Nepotism

In fundamentalism, ministry is a family business. The preacher’s wife plays the piano. The preacher’s younger son leads the singing while the elder runs the youth group. The preacher’s daughter manages the nursery. Each one ensures that the leader has a tight leash on every department in the organization.

Some day when dad is finally called home to his reward, one of the sons will pick up where he left off, often regaling the congregation with tales of “what dad once said.” An aspiring preacher boy will be lucky enough to marry this great man’s daughter and leverage that name recognition into his own ministerial conquests. (The other son will get gender realignment surgery and start a band in Hoboken, NJ — but we’ll never hear about him).

A good name may be more desirable than great riches but in fundamentalism it’s unlikely you’ll have one without the other. As for the rest of you rabble, if you’re not blessed enough to have such a pedigree, good luck keeping up with the Joneses.

64 thoughts on “Nepotism”

  1. This describes my Assemblies of God church all too well. The worship team is made up of the pastor’s son and his family, plus one other guy. Children’s church is run by his daughter. Virtually everything else is run by someone in the family.

    But it’s not nepotism. No, really, it isn’t. Really.

    1. I wondered the same thing. I though maybe it was just because it’s a “funny” name…hey, if Bugs Bunny could use it for laughs, why not? I live right next to Hoboken, NJ though, maybe I should look up this band…could be fun!

        1. Saying Titus Andronicus was about cannibalism is kind of like saying that the movie Titanic was about “life rafts.”

          There’s a whole lot more to it than that. You should check out the film version “Titus” staring Anthony Hopkins. It’s profoundly disturbing in the most amazing way.

        2. @Darrel: True, very true. but the nepotism and Titus Andronicus…don’t quite mix in the most comfortable way…

  2. Oh, and nepotism also helps if you do something really bad. Having dad as the pastor and school principal sure help get the kids out of some seriously scandalous situations that would have “normal” people leaving the church in disgrace…

    1. I totally agree. How about when the Pastor’s sibling commits sexual acts on kids in the high school and other than being forced to attend a “gay reform school”, the authorities are NEVER called leaving that to hang over the church forever or until one of the abused decides to sue. Oh, and when said sibling returns from the “GRS” he is immediately put in charge of things in the ministry again, albeit none involving kids?! I couldn’t flee that church soon enough! 🙄

  3. My church growing up did hire its latest youth pastor who happened to be the Pastor’s son. But beyond that my church growing up was pretty good.

    But, when I first graduated from BJU I did my due diligence and attended the 2 fundy like churches in the area. The second one fit this description and, well, lets just say we picked up on it immediately and promptly *never* returned. The pastor was the pastor of course. But then the youth pastor, music pastor and special music were all his sons or daughters. Once we figured that out my wife and I pretty much just looked at each other and said, “No!” It would be one thing if you were there before this creeped in, but walking into it willingly…no way.

  4. This was one of the biggest contributing factors to my family leaving our fundy church. The pastor’s family could do no wrong (even though the oldest son refused to come to the church at all). The pastor’s wife and his daughter played the piano even though I was better than both of them (once they figured that out I was never allowed to play again). The pastor’s daughter’s family did whatever they wanted, even if it was in direct opposition to what he preached, and got away with it, whereas we were abused no matter what we did. The double standard was appalling.

  5. I particularly liked the “keeping up with the Joneses” line. In order to do that, you’d have to found your own school. And, when your family doesn’t quite cut it academically, you can give them doctorates anyway. 😀

      1. Oh, he’s not a journalist any more? Last I heard he was the Washington correspondent for some Christian magazine that I can’t remember the name of. But that’s been a couple of years at least, so maybe he’s doing something totally different now.

  6. Let’s see… The fundy church I grew up in, and thankfully left two years ago, has the pastor’s oldest son as the bus/children’s pastor, the youngest son as the middle school pastor (this position miraculously appeared when he graduated college), each of their wives teach in the church’s school, and the pastor’s wife is his executive assistant. On top of that, the music director and the youth pastor grew up in the church and went through the school. So, it’s just one big happy, in-bred staff family. The other staff members have been in the church for 20 years+. No new ideas, no new thought.

