Classis Georgetown, a regional group of Christian Reformed congregations in western Michigan, has developed a pilot program to provide support to spouses of pastors within the classis.
The program developed out of a discussion with regional co-pastors Dave Jolman and Marc Nelesen and their wives. It’s part of an overall effort by the classis to support pastors in their marriages and families, Jolman said.
While they found there is a call for the new program, it’s not for everyone.
“We surmised that some spouses don't want to be identified as a clergy spouse,” Jolman said. “Some spouses strongly identify as a clergy spouse. Some clergy spouses may feel isolated and desire support from someone who understands their situation.”
The classis agreed to put up seed money to back the spousal support program. Connie Den Haan, whose husband David served as pastor of two congregations in the denomination totaling almost 25 years, was approached to see if she would be willing to work on the initiative. She said yes.
“As a pastor's wife, she understands the joys and challenges that come along with that role,” Jolman said. “We believed Connie would be the perfect person to pilot this project.”
Den Haan began reaching out to spouses of pastors within classis, and a small group of them began meeting monthly on Monday nights to share their experiences and their struggles in supporting their partners while also trying to take care of their families. Seven spouses have attended at least one meeting so far, although in-person meetings were put on hold in the wake of the COVID-19-causing coronavirus.
“So far there have been two to four of us each time,” Den Haan said. “We are still in the process of getting to know each other, but conversation has flowed easily because of so many similar life experiences as pastor’s wives.”
Other projects Georgetown Classis has undertaken over the past five years to support pastors and their families include outings, concerts, and counseling services through a Christian mental health agency, Jolman said.
Jolman is so far calling the pilot program a success based on the feedback he has received, and classis has agreed to continue supporting the program through June 2021.