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Key Discoveries - Part 5

The following was included in the report on the National LCMS Church Worker Family Needs Assessment Pilot Report.

Church worker Family Households are highly committed to the call of the church worker and the third-shift influence on their household.

For years working women have used the term “second-shift” to refer to the many tasks tied to homemaking that do not mysteriously get done working 9-to-5. In prior generations the role of homemaker or stay-at-home-mom were esteemed and the household figured out how to make it with one bread-winner.

For the spouse (and lesser degree fiancé or significant other) of a church worker, having both the explicit or implicit Sunday and between Sundays expectations become their spousal “third-shift”. This can be as non-imposing as being the last to drive off the church parking lot with your kids on Sunday, to being asked to invest your only week of vacation to accompany your spouse on a youth mission trip. In generations past, church worker households were more commonly one-direction oriented—part of the seminary messaging, part of the pre-call discussions, and remuneration was based on sustaining a church worker household in that community.

With 89% of all married respondents (n=769) providing a work category to the question “If married, my spouse is currently…”, special attention has been given to a set of three questions asked separately of the church worker, and the church worker spouse, fiancé, or significant other in the CW-FNA.

The first of the three parallel questions focused on having a “strong sense of being called to and affirmed in the current church ministry position/role.” Seeing the 95% “somewhat true or true of me” of ordained ministry couples as a “team-of-two” in their assessment of their current call is a great affirmation to celebrate.

For Commissioned households, the response was different. The Commissioned (Roster & non-Roster) worker response was 99% to “strong sense of being called to and affirmed in the current church ministry position/role” while the spouse rate was 79%. The 15% indicating “neutral” and 7% in descending levels of “untrue of what I believe” affirms priority given to this key construct in this project. Noteworthy is the 87% “somewhat true or true of me” or unmarried church workers, with 13% less confident in their call.

The second of this set of parallel questions focused on “doing well in balancing time between home life and outside work/ministry”. Access to and priority of one’s spouse’s time is a key predictor of a healthy couple climate which is linked to healthy marital life.

The perception of balancing of time for ordained workers and spouses again exceed those of commissioned couples with “somewhat true or true of me” at 77% by the church worker and 82% by the spouse. For some—the belief is that balancing time between home life and outside work/ministry—is untrue for one in four ordained workers and one in five ordained worker spouses. Some seem to have found the balance while others struggle.

For Commissioned households, the “somewhat true or true of me” was 60% for the church worker, and 58% for the spouse. Among the Rostered and non-Rostered commissioned households, two in three have it figured out—one in three don’t.

Was there any difference between one-directional and two-directional orientation households? No. Viewed from this lens the 65% response of “somewhat true or true of me” for one-direction and 66% two-direction orientation suggests the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about balancing home life and work can overcome the impositions of the “third-shift” as a couple works together.

It is one thing to know there is a need to balance home life and work/ministry—it is another to believe you have permission to say “no” to those things that might go against the former “unwritten Pastor’s Manual” or the implicit “third-shift” expectations that feel comfortable to one-direction households, but unwanted to some two-direction oriented households.

The third of this set of parallel questions focused on “seeing significant progress/results in ministry” which affirms the sacrifices made and the obedience to God is making a difference for His Kingdom. If one’s mind believes one’s sacrifices to be a church worker household (lower remuneration than private sector professionals, third-shift expectations, choosing one career’s possibilities over the others, etc.) don’t matter—the problems with our environment spill over as do the problems with ourselves, and with others.

The perception of “seeing significant progress/results in ministry” was seen as more favorable by the ordained spouse (46% “true of me” + 27%% “somewhat true of me” =73%) than the ordained worker (28% “true of me” + 37% “somewhat true of me” = 65%), most notably in the “true of me” extreme. This is an unexpected finding—one to celebrate, but one requiring some more investigation to fully understand. Yet for one in four ordained households, doubts about making progress or seeing results in ministry presses against the two-directional work life of the household and the expectations of the third-shift.

Shifting our eyes to the commissioned households, we see a noticeable decrease in the perception of “seeing significant progress/results in ministry” by the commissioned worker spouse, most noticeably in the “somewhat true of me” response (32% spouse /44% church worker) with “true of me” statistically equal 30% +/- 1. With one-in-three of the spouses holding doubts about seeing significant progress/results in ministry the press is even harder against the two directional work life of the household and the spouse’s expectations of the third-shift.

At this point, it became clear that viewing these same questions through the lens of church worker family connection might add some clarity to which category of household is functioning strongest—and which is most in need of intentional help. And that the commissioned household needed to be zoomed in adding two new categories: parish setting (n=57) and school setting (n=360).

While preliminary, of note is the consistency of the Parish setting spouse to rate these items higher than the actual Parish setting worker, and the reverse of the School setting spouse to rate these items lower than the actual School setting worker.

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