    The pastor’s justification for his children being in the ministry (and payroll) alongside him is, “What man in this church doesn’t hire his children so he can teach them? A contractor will hire his son to teach him the skill of building. A business man will hire his child to show them the finer points of trade. Etc, etc. Blah, blah.” Then his rationale for putting people on staff that are products of the ministry is that “There is no greater joy as a church to have one of our own come back and serve alongside us. They don’t need to learn the ministry here. They already know the people. Etc, etc. Blah, blah.”

    They wonder why so many people are waking up and leaving. They should look no further than their shallow ministry gene pool.

    1. All you have to do is corrupt your spouse with your evangelical ways, then it’s all good. :mrgreen:

      But seriously, my wife’s parents are supper fundies, but they are great people and we have learned to get alone and accept each other. (so I guess they are not supper fundies any more, more corruption!)

  7. The fundy church I left a couple of years ago, according to what I heard recently, is going through troubles like this. Their new uber-fundy MoG wants to instate his son-in-law into a leadership position that, according to their constitution, must be voted on by the congregation. The MoG is quite pushy, and I suspect that he’ll split or kill the church before relenting.

  8. Nepotism: We promote family values almost as much as we promote family members.

    There’s a kind of reverse nepotism I’ve seen, too. I know a guy who’s made it big in Fundyland, and now his father-in-law gets invited to all sorts of conferences and special meetings as a speaker because of his daughter’s husband’s “fame.” The logic apparently is that somehow his wisdom and insight raising his daughter was solely responsible for her marrying this guy who ended up with a good career in Fundyland, which makes whatever he has to say especially valuable. 😕

  9. boy, this story is so true. i know that i was never accepted in the fundy circles because my daddy was a no name pastor, yada, yada, yada…. you get the idea.
    of course it might have had a little to do with the fact that i was asking way too many questions to be considered a good fundy.

  10. Well, to their credit, sometimes the pastor’s family does everything because no one else wants to. It’s not always nepotism, especially in small churches. If all the PASTORS in the church are related, it’s a problem. But otherwise? Maybe his wife and children help because others won’t.

    1. It’s a valid point, Mary. I’ve been in those little churches too.

      But in a church of 300 or 1300 it does seem a little odd that the pastor’s relations so frequently end up in the spotlight while others warm the bench.

      God is no respecter of persons…but I guess we are.

    2. I agree with Darrell that you have a valid point.
      However, some people (myself included) understand the potential trap of getting into a ministry. That is once you “sign up” for a ministry, short of serious medical issues (or death) you can never get out without being looked down upon. Since you are in the ministry you are now required to abide by ALL the rules…..strict dress code, attendance whenever the doors are open, appropriate hair length, possibly a requirement for tithing etc. All of this can discourage someone who would just like to help out and enjoy the fellowship. But when it becomes a job, no thanks. I already have one of those, not looking for another one. So my talents are wasted because it is an all or nothing proposition. 🙁

      1. Even in non-fundy churches there is a tendency toput pressure on members to be fully vested only to have them find that no amount of effort will ever result in any kind of say in what goes on in the church. Outside the center of power, whether patriarchal or oligarchical, you are ignored and yet taken for granted.

  11. Yes, big problem with this in the fundy church in Greenville, SC, we left. The pastor basically said that his son(s) had to be hired or he would leave. (They should have taken him up on it.) In the process of getting his marginally talented son into the music ministry position, the pastor fired two excellent music directors who were faculty members at BJ on trumped up charges and suspicious voting activity. Oddly enough people seem to be okay with the abysmal treatment of staff and they continue to attend and the church appears to be growing. I don’t understand why it is okay to “trash” people either at a church or at Bob Jones Universit. I’ve seen a whole lot of it at both places. There never seems to be a “pay day” for these kinds of shenanigans.

