I’m A Leader In My Church. How Do I Tell My Church I’m Divorcing.

Morning friends,

Can you believe we are almost at the end of August? This year has both crawled and flown by. The older I get, the faster time goes, yet this virus and fear and the uncertainty we all are struggling with seem to have also slowed time way down. Will we ever see normal again? Or will there be a new normal?  

We don’t know yet, but what kinds of things are you putting into your day, your week, your year, to make it more nourishing, meaningful, and enjoyable for you and your loved ones?  For me, I just signed up for a three day all women’s pickleball camp in November in Phoenix. I love that sport, and I haven’t been able to play much at all this year. How about you?

This week’s question: I am a leader at my church who has recently filed for divorce from my husband. My family and I are well respected, and news of the divorce will inevitably impact the congregants. What do you suggest is the best way to inform them? Should I make a public announcement, address their concerns one on one, or neither?

Answer:  You haven’t given me enough details to adequately answer your question but let me leave you with some things to think through.

First, you are right; the news will impact the congregation. Depending upon your church’s stance on divorce and how conservative they are, they will have questions, and some will most likely disapprove. Each person will make up a story, a reason, an explanation as to what’s going on and why you filed. Do you want to leave such a weighty matter up to their imaginations by saying nothing?

From my perspective, when possible, it’s always best to give people as much of the factual truth as possible so that they don’t make up an erroneous story. Just because your family is respected doesn’t mean people won’t gossip or be curious as to why a leader in the church couldn’t keep her marriage together. Click To Tweet

I also think that if you are a public leader in your church, you do need to tell them why you have made this decision. If you were just an attendee, then maybe not. But as a leader who people look up to for spiritual guidance, they will want to know what’s going on in your heart and mind (rightly so).

I don’t know the reason you filed for divorce; you didn’t say. You may be reluctant to spill your husband’s dirty laundry in public. For the sake of his reputation and your children, you may be reluctant to share details. That’s fine. But your church elders will need to know your thoughts and reasons for divorce so that they can publicly support your decision.   

Then you will need to craft some sort of statement that lets your congregation know that you have made this hard choice, that you had Biblical reasons, and that your elders are behind you. You would also want them to know that you appreciate their prayers and wish for them to respect your family’s privacy during this painful time.  

There will still be gossip and questions, but if you lay the foundation and groundwork well, you should be able to continue to say, “Thank you for your prayers and concerns. I deeply appreciate and need them during this difficult time. I’m keeping the personal details private and would appreciate you respecting my decision.”  

If you hold your head high and navigate this journey with strength, humility, and courage, your church can grow stronger through it. You will be modeling to them as a leader how to deal with sin, heartache, and painful life circumstances in a godly way. 

And, please get your own support and help because this is a painful time for you and as a leader. You may not have a lot of safe places or spaces to share your own fears, sins, and struggles.

Friends, if you were in leadership in a church or ministry, did you tell the truth to people about what was going on in your life or marriage? Why or why not?


  1. Lynette on August 26, 2020 at 10:30 am

    I served on the prayer ministry and as a helper with snacks during youth group when I separated. I chose to step back from those things for a season knowing it would lessen questions from curious but uninvolved people. My statement to anyone ( not up close to situation ) that asked was something like this, ” before separating we worked with the pastors and elders for over 4 years and my husband chose a lifestyle that was not consistent with the Biblical covenant of marriage.”. I would then change the subject or end the conversation.

    • Tamera on August 27, 2020 at 12:48 am

      Only a small circle of people at church knew the details of my story. My marriage was, and still is, abusive and I was desperate for help. I told everyone else who inquired about what was going on that I was going through something very difficult and that while I didn’t want to divulge details, I coveted their prayers. Those who rallied around me walked away when I couldn’t make the decisions they wanted me to make according to their timeline and those who wanted information walked away because I wouldn’t give them details. I’m now alone struggling in my journey, without friends and struggle going to church. I was leading a ministry at the time and was removed from leadership and other areas of service, alongside my husband. I regret seeking help. You can do everything right and still be punished.

      • Aly on August 28, 2020 at 9:01 am

        I’m very sorry for what you have experienced. Did you also reach out for help from a professional Christian counselor? Or any other organizations that help women who are well experienced with abuse?
        In my own journey, I lost close friends and family members (Or who I thought was)
        that struggled with themselves And their own life circumstances – they were not very good at observing/praying or walking along side someone that Made choices that made them uncomfortable… in the overall case, boundaries was not something they had a healthy grasp on.
        Myself either by not sticking up for myself when I was making the right Choices for me!
        One of my earliest blessings came in professional counseling where I was validated and given scripture to help me understand that I did not need to be mistreated (repeatedly) in order to be in a relationship or any kind and to keep that relationship in tact.
        Most survivors of abuse ( many kinds) struggle to make the steps toward freedom and it takes a lot of wise counsel With Prayer to help survivors. Prayer is essential, yet so are actions, boundaries & requirements.
        Please don’t go it alone! There is healthy experienced help out there.

