Despite the difficult and demanding role of pastors today, a large majority of evangelical leaders would want their children or grandchildren to become pastors or to marry pastors. According to the March Evangelical Leaders Survey, 75 percent said they would want their children in the pastorate, while 22 percent said they might and 3 percent said they would not.
“I’m a bit surprised,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “Being a pastor can be very stressful and is often not easy on the family. These leaders know the challenges; many have been, or are, pastors themselves. Yet they recognize the value and unique calling of pastors.”
One leader quoted Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1).
Many leaders not only said they would want their children or grandchildren to become pastors or to marry pastors, but were enthusiastic in their support. “Without a doubt.” “The highest calling!” “There’s nothing like it in the world!” “Already happened and thrilled.” “Between our daughter, the doctor, and our other son, the dentist, we’re most proud of the occupation of our son, the pastor.”
Jay Barnes, president of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a grandson who is a sophomore in college and wants to become a pastor. “We are cheering him on,” he said.
Some leaders stressed the importance of vocational calling. One megachurch pastor said, “Yes, but only if they are called by God to that particular ministry.”
Steve Moore, executive director of nexleader, said, “I would want them to respond in obedience to God’s direction. If that included becoming a pastor or marrying a pastor, I would be supportive and encouraging.”
Likewise, Ron Hamilton, conference minister of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, said, “I want my children and grandchildren to minister in Jesus’ name whether it’s professional or lay ministry. Marketplace ministry is needed as much as professional ministry.”
John Hopler, director of Great Commission Churches, said, “I would want to be sure that my child or grandchild who desired to become a pastor or marry a pastor were really called by God and were gifted to do so. I would also urge them to prioritize their family in that decision. Finally, I would urge them to have a tent-making skill [i.e., an alternative or additional non-clergy profession].”
Recognizing the many challenges surrounding pastoral ministry, the NAE has developed two codes of ethics, one for pastors and another for church leadership teams. These codes can guide churches and their pastors as they work and serve together. The NAE has also launched a new project to help churches and denominations address financial issues facing pastors.
Anderson, who served as senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for 35 years, said, “Entering the ministry is not something to be taken lightly. It comes with many challenges and blessings. Pastors need our support and our prayers.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.