By Mark Dance
A pastor’s ministry will never be stronger than his marriage. This is why I’ve been looking across the U.S. for the best retreats and intensives for ministry couples. LifeWay considers these ministries as partners, not competitors, in the fight for healthy ministry marriages.
I found several marriage retreats, but only a few which focus exclusively on ministry couples. My wife and I have attended and served at six of these marriage retreats, so we’re recommending them from first-hand experience.
Dr. David Ferguson and his family have been hosting these gifted retreats for about thirty years and have served 12,000 ministry couples. You’ll greatly enjoy investing in this time of marriage renewal.
Paul Cowell created this network of discounted lodging for missionaries and pastors (25-50% discounts). His family built the Whitestone Inn near Knoxville, Tennessee, which invites missionaries to stay for free and ministers to stay for half price.
Johnny and Janet Hunt have blessed more than 8,000 ministry couples with instruction and encouragement for the past twenty years. There are several regional retreat options to choose from in resort locations, which are made affordable by corporate sponsors like LifeWay.
Janet and I attended this Family Life couples retreat twenty years ago and sent several groups from our church. Pastors need to check out FamilyLife’s Pastor Scholarship.
Some ministry marriages need more than a retreat because they’re in serious trouble. These intensives have saved a lot of marriages and ministries, but they’re not quick, easy, or cheap. Here are four places where pastors can fight for their marriages:
Therapist-led, intensive counseling for couples and for whole families (Focus on the Family).
They host both marriage retreats and marriage intensives in Colorado Springs. They’re resourced primarily by the Mardel family.
Hosts both marriage retreats and intensives in Rome, Georgia. They’re resourced primarily by the Cathy family (Chick-fil-A).
Founded by Johnny Hunt and First Woodstock, Georgia, this ministry provides critical care for wounded and fallen ministers, giving them a safe and loving environment in which to rest and heal. The City of Refuge is a long-term residential program that attempts to meet the needs of ministers and their families by providing housing, childcare counseling, and small group support at no cost to the family.
All ministry couples can benefit from investing in their marriage by way of a marriage retreat, while others who are more in need of intervention will want to consider clinical counseling or a marriage intensive.
If you’re not sure what to do, try calling the Pastor Care Line.
Pastor Care Line: 844-4PASTOR (844-472-7867)
Consider this a “911” number for pastors and their spouses who are in crisis. The North American Mission Board financially supports this Focus on the Family care line, which is free and confidential. I personally know these counselors and have seen and heard them work in Colorado Springs. They’re available from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (EST).
If you know of an evangelical ministry on either the prevention or intervention side of marriage that you can recommend, please let me know so I can help spread the word: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. He speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats–often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net.