By Tim K.

Healthy leaders make for healthy churches. The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention is committed to the health of pastors and their families. Date Night developed out of that commitment to give pastoral care to pastors.

The Pastors and Wives Retreat, sponsored by the AZSBC, is held every three years. During the interim between retreats, the convention offers to work in partnership with local associations to hold Date Night events. From May 2019 to present three Date Night events have been held with Valley Rim and Yuma in 2019 and with Thrive Network in early March. Each event drew about 25 couples.

The focus of Date Night is balancing ministry and family relationships.

“We work hard to keep this event from becoming another pastor training,” said Keith Henry, AZSBC consultant and recently retired church life team facilitator. “We want the focus of the evening to be on relationships.”

Date Night typically includes a catered meal served by the convention staff at a church facilities chosen by the association. After a relaxed meal, the focus shifts to a panel discussion. The panel includes three couples from varying stages of ministry.

Participants are encouraged to ask relationship questions via text message. The questions are posed to the panel by a moderator. The purpose of facilitating questions by text message is to make questions anonymous and to screen questions that fall outside of the family relationship focus.

The convention and association work together to provide a gift bag for each couple. In addition, child care is provided for children under 12 years of age. The convention pays for the meals, advertising materials and child care program costs. The association selects the venue and promotes the event.

“One pastor told me on the way to our cars, ‘I needed this. Can we do it again next week?’” said Dennis Newkirk, retired pastor and panel participant at past Date Night events.

“We believe we exist to lead healthy leaders,” said Jackie Allen, executive director of Thrive Network. “When healthy leaders are in the church, there will be healthy churches. That is why events like Date Night are so important. I received nothing by positive comments from those who participated.”

Don Vickers, Yuma Association director of evangelism/missions, said, “This event was so meaningful that we plan to do it again, even if we need to do it on our own. Date Night is a time to enjoy each other and build relationships, especially between the wives. Pastors’ wives oftentimes feel isolated. This event reminds our leaders that they are not isolated.”

Deidra Hodges, pastor’s wife and a Date Night planning leader for Valley Rim Association, agreed.

“Date Night was all about relationships and being transparent,” she said. “It was a chance for us to be normal people who are not in charge or up in front.” Hodges also echoed the importance of having an event focused on connecting and ministering to the wives of pastors.

All three of these associations reported that working with the convention to put on these events was easy and urged other associations to explore putting on a Date Night for their pastors and wives.

“Remember, if a pastor’s marriage fails, his ministry fails,” said Newkirk. “If a pastor’s marriage thrives, even amid trials, he provides an example to his church and testimony of Christ’s love for His church.”