    When we relocated, my husband visited a church on a Sunday morning I was ill. He came back and said that we weren’t going to bother with that one (BJU recommended) because they were installing the pastor’s son as Youth Director that very morning. We have had enough of that nonsense already.

  12. In my youth, I knew a young man who was studying for the ministry. He was single (as in no girlfriends or anything), but he always said he couldn’t marry a woman unless she could play the piano and teach Sunday School.

    I haven’t heard from him in many years, so I can’t tell you if he found someone who qualified or not.

  13. There was a boy who married a pastor’s daughter. He immediately became assistant pastor at the church. After a few years of marriage the pastor’s daughter went wild and didn’t want to be married anymore and ran off leaving her husband with a baby. Of course the husband had to be let go, it looked bad to have him on staff. Then he was left floundering and broken with no one supporting him, he was taboo.

  14. Fundies like to say that the US Constitution evolved directly from the Bible, and that free markets and democratic elections are based on Christian principles. But the truth is Christianity is a monarchist religion. Here are some examples and ministries being family enterprises, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Robert H. Schuller and Pat Robertson. I am sure that list goes on.

  15. I’ll chime in with Mary for the other side of the coin. At one point, I was the worship leader at my fil’s church, the men’s group coordinator, the sound guy, the special music guy, pulpit supply, etc., because nobody else wanted to be bothered. If my wife, her mother, her sisters and their husbands were to stop doing what they’re doing, then you’d no longer have a worship leader, a head usher, nursery workers, kid’s club teachers, Sunday school teachers, pianists, etc. Now I don’t do anything; if it’s not important to the rest of the congregation to step up, then so be it.

    1. I got frustrated when my husband (the pastor) kept having to drive the church van after Wed. nights. It is my opinion that if the church body cannot produce a van driver and an aide, then the church should cancel the van ministry. People wanted those kids to come, but no one wanted to go get them so my husband kept being the default driver.

  16. I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing this website has been to me. For 11 years I served as “part-time” youth pastor at a fundy church (full-time was always promised but never delivered)that I finally left a little over a year ago. There was a time during those 11 years when we were struggling financially. I asked during that time if there was anything that could be done around the church to earn more money and I was told unfortunately there wasn’t. Of course I knew differently because his wife and daughter both cleaned the church each week for about 2-3 hours each to the tune of $125.00 each a week. Of course not wanting to question things I soldiered through. About a year later his nephew injured his hand and was no longer able to work. Miraculously, a brand-new full-time “building maintenance” position appeared out of thin air and guess who was appointed to that position? Yep. The pastor’s “deacon board” consists of his 2 son-in-laws, his nephew, and his nephew’s son-in-law, with a token non-family member who has been by his side for 30 years and has never uttered the word “no” or the phrase “I disagree”. He now has 1 son-in-law as youth pastor/Sunday school guy, 1 son-in-law as a deacon, 1 daughter as head of the children’s Sunday School, 1 niece as full-time office manager, 1 nephew as full-time building maintenance, 1 niece as head of the children’s church, and of course his wife who still collects her cleaning money. Every year there is an “anniversary Sunday”, not to celebrate the church and it’s beginning, but rather his glorious arrival to the church in 1969. The entire day is nothing more than a sickening display of self-glorification.

    1. And as a fitting side note to my above post, this past Sunday (October 3) was the big day. One thing I did not mention in my previous post is that at my old church, every year on “Anniversary Sunday”, awards are given out. Yesterday, his wife was given an award for being the “most inspirational” during the year. Sickening.

      What also made me sick about this particular day is that it was given more importance in terms of promoting and funding than any other day or event in the calendar year. They bring in a singing group for the day and would give them typically 10k, as well as an anniversary “gift” to the Pastor. Not to mention the advertisinig and food, etc. It will be a while until the healing is complete, but looking back on my experiences there sickens me to think what I was able to tolerate all in the name of trying to please him..

  17. The Wilds of the Rockies was never the same after the head honcho kicked out the director, a very good man, and replaced him with his son-in-law, Robert Allamon. That son-in-law ended up at Trinity in New Hampshire, and latest word is that he is divorced.

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