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Church’s ‘Single Again’ ministry provides ongoing support for Mobile-area’s divorcedcomment (0)

January 25, 2007

By Jeremy Dale Henderson

The math should make ministers cringe. Thirty-one percent of American marriages are torn asunder by a judge, according to current studies, and 77 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.
If the numbers don’t lie, then divorce is an unavoidable truth for the church — especially in Alabama, which claims the sixth highest divorce rate in the nation.
Many Alabama Baptist churches, like Spring Hill Baptist Church, Mobile, have ministries to the divorced. The Mobile Baptist Association church has been ministering to those who are divorced for 15 years, and Max Woodruff Jr. takes it very seriously. 
“In the state of Alabama, if one person in the marriage wants a divorce, it’s going to happen. There’s no way someone can block it legally,” Woodruff said. 
The issues thrust upon the recently divorced are Woodruff’s primary concern as minister to Single Again, Spring Hill Baptist’s divorce recovery ministry started in 1991. Woodruff, a lay minister, took over in 1993.
“I’m not a counselor, certainly not a psychologist, but I do try, in laymen’s terms, to broach those issues,” which include denial and depression, he said.
In doing so, Woodruff looks to the Bible. “We try to find scriptural ... answers for people who are struggling with life after divorce. They’re dealing with a lot of emotions, and I let them know that the church is supportive and cares about them.”
According to him, Spring Hill is “passionate” about facilitating healing for those going through divorce. So passionate, in fact, that Woodruff periodically contacts those whose names are listed in local newspapers as having been recently granted a divorce. Additionally the church advertises the Wednesday night meetings of Single Again in local media. A Single Again Sunday School class also exists.
While today many churches sponsor ministries geared toward divorced people, according to Woodruff, it wasn’t always so.
“We were probably the first Single Again ministry in this area,” he said.
Terry Ellis, pastor of Spring Hill, said his church viewed the ministry as something vital to help hurting people. “Divorced people are in special need of receiving God’s grace. The church should be a hospital for hurting people, and divorce ministry helps connect those people with the hope Christ offers.”
Eileen Wright, an associate in the office of discipleship and family ministries for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, noted that divorce ministries are “a very needed ministry.” 
Charles Allen agrees, speaking from experience. 
Since his home church currently offers nothing in the way of divorce recovery, Allen has been driving the 30 minutes it takes him to get to Wednesday nights at Spring Hill for four years. 
“It’s definitely helped me re-evaluate things about my life and figure out why things happen and what purpose God has for my life,” he said. “(Woodruff) is great. He’s had judges and counselors come speak. He really looks out for the benefit of the people.” 
For Woodruff, his role at Spring Hill has panned out in ways he never expected. “I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Broken hearts take so much longer to mend than a broken arm or leg, and the pain doesn’t just stop after the papers have been signed.”
For more information about divorce ministries, call Wright at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 221.
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