Articles

STARTING A LOCAL SUPPORT GROUP
(Or Other Focus Group)

by Marjorie Truesdale

In 1998 we started a support group for pastor’s wives in the Greater Kansas City Area. These suggestions are based on what we learned.

heart bullet   A strongly committed woman needs to be the facilitator. Keeping a group together is not easy.
heart bullet   Suggestions:
        1. Participants were asked to make a serious commitment to the group. It was not a drop in whenever.
        2. A monthly meeting, constantly at the same time and at the same place. (If a woman misses a month, she still knows where to go).
        3. Group HAS to know that being confidential is a key for sharing.
        4. Our counselor was recommended when a problem was too great.
        5. Time limits make it easier to commit. Example:
                • This group will meet monthly Sept. - May.
                • We will start (on time) at 10:00 AM and finish at 1:00 PM (on time).
        6. Purpose for meeting is clear to all.
                • A time to have the emotional support of the other women.
                • A time to be prayed for by others.
                • Ideally, also a time to receive something for herself spiritually.
                • Not a time to rag on their husbands.
                • Not a time to swap "church stories".
                • Participants will not discuss denominational differences.

Our group started after three years of praying for such a group, asking other pastors' wives if they were interested, and as a direct result of a crisis in the marriage of a pastoral family. It so happened that a Godly pastor's wife of 40 years was coming to the city for a few days. I had already heard her testimony, of an emotional breakdown which resulted in hospitalization due to stress in the ministry. I invited the eight women who had been telling me "YES" to bring-a-salad to share lunch. We began at 10:00 AM with my friend's testimony, ate our lunch together, then prayed for each other. I asked at the end of our prayer time "who would like to continue this type of a group?" We made a tentative date for one month later. I contacted a trusted Christian counselor who I had actually met at a breakout session for pastors' wives at a conference some months earlier. I shared our desire to meet and boldly asked her to be part of our meeting. She committed herself to one year, once a month, and for two hours a morning. (We ate our bag lunches and had our prayer time after she left for her office). During that year, about 5 were added to our group.

The following year (October - May), we watched the video series Boundaries. At an end of year session, we planned one full day to watch all of them again for anyone who missed a session. We scheduled video #1 at 9:00 AM, #2 at 10:00 AM, #3 at 11:00 AM, etc. It gave women a chance to come for one they may have missed. However, most opted to see the entire series again in one day. It was a valuable way to review.

At the end of each showing, monthly as well our final session, we participated in great discussions, relating the material presented to spouse, children, and church member relationships.

The third year, we went through the six sessions of a Beth Moore series "When Godly People Do Ungodly Things" A photocopied worksheet for each video to have on hand for the women who were not using the workbook to work on lessons between sessions.

We had women who were employed make a serious effort to be part of the group. One gal made arrangements to be at work at 1:00 PM, meeting with us during the morning and eating her lunch on the way to work.

I found the monthly day meetings to be best attended. We have also had quarterly brunches on a Saturday morning and occasional dessert meetings on a Monday evening.

There need to be lots of reminders as well as important content to make the meetings work.

We have made a serious effort to cross denominational and racial lines. Our groups have been beautiful, complimenting each other. Our problems are similar and our God is the same.

Bring Kleenex. Be in a safe place everyone is free to cry without being seen by those not in the group.