        • Hope on August 29, 2020 at 1:59 pm

          I’ve been a speaker and Bible study teacher at our church for over 20 years. I’ve told only a very small circle of trusted people at church about my marriage struggles. In the last five years, I’ve reduced my teaching, etc to focus on my own recovery and marriage. My husband fits the criteria for Aspergers, Wow, this disorder strikes right at the heart of relationship–he has very little empathy, low ability to self-reflect, identify his feelings, express care or even desire to share/bond in ways typical of marriage. It’s so hard to explain this to others. And–so much of the usual well-meaning Christian marriage advice or typical counseling doesn’t help/apply with this disorder. Also,at this point, I think he’d see my disclosing the Aspergers as a personal betrayal…So grateful to God for this site! and for other “Aspergers-savvy” resources that have helped me on this often lonely, “out of the box” journey. Trusting God’s goodness one step at a time!

          • Barbara B on August 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

            Hi Hope, I agree, Aspergers certainly is out of the box. When I read your post I thought it must feel very lonely because so few people would even notice the Asperger symptoms unless they live with the person. Or if they do notice they might just think it’s something quirky or even endearing, certainly not a big deal. Living with it is a whole different story, though. What are the resources you’ve found?

          • Hope on August 30, 2020 at 7:46 pm

            Exactly, Barbara B! You “get it!” You can’t imagine how much that blesses me… It’s easier to find resources/support as a parent raising a child with Aspergers than as a wife trying to navigate marriage to a husband with Aspergers. Here are some of the best online resources I’ve found. So thankful for each of them!
            Dr Kathy Marshack – https://asd-ntrelationships.com Stephanie Holmes (Christian) -counselorstephanieholmes.com
            Different Together – https://different-together.co.uk
            Maxine Aston – https://www.maxineaston.co.uk

            Hope this reply shows up in the right place. Not super tech-savvy!

      • JoAnn on September 1, 2020 at 2:17 pm

        Tamera, I agree with Aly. Not many people know how to be supportive with these kinds of struggles, so seeking the help of a professional who specializes in counseling those in abusive marriages is the best thing you can do to help yourself. This is where you will get the kind of support and validation you need to get through this difficult time. Don’t try to go it alone.

        Also, I would ask about those friends who left you when you wouldn’t take their advice: were they advising you to leave him? Whatever it was that they thought you should do, I think you must be clear in your own mind about why you couldn’t or wouldn’t take their advice. It might be helpful to read Leslie’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, to help clarify some of the issues around your abusive situation. There are so many ways to look at this situation, and going through some of the blog archives will offer insight and support.

        I wish you well.

      • Free on September 2, 2020 at 12:13 am

        If you are doing everything right and still being punished, you need to find a new church. It doesn’t sound like anyone is treating you as Christ would. When we are in such groups, why do we call them the church? In reality they can behave more like a gang or a cult, than the body of Christ.

        Being in destructive circles will only hamper your growth. Try an online support group. You need people who understand abuse. Sadly, you may realize your church community is pretty good at abusing you too.

        As Patrick Doyle says, he only has two rules. The first rule is no crazy allowed. The second rule, is he gets to define crazy.

        I recommend Natalie Hoffman’s site, Flying Free. She was betrayed by her church. She posts many church group related topics for thought and discussion.

      • Lori on September 17, 2020 at 8:56 am


        I believe churches that claim to be part of the body of Christ but punish a member of their congregation for following God’s will harm themselves and Christianity’s representation of God’s glory because this member is also a part of the body of Christ. Naturally, we do not knowingly and willingly injure one of our limbs even in favor of another. Most understand this is a sign of something which is very wrong.

        I also think you are being punished because the world wants you to follow its will and not have the courage to stand for God’s. This includes some churches. They believe in, follow and judge by their knowledge of right and wrong which is based on what they believe or have been told by leadership who is not listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

        God is about love and relationship and these are about freedom for everyone to make their own choices. It all falls apart when we do not listen to His will or focus on His glory and judge and decide what that will should be for others.

        Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
        for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        Matthew 5:10

        God bless and keep you.

  2. Blessed on October 1, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    I was a preacher’s wife and always stayed quite suffering in silence of his emotional, psychological, sexual and physical abuse, after discovering his betrayal and double life I went to the elders and they punished me instead of believing what I said. They turned their backs on me and chose to believe him. After that they told the congregation about my “sin” of telling negative things about my husband. This was so hurtful and the way they handled it was very disappointed. I came to them for help and protection but instead received rejection. I don’t know how to tell my story to the rest of the congregation because the elders announced my “sin” which is not true.

  3. Jeff Carbine on March 23, 2022 at 9:13 am

    I never took into account the fact that they will have questions, and some will most certainly disapprove, depending on your church’s attitude on divorce and how conservative they are. I remember when I was a college student I was proudly answering the question but now I realize it was different. Thank you for helping me understand the right information about the marriage help church program.

Leave a Comment

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?

Read More

Finding Comfort In God

Hi Friends, When you read this I hope I am on a boat for on a much-needed vacation. This has been a crazy season of pouring out and as Jesus did, I need to stop and get away to a quiet place. I don’t think I have ever felt more exhausted mentally, spiritually, and physically….


Thriving Not Surviving [Guest Post]

Morning friends, I’m up at our cabin, being nana this week, but I have a treat for you. I’ve asked my friend Gary Thomas to guest post for me today from his newest book When To Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People. I love hearing a pastor’s voice and heart validate the horrible effects…