When Aversboro Road Baptist Church started seeing almost weekly another young couple struggling in their marriage, pastor Harvey Whaley decided to do a year-long focus on the family, and on marriage in particular.
Whaley enlisted Eddie Thompson, the Baptist State Convention’s (BSC) senior consultant for marriage and family, to conduct a marriage weekend at the church. He then enlisted his daughter, Beverly Volz, to chair the arrangements committee. Volz is an accountant with the BSC, and thus a co-worker with Thompson.
“You couldn’t have picked a better person to feature,” Volz told the Recorder. “We had a really, really good retreat with 34 young couples.”
Volz and her committee decided to create an “off site” retreat atmosphere without leaving home. They arranged for a candlelight dinner at church on Friday night, and secured special pricing at area restaurants so the couples could have a date night on Saturday.
Child care was provided for the whole weekend.
“Eddie is so down to earth and so real,” Volz said. “He shares personal stories about his struggles. He is not one of those speakers who stands up there and tells the way he used to be and ‘Thanks be to God’ he’s all better and, ‘If you do what I do you can be as perfect as I am.’”
That transparency helps young couples relate to Thompson, and his wife, Janet, who leads the retreats with him.
“Young couples need someone to relate to, who has made mistakes, who struggles and who works hard every day to make their marriage better,” Volz said.
Aversboro opened their year-long marriage emphasis by showing the movie Fireproof. Members will participate in the Love Dare theme from the movie. In October members will participate in a second retreat, this one at Fort Caswell, again with the Thompsons.
Volz said she has seen friends at church applying what they learned to strengthen their own marriages. “They’re making strides toward where they want to be,” she said. “They are much more aware of each other’s needs. A lot of people walked away trying to do those things they learned in the retreat and it’s actually working.”
Divorce creeping in
Whaley, who came to Aversboro Road 11 years ago, after 17 years at Wrightsboro Baptist Church, believes pastors are not acknowledging the need for marriage strengthening emphases in their churches. The increased need for counseling and the divorce flood rising in the church should be alarm enough.
He believes Thompson’s assertion that a healthy church is made of healthy families, and that the pastor’s marriage is a barometer is on target. He and Ramona, his wife of 37 years, have attended marriage enrichment retreats for many years.
“The pastor ought to model a healthy marriage,” Whaley said. “And he ought to model that he’s working on his marriage.”
He understands that pastor’s wives get angry when their husbands misplace priorities and “believe the church is God.”
“When wives and children are the ones that go neglected, that prompts anger,” he said.
Such misplaced devotion threatens the relationship and can damage the church. A pastor in a tenuous marriage relationship is unlikely to preach helpful biblical sermons about marriage and is unable to model strength to struggling couples.
“Eddie has a great vision and he’s just beginning to unfold it,” Whaley said.
“If a church can have a continuing focus on family life, we need to do it,” he said. “We just need to do it.”
Related to this story
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