It is perhaps no secret that the church—particularly the American evangelical church—is not always successful at viewing individuals as embodied, holistic beings, nor at considering the impact of its programs and structures on the families of those who serve. In this video, Alexander Michael Zarecki (MA in Theology & Culture, ‘16) presents on his Integrative Project, “Ministerial Maternity Leave: A Case Study/For.” Alex connects the stress factors between minister and church with those between parent and child, and discusses how the American church has often reflected the broader culture’s failure to honor the needs of families in an integrative way.

Alex shares about a qualitative study he conducted with six individuals across denominations, interviewing them for one hour each about their experiences of negotiating maternity leave or sabbatical with their churches. In reflecting on the themes that emerged from his study, Alex proposes that many churches have not been ready to respond well to the needs of ministers’ families, and that churches often have difficulty honoring people as holistic, embodied individuals and systems.

“We should be concerned by church systems that would sacrifice family on the altar of service. We should be concerned by the malaise and our collective failure in the United States to do better.”

You can watch the full video of Alex’s talk below. We are consistently inspired by the work that our graduating students present in their Integrative Projects, which serve as a capstone of their time in graduate school—born out of years of study, countless conversations with peers and faculty, and each student’s distinctive embodiment of text, soul, and culture. You can see more videos from last year’s graduating class here.