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Retreat to help terminated ministers move on, help family recover

By Megan Norris Jones
The Alabama Baptist

Published March 22, 2008

One in four ministers experiences a forced resignation during his or her ministry, and only 54 percent of those go on to another full-time ministry position.

It’s a staggering statistic, said Charles Chandler, executive director of the Ministering to Ministers Foundation (MTM), and it means that the Church is losing a lot of ministers.

Chandler, a former Baptist pastor and president of the Illinois State Baptist Association in the 1980s, helped start MTM in 1994 to support ministers going through difficult times.

This June, MTM will offer a Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat for Ministers and Spouses at Samford University in Birmingham.

MTM acts as an advocate for ministers in crisis, and the event is designed for ministers and spouses who are dealing with forced resignation from a church.

"We don’t try to talk people out of the ministry, but if they have to be talked into it, they’re not going to be effective either," Chandler said.

Since it was founded, MTM has sponsored 78 retreats for 740 participants from 31 states and the Bahamas.

Participants have come from 34 denominations, with Baptists making up the largest group.

The event at Samford June 23–27 will be the group’s 80th retreat. The five-day retreat will include three central components — small-group dynamics, information from experts and group therapy.

Along with Chandler, Beverly Buston, a clinical psychologist from Richmond, Va., and Roger Lovette, a retired Baptist pastor in Birmingham, will serve as leadership for the retreat.

In addition to therapy sessions to help participants deal with anger and self-worth issues related to their forced resignation, the retreat will teach methods for recognizing problems and dealing with future conflicts when they occur.

"Ministers often step into a church that’s already conflicted, and they’re caught in the crossfire," Chandler said.

Sometimes the churches involved have a history of forcing resignations, sometimes there is a clash in leadership styles and sometimes a good pastor and a good church just aren’t a good fit, he added.

The retreat also provides immediate, practical assistance in working on resumés and locating new church appointments or translating pastoral skills into the secular job market.

Such measures help families cope with the financial and emotional crisis that comes along with a forced resignation.

"We’ve helped save an awful lot of lives and families," Lovette said of the retreats.

In addition to the ministers themselves, Chandler encourages spouses to attend the retreat.

"Usually the spouse will experience more pain, have more anger and be slower to recover," Chandler said of those dealing with a forced resignation situation.

Chandler estimates the cost of attendance to be $1,250 per person, but participants can attend free, thanks to donations, retreat leaders donating their time and scholarships offered by some denominations.

For more information, visit www.mtmfoundation.org or call 1-800-414-8123 to register for the retreat