My Story

 

My Story: A more complete look at the journey that has brought me to the point of establishing Treasured Relationships.

My full name, complete with the “alphabet soup” indicating ordination, education, military rank, and licensure as a relationship coach, is:  Rev. David S. Wilder, B.A., M.Div.; LCDR, CHC, USN(ret); LRC.  Sometimes people want to know this, so there it is.  But please just call me Dave!

The "Meet Your Coach" tab gives a summary of my background, so my intent here is to focus more on what’s important about my experience, training, and success record in helping marriages thrive.  I will also give you a glimpse into my personal struggle that led to this work becoming my passion and my most fulfilling work.

I was raised in a Christian home, and accepted Christ as my Savior as a child.  When I was a teen, I had a number of faith experiences that truly shaped my life; and by the time I was a senior in High School I understood that God was calling me into a unique ministry that I did not yet understand.  I was Licensed to the Gospel Ministry in 1973 and Ordained in 1981, but never have been called to “Pastor” a church because God's calling and equipping was for a very different type of ministry.  Looking back, it is clear that God has revealed each step to take in my professional journey.  It has been a wonderful journey, and I have benefited from lots of different experiences and training as God has prepared me for this time to start a new and unique work.  I know that I was born to do this work.  Here is a brief overview of my journey, and I hope you will become excited with me about this new ministry!

Education:  It seemed that I couldn't make up my mind what to major in during college, so I studied Psychology first and then earned my Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA) with double majors in Philosophy and Religion (from Campbell College, which is now Campbell University; in Buies Creek, NC).  Then I earned my Master of Divinity Degree (M.Div.) from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC (Biblical Studies with Concentration in Pastoral Counseling).  Next I completed 2 units of Clinical Pastoral Education in a medical hospital, followed by a Clinical Chaplain Internship in a maximum security prison, and then yet another Clinical Chaplain Internship in a mental hospital.  This one paragraph covers nearly 10 years!  In each of those settings, my work was heavily focused on ministry to families and individuals in crisis.

Next, I was the Associate Pastor of Cherry Point Baptist Church in Havelock, NC; and from there became a Navy Chaplain.  While on active duty as a military Chaplain, I served U.S. Marine Corps commands for 14 years.  My background in Pastoral Counseling and the clinical/therapeutic approach to chaplaincy influenced my active duty assignments, such as being on the counseling staff of a Navy and Marine Corps Family Services Center and of a Joint Services Spouse Abuse Shelter, both in Japan; Case Review Committee Member of a Family Advocacy Program; and Chaplain in a brig (military jail/prison).  I became a charter member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and continued learning everything I could about how to help people have successful marriages.

Following serving with the Marines in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (“Gulf War 1”), I was selected by the Navy Chaplain Corps to go to Duke University for a year of study, and then to the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver for a follow-on program.  That gave me a “Professional Subspecialty” in Marriage and Family Education.  God clearly opened the door for this training, which gave me a whole new understanding of how to most effectively help marriages thrive.

I came to realize that teaching relationship skills, along with coaching people as they implement new skills, is incredibly powerful and effective in changing lives.  For many couples this approach is more beneficial and appropriate than counseling/therapy.  It is also a much quicker approach and meets with far less resistance (especially from men).  I have been focusing on developing and implementing a new model of ministry ever since, which I shall get to directly.

It wasn't my plan, but my active duty career ended early and I left active duty as a “100% Service-Connected Disabled Veteran.”  While in uniform, I served in 27 foreign countries, and was awarded a bunch of medals and ribbons (along with a few scars); none of which is really important here.  After military service I served as a Hospice Chaplain for over a year before the Marine Corps hired me once again to continue my work with military couples at Camp Lejeune, NC.

I retired in 2014 with a total of 27 years of government service.  During that time I had the privilege of helping approximately 17,000 young military couples build stronger marriages.  I was able to benefit from 19 specialized training events related to my specialty, and was fortunate to participate with other professionals in developing marriage enrichment programs and relationship skills training.  Two important aspects of my work were writing curriculum, and training leaders who then led those programs around the globe.

