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Chaplain gives tips for ministering to military families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Navy Chaplain Tim Hall, assigned to the USS Philippine Sea in Jacksonville, told the Florida Baptist Witness he believes churches should be sensitive to the special needs of military members and their families whose spouses might be deployed away from home.

“I think it’s important for churches to not be afraid to just endorse the fact that we cannot be as active as the average member,” Hall said. “There is a perception that if you can’t go to church ‘six out of five Sundays’ that you are somehow less valued as a member.”

And the spouse left home might not be as regular at church as they would like to be, given their temporary or long-term increase in responsibilities.

Hall, who is a member of Celebration Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., along with his wife Janet, have two sons, Mitch, 13, and Caleb, 8.

Though their church has been especially observant of the children’s needs, Hall said many churches miss the boat in caring for the spouse who is left at home, sometimes for months at a time, to fend for the family.

Comparing military deployment to single-parenthood, especially for the spouse left at home who must care for the children and try to maintain a long-distance relationship with the absent spouse, Hall said the experience can be “exhausting.”

Hall suggests the following ways churches might be able to reach out to military families:

Design at least one mid-week or Sunday evening service with the knowledge that the military spouse can’t make it every week. This means providing them options other than lesson-sequenced Bible studies that might discourage their coming.

Check in with the spouse at home for his/her prayer needs.

Encourage church members to assist the family in practical ways — offer to mow the lawn, check on a plumbing problem, or give a child a ride to a church event.

Provide a baby-sitter so the spouse can shop or go out for a cup of coffee.

Plan some events for various days or nights of the week to accommodate different schedules.

Using the Titus model, provide biblical mentoring for the military member and spouse.
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness. Go to www.floridabaptistwitness.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ENJOYING THE BREEZE.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan