Standing by our husbands. Striving with our sisters. Walking with our Lord.
Side By Side is a network of local chapters that encourage and minister to women in healthcare marriages through fellowship and Bible study. We are a CMDA ministry for women who are married to medical and dental students, residents and fellows, as well as staff physicians and dentists. We are a non-denominational, Bible-based ministry that is evangelical in nature. We seek to encourage, support and minister to women in medical marriages through fellowship, Bible study and prayer. We commit to standing side by side our husbands, side by side our sisters in Christ and side by side our Lord.
Side By Side began in 1988 in Rochester, Minnesota with six women meeting around a kitchen table. In 2003, we felt the Lord leading us to share that blessing with others. Today, we have more than 43 chapters in cities around the country. The women of Side By Side are from all over the world. They come from different backgrounds and different denominations and they are in different stages of life. Some are physicians or dentists themselves. Each chapter meets the unique needs of its community. We invite you to join us on this journey, whether by joining a chapter, starting a chapter or praying for the ministry of Side By Side as a whole.
Many women who come to Side By Side have never attended a Bible study before, while others may have been in Bible studies all their lives. The great thing is that just doesn’t matter! We have found a common bond in the fact that we are all in a healthcare marriage and the journey that is this life is much more fun when you have a companion.
Side By Side has been a source of loving support, emotional bonding, prayer support, lots of food and, of course, lots of laughter. It also has been a source of babysitting connections, meals for new moms or those who are ill, medical advice and even job connections. But most important of all, through the ministry of Side By Side, the souls of many women, their children and even their husbands have been won for Christ. It's an exciting place to be and we would love to have you join us!
by Robin Morgenthaler, Side By Side Founder
In 1987, my husband announced to me after a long interviewing trip that he wanted to go and be trained at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I remember the exact place he told me this and what happened next. All at once I heard myself say, “That’s fine, honey. We could go there and have a ministry to internationals because many people from all parts of the world come there for training and then return to their homeland. It would be a great reverse mission field!” Now I would be lying if I told you that as soon as I got to Rochester, I acted on the vision God had laid on my heart that day. I did not. I was fearful. I believed myself to be inadequate for the task. So I tried my local church’s womens' Bible study. It was fine. However, I really felt like I did not fit in. They were nice women and all, but they did not understand my world. They could not comprehend my life with a doctor-on call, rounds, holiday hours, long hours, absent fathers, financial burdens, going to church alone—all the issues that come automatically being married to a doctor. Side By Side started in large part out of my frustration to find anyone at my new church who connected with me, my life and my needs. So I decided to open my home to a Bible study. I felt led to ask six women—all six were like me—married to physicians and new to the community. All six said, ”YES.”
So it all began, with six women and eight children meeting in our big red farmhouse for a 12-week Bible study. By the time we completed the 12-week study, we were six women and 10 children!
Four of these women were attending evangelical churches and two were attending Catholic churches. None were international. But we had many things in common. Our husbands, who were all in residency, worked long hours in the hospital and were away from the home and family on a regular basis. We all lived away from our extended families. Only one had family in Minnesota. We all were raising young children. We all had little money, and most of us had older cars and the Minnesota winter was coming! A few of us were trying full-time mothering for the first time. Because of our husbands' training, we were all learning and pulling the weight for our families—pretty much alone.
We got to know one another well. We took care of one another and each others' children. We studied God’s word together, prayed together and really grew to love one another.
Word got around to others like us that we were more than just coping with the Minnesota winter and our new life. They asked to join us and, after two years, we grew large enough to occupy three houses for our Bible study. We did that for one session. It was difficult to arrange the childcare that way so we combined and transferred to a local evangelical church that agreed to house all of us on Friday mornings rent-free. We occupied four meeting rooms for study and three nursery rooms for our children. We started to look international then, as a German then a South African, a Ghanaian, a Peruvian and two Finnish women joined in. Finally, we met a Japanese woman named Eriko who brought with her many Japanese women into the study.
Our studies were led by leaders from within. We studied the Bible topically and by book. Many women were studying the Bible for the first time. We purposefully chose studies that fit these women. God really blessed us with a hunger to know Him and grow in Him. In addition to the infectious energy of new Bible studiers, God also blessed us with many women who had a depth of Bible knowledge. We placed them strategically within our small groups to help “grow the group.” All grew in the Lord. We took the opportunity to teach the older children in our care Bible stories and the truths of the Christian faith. For some of these children, it was the only spiritual training they were receiving.
These women brought back into their own homes the love and knowledge of the Lord that they caught in this group. Many women learned biblical principles that affected their marriages, their children and their relationships with their families and neighbors.
One woman commented that the Bible study “was a turning point in my life…a connection between knowing about God from church teaching and knowing God from studying His word.”
All women were expected to pay for their own books and their childcare ahead of time. Money was not in plenty during the training years, so because of this financial commitment most attended with their study completed and placed their children with our caregivers during the whole session. Our size grew in number each fall, winter and spring session. Our women brought more women into the fold. We went “big time” when we opened up a checking account to keep track of our financial records.
Each year, as the medical training schedule was completed, some women would move away and then about a month later we’d meet new women who had recently moved in. We recognized them because they looked like we had looked. We became experts at helping them adjust. After all, we had just mastered what they were now experiencing.
My husband finished his training after six years and we moved to Nashville, Tennessee for his first job in private practice. When I left the ministry, it had 60 women in it and about 70 children. I left confident that what God had blessed once, He would continue to bless.
As things happen frequently in a medical marriage, we returned to Rochester after six happy years in Tennessee. This time my husband was going to change jobs and work on staff at the Mayo Clinic. Was I ever surprised at what happened when my new neighbor came to greet me. She immediately invited me to this “great Bible study for wives who were married to physicians and dentists”…the very same one that had begun in my kitchen in 1988! I cried tears of joy. God brought me full circle and He desired me to be a part of this rewarding and exciting ministry again.
Side By Side is a network for chapters filled with women who desire to grow in their walk with the Lord while supporting one another as medical wives. Being in a medical marriage brings with it a unique set of circumstances. We are here to pray for, love and encourage one another through whatever those circumstances might be, while spurring one another on in our personal relationships with Jesus Christ.
Our goals are as follows:
- To reach out to the spouses of physicians and dentists in our medical community in order to bring them to Christ.
- To challenge women to study and apply the Bible to their lives daily.
- To be a place of prayer and support.
- To build Christian community through fellowship.
- To support and encourage strong marriages.
- To provide a safe atmosphere for children where biblical principals are modeled and taught.
We strive to reach these goals by our commitment to be:
- Christ-Like – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5
- Controlled by the Holy Spirit – But when he, the Sprit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it know to you. John 16:13-14
- Committed to Scripture – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
- Communing in Prayer – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request. With this in mind, be alert and always keep in praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
- Compassionate – A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
- Competent – In the same way, let your light shine before me, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
- Courage – For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
- Culturally Relevant – I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22
Frequently Asked Questions
A false perception exists that women married to doctors or dentists must surely have the "perfect life." It’s a common misconception we know is not true. Sometimes life as a medical spouse can be very difficult and many women struggle with resentment, exhaustion, loneliness and isolation. It's not that these feelings don't occur in all marriages, but we do believe that medical marriages face unique circumstances which bring those emotions about.
That's where Side By Side steps in. We believe there is something special about the support medical spouses can offer each other. There is a sense of understanding that exists in a Side By Side chapter that might not exist in even the most well intentioned ministry chapter. And with that understanding, we provide a welcome environment to everyone, regardless of their spiritual background. Some of our members would never come to a "Bible study," but they'll come to Side By Side. Why? Because at Side By Side they find women who understand what they are going through; they find help and companionship; they find friendship and a home away from home.
But our main goal is to reach women for Christ. We believe God has given us a unique ministry platform, a unique opportunity to reach medical spouses for Christ. We seek to serve Him right where we are, within our sphere of influence; at Side By Side, that happens to be medical spouses. We invite you to join us in reaching out to the medical spouses in your community and loving them as Jesus does.
Our ministry is specifically designed for spouses of physicians and dentists. This includes spouses of medical and dental students, residents, fellows and practicing healthcare professionals. Being evangelical in nature, we do have an open door policy. We do not prohibit anyone from attending, medical or otherwise. However, our ministry goals will not change. We are and will continue to be an outreach ministry to the spouses of physicians within our community.
At the present time, we are a women's ministry. However, we acknowledge the growing, legitimate need for a ministry to female physicians' husbands. We would welcome a separate branch of Side By Side to minister to them and meet their specific needs. When God raises up a godly man who feels called to pursue this new branch of Side By Side, we will happily cooperate in helping develop it.
We want to help you establish this ministry established in your community. We will put you in touch with the Regional Director for your area who will be there to guide you each step of the way. After receiving your signed Statement of Faith, we will also provide you a Ministry Manual which outlines the how-to's of the ministry. In addition to that, we will provide prayer support, networking through our CMDA affiliation and monthly encouragement through our On the Side e-newsletter. Learn more about our resources.
There is no "right" way for your chapter to look. Each chapter is unique as it meets the unique needs of its community. There is no "right" demographic; your chapter may have women who are older or younger in training or near retirement. Your chapter can meet year around, seasonally or during the school calendar year.
And remember your chapter size will begin small. This ministry started with six women around a kitchen table. Minister to those attending and God will grow your chapter as He sees fit.
Our leaders are women just like you. We come from a vast variety of backgrounds and denominations. We are moms; we are professionals; we are students. There is no one type of leader. All you need is a heart for the Lord and a heart for our ministry. We do require all leaders to fill out an informational questionnaire and sign the Statement of Faith and seek to live out the ministry goals of Side By Side to the best of their ability, with God's help and the accountability of their peers. For more information about becoming a Side By Side leader, contact Side By Side.
Leaders do not have to be formally trained or have a theological degree. We do recommend several books on leadership and on leading small groups and women's groups in particular.
We require a one-time charter fee to officially become a local chapter of Side By Side. As each chapter will vary in size, we have implemented a payment plan. At the present time, we do not require annual dues. However, that may change in the future.
- 10 members or less – $50.00
- 11-20 members – $75.00
- 21-30 members – $85.00
- More than 30 members – $100.00
We do not want "cost" to get in the way of forming a new chapter. Please contact us if this charter fee creates a problem for your chapter. Other costs you may consider in starting your chapter is the cost of childcare and books. We recommend having your members contribute to these costs by paying for their own childcare and books, but leaders will often supplement the costs.
We are here to serve you and help answer any questions you may have. We want to help you grow in every aspect of your life – personally, professionally and spiritually. We’re also available to help guide and direct you to CMDA’s various ministries and resources.
Heidi Sems – Northeast (PA, DE, NY, MA, CT, RI, ME, NH, VT)
Kristen Choby – Northeast (VA, WV, MD, NJ)
Brittany Davis – South (AL, GA, NC, SC)
Becca Miller – South (TX, MS, OK, AR)
Sarah Hall – South (TN, FL)
Brooke Fermin – Midwest (MI, OH, IL, ID, KY)
Chris Schmit – Midwest (MN, WI, IA, SD, KS, NE)
Christon Sawatsky – West (WA, CA, ID, ND, SD, CO, MT, NV, AZ, AK, HI, UT, WY)
Rachelen Varghese – International