Over the past 15 years or so a dream began to take place.  That dream involved leaving military service completely and following my calling in the civilian community, primarily by offering my expertise through local churches.  On more times than I can count, I would talk about this dream with other chaplains who had similar visions and training, and were involved in the Marriage Enrichment Program with me.  The biggest obstacle was that we couldn’t figure out how to do this work and still make a living, which is an obvious requirement.  Today there are 4 current or retired military chaplains who feel called to this ministry, and we have a viable “business plan” for the program to make a profit and pay us salaries.  I am the oldest of the bunch, and the first one to be financially able to make this transition.  Laura and I are self-funding the start-up of this work, stepping out on faith because we know that God has given us this vision and the ability to make this dream a reality.  As “Treasured Relationships” gets to the point of being ready to expand, the team will grow and we will be able to make an even greater impact.

Having given you an overview of my calling, education, specialized training, and experience; I now want to share a brief snapshot of my personal relationship journey.  It is interesting how God often takes our own painful challenges in life and brings something wonderful into being.  Like so many people do, I married my high-school sweetheart.  What followed was years of struggling to somehow build a marriage.  The struggles at home played a major role in my early decision to pursue training in psychology, counseling, and learning all I could about healthy relationships.  My hope was that I might learn something that could help my own marriage to survive in spite of a very significant problem.  I never believed divorce was the answer, and my faith says that God hates divorce.  And yet, we did not have a survivable marriage, and never found any effective help.

When my first marriage ended with a divorce, I saw it as my greatest failure of life.  The years of struggle, the eventual failure of the marriage, and all of the accompanying pain had a profound impact on my resolve to learn how to help couples have great marriages.  And God sent people into my life who convinced me that God could still use me in spite of the fact that I was now a divorced Baptist minister.  For many years, I found fulfillment helping others have thriving marriages and yet felt that this was something I would never personally experience.  I tried to keep my pain and loneliness hidden.  Pouring myself into my work and maintaining a great relationship with my daughter helped.

One day I realized that I was looking at myself as a failure, but that was not accurate.  Having failed at something does not mean one is a failure, it means that they are experienced.  Throughout the Bible we find people who had failed at significant things before God redeemed them and used them in powerful ways.  God can and does use our brokenness to do some of His most important work.

Thankfully, God had a plan that I was unaware of.  In God’s timing (certainly not my timing because that would have been sooner), Laura and I finally met.  The struggles we each went through separately helped to shape us into whom we are today, as individuals and now as a couple.  God, in His infinite wisdom, provided each of us with the partner we needed so badly.  Our marriage is truly a blessing.

Laura, too, had been through a previous divorce and had struggled for years to make it as a single Mom.  She is from Wilmington, which is why we chose to settle down here.  When we married, we became a “blended family.”  I brought a daughter into this marriage, and Laura brought two sons.  Keri is 32, and has been married 6 years.  She and Derek (our son-in-law) have one daughter, our first grandchild!  T.J. is 22, works for a local landscaping company, and has a serious girlfriend.  Mark is 18, attends Topsail High School in Hampstead, and has plenty of time to meet his special someone.

So now you know the other side of my story.  To some people, the fact that I have been divorced will disqualify me as someone able to help build great marriages.  Others will understand that my personal pain and failures give me a perspective that might help me understand their relationship struggles better.

I no longer provide counseling or therapy services.  As a relationship coach, I understand that we all have a past but that we don't necessarily need to delve into the past.  Instead, this approach is future-focused.  I can teach people how to have fantastic relationships, and I can coach them in the process of making permanent changes.  In doing this, it is not at all necessary to dig up the past.  I love this new approach, and it is incredibly effective.  And, the deal is, that the "new" approach is pretty much what we find in the Bible.  Maybe it's not so new after all...

 

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“Most Valuable Decision”

Prior to coaching with Dave, I would lay awake at night worrying about our relationship struggles.  There were haunting questions about what could I have done differently to prevent the demise of the relationship and what could I do to improve the relationship, if possible.  That was when a decision to get help to put things into perspective had to be made.  The decision to seek coaching was one of the most valuable ones I have ever made.  Dave was very approachable and understanding.  His responses to my questions and issues seemed to always be on target.  The experience made sense to me in that he did not spout psychobabble or give a canned response learned from a book.  I deeply appreciated the fact that he genuinely listened, was reflective and thought provoking.  Now we have made much better decisions, moved on from the past, and gained a greater sense of peace which is very helpful.  Now we are doing well, are very happy, and continue toward building a great marriage.

      Larry P., Jacksonville, NC