Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Helping Pastors With Struggling Marriages

Pastors and clergy struggling in their marriages often do not know where to turn for help. Their congregations are often ground zero and they fear that speaking out will lead to a loss of their ministry careers.  I've compiled some resources to help them below. A 2006 Pastors Marriage Survey report posted at The Center For Relationship Enrichment offers a sobering assessment of the difficulties they face: busyness, loneliness and unrealistic expectations. Recent examples of well known pastors dealing with marital landmines include Bishop Eddie LongPastor Benny HinnPastor Juanita Bynum and Pastor Tedd Haggard among others. The video clip below shows Pastor Benny Hinn addressing tabloid pictures taken of him with Pastor Paula White this past summer.

In the second clip he talks about his bad judgement in letting Paula travel with him to Rome and his failed marriage. In the third clip he addresses how his sole focus on ministry hurt his children and marriage. He says he was wrong to preach that ministry comes before family. He speaks of the loneliness that faced him when he would come home to an empty house over the years. There are two sides to every story and his wife Suzanne has not spoken out yet. I bet her story would also include loneliness, being disregarded, lack of communication and emotional distance. I was moved by his honest self-evaluation and considered it a warning to other clergy busy working for God while ignoring their families.

Please note the majority of pastors and clergy are positively married without affairs or scandals. My goal is to highlight ideas that help them maintain healthy marriages. I am passionate about this topic because I am a music minister’s wife and a marriage educator. We don't excuse the foolish and hurtful decisions some clergy make, but we can help steer them in the right direction.

Here are some of my ideas and resources I came across online:
  1.  If you are a pastor facing a marriage struggle, please call the confidential Pastors Care Line 877-233-4455.
  2. If you live in South Florida check out the South Florida Christian Counselors Association for listings of professional licensed counselors. If you live outside Florida check out the American Association of Christian Counselors.
  3. An additional counseling resource is the Marriage Friendly Therapists directory.
  4. The Parsonage is pastors website with articles on date nights, ministry pressure, dealing with pornography, surviving crisis as a pastoral family, ministry wives, busyness, separation of church and mate etc. 
  5. If your marriage is already on the brink of divorce, consider attending a Retrouvaille Program which caters to couples ready to walk out. They ask for donations versus payments.
  6. Couples on the Brink is great resource here in South Florida - they offer emergency phone sessions for couples.
  7. Care For Pastors is a great ministry that caters to pastors needs in tough times
  8. Lois Evans, the wife of Dr. Tony Evans in Dallas, Texas has an incredible ministry for Pastors wives and she hosts the largest Annual Pastors Wives conference
  9. Check out Pastor's Wives Thriving for great articles and honest forum discussions.
  10. The church can sponsor the pastoral couple to a romantic getaway and designate a different leader whom members can contact in their absence.
  11. If the church does not have an evening service on Sundays, consider it a day of rest for the Pastoral family as well!
  12. If the Pastor has little children, offer or organize volunteers to baby-sit so they can enjoy date nights. 
  13. The Pastor’s spouse is not the enemy, he/she has a God given responsibility to care for their spouse and has a right to their time away from church duties.
  14. Do not facilitate or participate in an affair with your married pastor! Check out Dave Carder’s warning on friendships that lead to affairs and avoid that landmine!
  15. Pastors are trained to be careful when counseling or otherwise being alone in seclusion with a member of the opposite sex where no else can verify their story. In my experience, spiritual crisis trigger emotional responses that can lead to foolish decisions.
  16.  Here's a great article from telling young pastors, their marriage is foundational to their ministry.
  17. A book resource I found on Amazon is “I’m More Than The Pastor’s Wife: Authentic Living In A Fishbowl World” by Lorna Dobson.
I have avoided religious/doctrinal differences in this post and will delete responses that only dwell on that. I appreciate a robust discussion on how we can help our pastors and clergy focus on their own families. Please post your ideas and comments below.