There is nothing more comforting than a friend or family group who has your best interest at heart. You know that no matter what you are facing, you can count on them to support and encourage you. They are a GRACE ZONE, because they understand what you are facing, and they sincerely care about you. In pastor life, these types of trusting relationships are often rare, especially for pastors’ wives.
To remedy this trend, a network of pastors and wives has been forming across Montana, due to the catalytic work of Keith Evans, with the North American Mission Board. As those with a heart for the spiritual and emotional health of pastor families emerged, a Pastor Care Team was formed. Together, they created a strategy to connect pastor families into regional cohorts for pastor family care. It is often said that to have a healthy church, a healthy pastor is needed. It’s also true that a healthy pastor needs a healthy wife and family.
A cohort fosters trusting relationships and they seek to create an environment where they can process the stress of life and ministry in healthy ways. While every pastor and wife should model vulnerability in their life, the fear of being judged and betrayed by church members is real. They are often afraid to share too deeply about what they are really feeling. Therefore, they create a false front. Negative emotions are repressed, and these often boil over on the ones they love. Scripture offers a healthier way. When one is honest with themselves, God, and others, the Gospel in displayed in beautiful ways.
Pastor Family Cohorts share meals together. They share family activities and fellowship together. The kids are also shown value by building family memories together. There are times to share personally and to pray for one another. As these families communicate on a regular basis for encouragement and support, these bonds grow even stronger. Yes, these relationships take time to build trust, but the benefits of a Pastor Family Cohort are often seen immediately.
Pastor Family Cohorts have started in the Missoula area with Mark and Sacha Hasenyager and in the Kalispell area with Chris and Kim Baker. Steve and Alesia Fowler have started two groups in the Billings area and will be expanding into Bozeman soon. Darren and Susan Hales are connecting families in Helena and the region around Shelby, and Susan has started a pastor wives’ group, as well. The culmination of this activity was an Oasis Retreat in March for ministry couples in Whitefish. This annual get away was a gift from NAMB, and its purpose was to grow Christ-centered marriages. This year Mark and Janet Dance were the guest speakers.
Would you like to join or start a Pastor Family Cohort in your region? Leaders go through annual training, and they receive quarterly coaching and monthly support from the Pastor Care Team. There are commitments to join and a willingness to apply the principles of the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship book, from Peter Scazzero. A copy of this book was given by Keith Evans to all the pastors who attended REFRESH. Drawn from scripture, its’ insights on communication and authentic Christian living are life giving. If you want a copy of the book or more information about a Pastor Family Cohort, please contact Darren Hales or one of the members of the Pastor Care Team, listed above.