Some things to get you thinking from Mary Milne, a ministry wife in Sydney:
Some facts about Ministry Wives (MW): (from pastor burn out.com)
- “Walking wounded” – ie suffering from psychological symptoms but still functioning on the surface. Many have anxiety and depression, one study said 88% lifetime incidence. (Arch Hart 1990)
- Prevalence of depression in the normal general population is 32% life time incidence!!! – the prevalence of depression is so much higher in ministry wives!!
- “Least pastored group in the church” – inadequate support. Inadequate time with spouses. Maybe because it seems that other people’s needs are always bigger than ours or that people look at us and see a well functioning person. ???
- “Secret heartaches” – Internal vs externalising. 56% have no close friends. Lack of authentic intimate relationships. Why do you think this is the case? 70% of clergy say they have no close friends!!
- Many pastors and their families are “placed on a pedestal” that makes it difficult for them to form normal friendships. Feelings of loneliness and isolation in clergy families can result from the “fish bowl” effect of living in the public eye. As a consequence, the lack of social support is a source of stress faced by many ministry families. When outside relationships are not available, the demands on the family infrastructure increase” (mental health issues among clergy and other religious professionals: A review of research Weaver, Flannelly, Larson, Stapelton, Koeing 2002)
- 47% of MW have burnout
- 80% have insufficient time with spouse
For better mental health and decrease the incidence of burn out.
By allowing people to express what they are going through, and praying about it. Often MW can’t share our thoughts with other people, and when we do often people don’t understand it like other MW do.
Lots of human service professionals have support groups / supervision groups to decrease the incidence of burn out.
To be validated
Being validated is being understood and knowing that there is a reality to our experience. After our feelings have been validated, we can understand them and put them into perspective. As we talk things out with people who cares, we can begin to see the big picture. I think with our unique experience, the best people to validate us are the other MW because we understand each other’s experiences.
Provide mutual/safe friendships.
Ecc 4: 10-12
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Though one may be overpowered,
Two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”
If 45 -56% of MW have no close friendships, hopefully by being in a support group will change that. Like the proverbs it better to go through life with friendships.
Dr Henry Cloud “Changes that heal” 1992
“ Bonding is one of the most basic and foundational ideas in life and the universe. It is a basic human need. God created us with hunger for relationship – for relationship with him and our fellow people. At our very core we are relational beings”
“We sometimes think, however, that we can supply all our needs without other people. We think that, in a state of emotional and spiritual isolation, we can still grow. This grave violation of the basic nature of the universe can cause serious problems”
That is not true – We cannot survive in isolation.
Joy and laughter
Laugh about ministry experiences with people who understand.
Be better supporters of our husbands.
God in his wisdom have placed us in this position ie being a ministry wife. Hopefully by being in a support group with other MW, we can become better supporters of our husbands, hence better for God’s kingdom.
I know a few MW who’s marriage have ended badly, imagine if those ladies had support – I wonder if the outcome would have been different.
In America – 50% of pastors marriage end in divorce.
Our husbands have hardest job in the world – and it’s hard sometimes supporting the ups and downs of ministry. If we had support ourselves – what better supporters will we be for our husband – and our family – our church – God’s kingdom.
Remind each other of our love and faith in Jesus through bible reading.
(bible study is not the main focus of this group- more on this later, however Christ is still the centre of our friendships and the bible is our ultimate authority)
Learn from each other – hopefully the support groups will be mixed with different ages and experiences. We can learn through modelling other people’s lives or learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. You can have a “topical day” and learn a particular issue together eg cooking tips, how to be a better supporters of our husbands etc
A Place to process life and ministry