger daughter to Jacob. It was on the condition that Jacob would work for him for 7 years. Jacob loved her so much the 7 years seemed like nothing to him. The time came for him to marry Rachel, but on the wedding night, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Laban told Jacob if he fulfilled the wedding week with Leah and committed to 7 more years of work, at the end of the week he could marry Rachel. And that’s what happened.
The skill of deception was passed to Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery. Deception ran in the family tree.
Rivalry (Jealousy and Hatred) –
Let’s go back to Joseph’s father (Jacob and his older twin Esau). Esau was intent on doing real harm to his brother. For years they were alienated from each other (geographically and relationally). Esau hated Jacob. The biggest rivalry was between Leah and Rachel. Bitterness, jealousy, and resentment marked these two ladies and their family until their deaths.
You already know these stories but had you thought of them from a family patterns perspective? Hopefully the pitfalls in your family tree are not so severe, but they might be. Whatever they are, it is important to be aware of them, stay mindful not to repeat them yourself, and watch to prevent those behaviors from influencing or impacting your children. There are plenty of external attacks for ministry families to face without the added internal baggage of family history. I pray for God’s guidance and wisdom as you think through Joseph’s family example and consider your own family. I pray every ministry and pastor’s family be blessed and able to stay ahead of the obstacles. May family trials be formative growth tools as they were for Joseph, who became such a star for God’s purpose.
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