The phone rang at 10:30 p.m., “Pastor Ken, I just wanted to tell you that I’m at the airport waiting for my plane. I’ll be staying with my daughter for a while. Marco* (not real name) and I are separating.”
Thus, began a long week of phone calls, tears, recriminations, anger, frustration, hurt, pain, and ultimately healing and restoration. Allow me to give you a glimpse of “a week in the life” of one Standing Stone Associate.
A Standing Stone Associate is a man or woman with experience dealing with life’s issues, as well as ministry issues. Most Associates are former pastors or pastors’ wives. Most have years of experience under their belts. Most have been beaten up by ministry, have felt deep discouragement, have been hurt by church family and by blood family, yet, through it all they still love Jesus, love His Church, and have a deep love for those in ministry who, themselves, are feeling beaten up, discouraged, and hurt.
While the story I’m about to share certainly isn’t an every week occurrence, thank God, it happens often enough, in one form or another, to use as an example. You see, the ministry of Standing Stone matters. The mission to strengthen, support, and shepherd shepherds is critical. The problem is, most church attenders have no idea of the struggles church leaders deal with in their daily lives. Many church leaders have no idea that there is a ministry whose sole purpose is to be a resource when life and ministry get tough and there are few people to turn to for help.
Let me continue the story:
Ken sat down in shock. Marco and Tammy* (not real name) had been personal friends with Ken and his wife for more than 30 years. If you thought of Tammy you thought of Marco. People often said their names together as if they were talking about one individual instead of two – MarcoandTammy. Together they’d raised amazing children who were active in ministry. Together they pastored a church that was known in the community for its commitment to prayer and service. They were a team. And now, that team was separating? Inconceivable.
Over the course of the following week Ken had many, many conversations with Marco. He had just as many conversations with Tammy. There were lots of he said and she said moments. The overarching feeling was one of pain, and of weariness. Finally, Tammy agreed to fly back home and meet with both Ken and Marco. Ken drove several hours to their home praying all along the way. In preparation he’d asked his team of prayer partners to intercede for this hurting couple.
While on the road, Ken received several calls from other pastors that he deals with on a regular basis. As a Standing Stone Associate he “shepherds” about 40 men on a regular basis. While 40 may seem like a large number, it really isn’t. He makes regular phone calls. He sends emails and text messages of encouragement. He meets face-to-face with local pastors and sets up personal meetings when he is traveling. It is not unusual for him to receive three or more calls a day from the men he mentors. During this particular drive he received several calls; one relating to a staffing issue, one regarding a disagreement between the lead pastor’s wife and the associate pastor’s wife (a very uncomfortable situation), and a call from a man that was feeling discouraged and in need of fresh perspective. These are very normal types of conversations that an Associate would have on a regular basis. These are real-time, in the trenches, types of situations.
Once Ken arrived at Marco and Tammy’s home, he spent many hours with them. As you can imagine, it was very painful at times. It is important to mention that Ken is a trained counselor, thus, he was able to utilize his education and experience. However, at one point, when things looked bleak, they took a break to regroup. Ken quickly called his wife, asked for prayer and for her to put out the call for their Rapid Response Prayer Team to hit their knees. To cut to the chase, God intervened in a miraculous way. During the final conversation hearts were laid bare and both Marco and Tammy had “aha! moments” as God revealed some root causes of their ongoing struggles. Ken tiptoed out of the room as Tammy cried on Marco’s chest while he held her in his arms.
Of course, during the preceding days Ken followed up with both Marco and Tammy. They’d had a breakthrough, but they still had work to do. If this situation had happened to an Associate without a counseling background Marco and Tammy would have been referred out to a marriage counselor.
I wish that I could share that Marco and Tammy have completely reconciled and all of their marriage issues are over. Yes, God intervened in a miraculous way and Tammy didn’t leave Marco, but unfortunately life’s issues don’t always get “fixed” and tied up in a neat bow. Tammy and Marco still continue to work on their marriage. However, now Marco knows that he has a safe, confidential person to confide in when he is struggling. Tammy understands the importance of airing her feelings, no longer keeping them bottled inside. Both Marco and Tammy have an outlet, a sounding board, and a listening ear at their disposal. They no longer let pride stand in their way of asking for help. They are no longer feeling alone in their struggles. And, that is the common denominator that all Standing Stone Associates and the ministry couples they serve have in common – the feeling of no longer being alone.
Who does a pastor turn to when he is struggling with ministry issues? Who does the pastor’s wife turn to when she is hurt, angry, confused, and/or frustrated? Who do they turn to when they are in a cycle of miscommunication and misunderstanding? Some ministry couples have a mentor in their lives. Some of those mentors are Standing Stone Associates. We (Standing Stone) hear success stories all the time. We receive notes that say “thank you for caring.” Our Associates know that they are making a difference in the lives of those they serve.
Healthy pastors make healthy decisions. Those healthy decisions affect the people in their churches. Those healthy decisions affect their own wives and children. We are in the business of keeping our pastors and church leaders healthy and, thus, our churches healthy. Healthy churches impact their communities and the world in positive ways.
If you, or someone you know, would be interested in becoming an Associate or if you, or someone you know, would benefit by being contacted by a Standing Stone Associate in your area, you can contact us through the information provided on our website at www.standingstoneministry.org. We’d love to hear from you.
*Marco and Tammy are fictitious names given to a real couple in order to protect their privacy.