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Book Review: Joys and Challenges of the Pastoral Family

An important book on the pastoral family worth picking up.

Reviewed by Steve Murphy, MS, LGPC, NBCC, pastor of the Wheaton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United State

by Jonas and Raquel Arrais, Madrid, Spain: Editorial Safeliz, 2018

Writing about pastoral families comes with its challenges. While it is important to outline the joys, opportunities, and privileges that are a part of being a pastoral family, it is equally important to be truthful about the challenges, even the crises, that pastoral families face. It is refreshing to see a couple in ministry willing to tackle these issues.

This book is written in a clear and open style with broad and effective use of the Bible and substantial reliance on counsel from the writings of Ellen G. White. The authors are efficient in their description of and prescription for the issues surrounding the pastoral family. Much can be gleaned from even a cursory reading of the book, although I would, of course, recommend a thorough reading. There are points that the reader may disagree with, but the book is informative, well organized, and comprehensive. It successfully uses a dialogue-type format on occasion to give the reader the opportunity to “hear” the individual “voice” of each author.

A substantial majority of pastors are married. The authors, at the beginning of the book, rightly emphasize the centrality of a healthy marital relationship as a foundation for effective ministry in the church. The authors offer clear biblical material in support of their assertions in this area. The chapter titled “If You Want to Marry a Pastor” is sobering and full of clear, simple, and at times challenging counsel.

In general, the book is oriented toward a traditional pastoral family arrangement where the pastor is male, married, and has children, and the primary role of the pastor’s wife is to support her husband’s role in the church. The authors freely refer to the “pastor’s wife” while only briefly acknowledging the notion of a pastor’s husband. We are all aware of pastors whose spouses are professionals who have considerable responsibility and influence in the communities in which they serve. The book would have benefited from paying more attention to other kinds of pastoral family arrangements. There are divorced pastors with families, single-parent pastors, and blended pastoral families. The traditional pastoral family is still the profile of the majority of pastoral families, but it is far from being the only profile.

The book could be strengthened by reference to research when it comes to pastoral families. Are there any trends within pastoral families that denominational administration needs to take note of? What impact do pastoral tenure, Christian education, technology, and other factors have on the pastoral family? Specific personal stories from the authors’ own experience in ministry would also enhance this volume. Perhaps, even a story or two from pastors' kids. People love a good story. The authors clearly made the decision to limit the level of personal disclosure. I respect that decision, but perhaps a second book by this obviously committed and gifted couple will open the door into that more personal space!

In conclusion, this is a book for any individual, couple, or family engaged in pastoral ministry. The open-minded reader will learn much, and any pastoral family member will be challenged to deepen their commitment to the Lord and the ministry to which He has called them. It is worth taking the time out of your schedule to read this book.

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Reviewed by Steve Murphy, MS, LGPC, NBCC, pastor of the Wheaton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, United State

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