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 pastors.com 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.

5 comments:

  1. First of all why is number 8 & 9 in smaller font? They should be bold bold bold, if not the same front as the title :-)

    Also understand that the reason why these scandals are so huge, is the characters themselves are popular. The nation isn't going to hear about a small community preacher's affair with the choir director except for his congregation and they are usually forgiving.

    I'm glad there are resources that can facilitate counseling for minister's and their family and it should be encouraged, every marriage needs a little support at times. I also feel that even if these resources were not available there many qualified therapist outside of the church that would be able to help. They should be discounted because they are not operating under the umbrella of a ministry

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  2. Ray-Lee thanks for your great observations! I did add 5 more resources today and changed the fonts. You are right, there are great qualified therapists outside the church and I listed some professional organizations above. For most pastors, their faith is an integral part of their marriage and they prefer talking to a counselor who understands that. The listings I posted are licensed professionals who happen to be Christians. In a while I'll post marriage resources from other faiths. Thanks gal!

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  3. Mine is to help them think outside the divorce word and also let them meet a couple that can be regarded as mentors.

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  4. Thanks for the post. As a Pastor for 20 years I understand the stress that ministry can inflict on a marriage. I have seen my share of failed marriages in my fellowship association. It is not something that they planed or set out to do. It seems to just happen as a result of careless choices, stress and a loss of intimacy.

    My favorite point in your post is #10.The church can sponsor the pastoral couple to a romantic getaway and designate a different leader whom members can contact in their absence.

    I never had one vacation or getaway with my wife in 20 years of ministry. We survived but it could have been sweeter. This could be one of the greatest gifts you could give your Pastor and spouse.

    Thanks again for the post,

    Pastor Vance Williamson

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  5. @ Pastor Vance - Thank you for your thoughtful comment as a Pastor. I hope you and your wife are able take a much needed vacation after 20 years of ministry! I wrote this post because Pastors are in a rock and a hard place, they often can't talk about their relationship struggles with anyone in their congregation and unless they belong to an outside accountability group - they are stuck. My hope is more pastors and church folks will stumble on this post.

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