In a recent interview, researcher, professor, and best-selling author Brené Brown shared that after giving talks on shame and resilience–the topic for which she is not only best known but also deserves significant credit for bringing into the forefront of public discourse–she frequently hears people say, “I already knew everything you were talking about, I just didn’t have the words.” Brown’s work has always resonated with me, partly because of her ability to give language to real human struggles but more so in the way her writing weaves together research with personal experience. Indeed, Brown’s movement toward household name status came out of widely viewed TED Talk in which she shared her own experience of rebuilding after a breakdown and how that season informed her professional pursuits. It is a posture that is brave and vulnerable–concepts at the heart of her research–and what makes her so skilled at giving people the words for what they already know.
This new, online space at Ministry Mentors is my own effort at drawing together my professional life as a sociologist, researcher, and educator with my personal story rooted in a rather unexpected journey as a pastor’s spouse. I describe my identity as a pastor’s spouse as “unexpected” because my husband, Aaron, did not intend to pursue traditional parish ministry. His ten-plus years as the pastor of a vibrant urban congregation came as a call–literally, by phone, from denominational leaders asking if he would consider joining a co-pastor team to revitalize a dying church–and spiritually, in now recognizing God’s movement in his professional path.
Where did I fit in all of this? What did this mean for our family life? Our shared commitment to being part of faith community? Our social life? My identity? These are questions I asked a lot in those early days of Aaron’s ministry and I’m admittedly still seeking answers. What I do know, though, is this journey led me down a path much like Brown’s where my personal life intersected with my professional life in ways I never thought possible. As I began exploring these questions around clergy family life and what they meant for me and my family, I decided to ask these questions of others, spending the next ten years studying, analyzing, writing, and speaking on the intersections of work, family, faith, relationships, and identity among clergy families.
Which brings me back to this blog I am calling Weaving Work, Family, and Faith. This is a place for reflection on the complicated, messy, but life-giving realities of being a clergy family. It is a space for connection with others. And it is an opportunity to think about the ways our lives are never separated into neat, tidy compartments. In writing about the intersections of my research and my own life, I hope this becomes a space where readers discover something new, but also one where they find themselves saying that same line Brown so often hears: “I already knew everything you were talking about, I just didn’t have the words.”
Lenore Knight Johnson, PhD
MORE ABOUT LENORE
Lenore Knight Johnson, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Trinity Christian College. Her research areas include religion, gender, families, and social inequalities with projects focusing on work-life integration among clergy families, women’s ordination, and a new, developing project on whiteness among social justice oriented Christians. Prior to her academic career, Lenore worked in the not-for-profit sector and social services, primarily in refugee resettlement and immigrant advocacy, a background that informs her interest and experience in community-based and applied sociological research.