By Kay Harms

About 25 ministry couples enjoyed a casual, relaxing Pastors and Wives Date Night at the Word Church in Mesa, May 17. The date night, hosted by a partnership of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention’s church life team and Valley Rim Association, was the first of a series of partnership events meant to encourage and strengthen ministry families across the state.

“This evening had nothing to do with leadership training per se,” said Keith Henry, AZSBC church life team facilitator. “Instead, we designed the evening to be relaxing. Plus, we hoped to build and strengthen relationships between these couples who are in ministry.”

During dinner, the tables of six were encouraged to use the provided table discussion questions to talk among themselves. Then, the group turned their attention to a panel question and answer session featuring three ministry couples who represented different ages, life seasons and ministries.

Josh and Deidra Hodges, from Every Tribe and Nation Church in Mesa; Dennis and Marcia Newkirk, from the pastor support network; and Billy and Lisa Van Camp, from Heart Cry Church in Queen Creek, fielded questions posed by Henry about the unique “ministry marriage,” church expectations on ministry wives, expectations on ministry families, romance, cheap dates, and friendships within the church. During the panel discussion, attendees also had the opportunity to text questions to Henry, which he then posed to the panelists.

“This wasn’t a show or even an expert panel with all the answers,” Henry pointed out. “These three couples just shared from their experiences. It was genuine conversation … and, hopefully, it got the other couples talking at their tables about these same topics.”

Henry reported that he is planning other partnership events with local associations that will minister in similar ways to ministry couples. The next such date night on the AZSBC calendar is in Yuma at Tierra Fertil Church, Oct. 18. At this particular event, Spanish and English speaking groups will assemble separately for a similar format. Invitations will go out to pastors and their wives in that region of the state.