Differentiation of Family and Work is a Lifelong Project

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Posted by Marilyn Cole 4 years ago

(This is part 6 of an 8-part series reflecting on the book, Resilient Ministry: What pastors told us about surviving and thriving.)

It is almost impossible to manage the expectations of others unless our relationship with the Lord is vital and growing. It is in our relationship with God that we find the strength to see clearly, to differentiate from the emotions of others, and to gain the wisdom and insight to address problems (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.184).

The book Resilient Ministry: What pastors told us about surviving and thriving identifies the following five primary challenges to family life for people in vocational ministry:

  1. Normal pressures of marriage and family life including managing conflicts and the challenges arising from a rapidly changing society with changing family structures;
  2. Always on the job - if the spouse is the only safe person with whom to unload, work stress may also fill the marriage;
  3. Conflicting loyalties of the school and home (which may be exacerbated if children attend the same school as the parent teacher);
  4. Abandonment of spouse and children by a spouse who is ‘always on the job’. Are you willing to accept an emotionally non-intimate relationship?
  5. Unmet needs of family - Do you miss family celebrations? Do you know what activities mean a lot to your spouse/children and should not be missed?


Q. What story do you tell yourself about the tension between work and home responsibilities?
Q. How well does your spouse/family think you are navigating these tensions? (Burns, Chapman & Guthrie, p.186)

Managing conflict

Q. Do you view conflict as an intrusion or as a tool that God uses for growth?

There are no simple responses to conflict. Each situation is different and depends on the people and the circumstances surrounding the disagreement. But there is a valid response. Embracing conflict well can teach people how to disagree well and still love one another. More importantly conflict is an opportunity for personal growth.

Consider Moses' debates with God in Exodus 3-4 and the conflict that arose in the early church over the integration of Gentiles in Acts 15. The basis of both conflicts was a disagreement. In both situations, the parties listened to each others’ concerns and questions. God did not impose a solution on Moses and Paul did not impose a solution on the men from Judea or the Pharisees who were teaching wrong ideas.

If our concern is to see the conflict as a pathway to help others grow and mature, we should take a stance of curiosity, asking questions to seek to understand, rather than showing others we are correct.

The alternative to a valid response is a poor response.

Four poor responses to conflict are described:

  1. Avoidance which does not make conflict go away
  2. The need to win or be right
  3. Trying to control the outcome by defining the results ahead of time or by giving up working on the conflict
  4. A false resolution by resigning or cutting off relationships. This does not bring a healthy and responsible resolution, except as a final response to entrenched, sinful behaviour.


Q. Do you view conflict as a distraction or an opportunity?
Q. To what extent do you respond to conflict with a poor response (as above)?
Q. Do you feel prepared to respond positively to a conflict in a current situation?


Burns, B, Chapman, T.D., & Guthrie, D. C. (2013). Resilient Ministry: What Pastors told us about surviving and thriving. (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press).

Resilient Ministry is available for purchase from The Wandering Bookseller


Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent  is to promote thinking and discussion.