By Kristin Schultz
Cue Mendelssohn's “Wedding March”—here comes the bride!
Yes, wedding season is upon us. More than one million people will be getting married this year and many more will be celebrating their wedding anniversaries in the spring. With that in mind, let’s ask a tough question: what are you doing to nurture the marriages in your ministry?
Your church probably has a children’s ministry, a men’s ministry, and a women’s ministry, but what about a ministry for married couples? In most churches, this topic is almost taboo—we don’t work on marriages because that would mean there was something wrong with our marriages. But wait—wouldn’t working on marriages from the start prevent problems in the future?
Marriage is a huge undertaking for couples—it’s the most important relationship they’ll ever have in their lives. Your church can have a hand in the success of these relationships. By nurturing Christ-centered marriages, you can help couples thrive in their relationships and avoid becoming one of those dreaded divorce statistics.
Start All New Couples with Premarital Counseling
Remember when you were engaged to your spouse and you couldn’t help but be lovey-dovey all the time? You know the last thing on the minds of engaged couples is counseling, but it is a must-have. Psychology experts even call it “the smartest decision that any couple can make.” It improves communication, brings up hot-button issues and, in some cases, can save a couple from a miserable marriage in the future.
There are hundreds of resources online to help you start a Bible-based premarital counseling program. The Prepare/Enrich survey may be useful for your couples. Here’s an article written by a pastor that will help you avoid premarital counseling pitfalls, too.
Provide opportunities for couples to connect
Couples can support one another by sharing the joys and hardships of marriage. You can facilitate these connections by hosting monthly dinners in the church fellowship hall, forming a softball team, or organizing group service projects.
You may even consider training a few of the older and wiser couples in your church to serve as marriage mentors. Pair up each new couple with a time-tested one and encourage a supportive relationship among the four of them. This mentorship may also have a place in your premarital counseling program. Many people find it less intimidating to speak with another couple rather than the pastor.
Build a Parent-Relief Team
Most couples will spend eighteen or more years of their marriage with at least one child living at home. Having children undoubtedly makes marriage more difficult. Parents are stressed, tired, and overworked. Taking care of their children leaves little time to take care of their marriages.
Studies show that couples who have a date night at least once a week have higher quality relationships and lower divorce rates than couples who neglect having one-on-one time. Your church can support marriages by offering a “parent relief team” to offer babysitting so that couples can spend time alone. Get your high schoolers involved and charge a small fee that goes toward your youth ministry budget. You may also consider recruiting a group of grandmothers to babysit during the day.
Promote Marriage Retreats
Most people think that marriage retreats are for fixing troubled marriages, but that’s simply not true. Marriage retreats can help couples from all stages of life reengage in their relationships and refocus on their Savior. And these days, retreats can happen anywhere, anytime.
If your couples have the time, encourage them to spend a weekend away. There are Christian marriage retreats offered across the country. If the couples at your church don’t have time to leave town, encourage them to use online resources and webinars. You can even create an at-home retreat for your couples.
With these four ideas and any other marriage programs that you create, build your ministry to be a constant source of encouragement and support based on the love of Jesus. Let the couples at your church know that your ministry has a stake in their relationship—you want to see them in strong, healthy marriages!
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