Every time I ask our frontline ministry leaders what issues and challenges they are facing with people, the same answer is always at or near the top of the list. Marriages. So many marriages are struggling. I’m sure you’re running into the same thing as you serve and lead in your church.
How do you invest in healthy marriages in your church? Here are five strategies we’ve been using that will hopefully help at your church as well.
#1: A Healthy Start
I remember the early days of my marriage. I grew up in a home that wasn’t exactly a model of healthy marriage, so I was sort of winging it. I’d love to have a do-over of that first year.
Marriage is one of the most important and challenging roles that a person will ever step into and yet, our society offers very little training on marriage. This is a huge opportunity for your church.
If a couple applies for a wedding in one of our buildings, we automatically sign them up for a marriage prep class. This means you get partnered with a pastor to counsel and guide you. It also means you get assigned an assessment tool called SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) to identify strengths and weaknesses in the relationship.
By partnering each couple with a pastor and walking them through SYMBIS, we’re attempting to give them a healthy start in their marriage.
In my marriage, some of the best guidance and help I’ve received has come through mentors. These are couples who have been married for a long time and can share learnings from the ups and downs in their relationships.
One of the areas of our marriage ministry that I’m most proud of is mentoring. I’m talking about mentor couples who have been identified and equipped to provide guidance to other couples.
Do you have a handful of couples in your church who have a healthy (not perfect) marriage who would be willing to walk alongside other couples? This could be one of the greatest opportunities you have to invest in healthy marriages.
#3: Talk About Money
When marriages hit a rough stretch, financial stress is usually part of the problem. Every marriage book I’ve ever read emphasizes the importance of having a healthy relationship with money.
Money is one of those topics that churches tend to shy away from. If we are going to invest in marriages, we must encourage people toward a healthy relationship with money—saving, budgeting, and generosity. People need tools and they need pastoral guidance.
Usually, people want to make healthy financial decisions, but they either don’t know how or feel stuck. Teach them. Consider offering Financial Peace University or Balanced. An additional question: When’s the last time you preached on finances from the pulpit? Maybe it’s time to return to the topic of money in your worship service.
#4: Be Vulnerable
Where does a couple in church find the courage to be vulnerable about their struggling marriage? Asking for help is a major hurdle for many couples!
If you, as a church leader, are willing to be appropriately vulnerable and authentic about your own marriage, people will feel more comfortable coming forward with their own struggles.
If you want to invest in marriages in your church, you’ll have to de-stigmatize the struggle through authenticity and vulnerability. You can do this through preaching, sharing your story and conversations.
#5: Provide Resources
My guess is that you aren’t an expert on marriage. Me either. Here’s the good news: To invest in healthy marriages in your church, you don’t have to be an expert. You just need to be able to point people toward great resources.
A few resources to consider:
- Do you have a handful of great Christian counselors in your area that you can point people to?
- Are there one or two books that you could identify as your “go-to” books on marriage?
- Is there a marriage expert that you really respect? Could you bring that person in for a weekend marriage retreat, workshop or conference? Or, could you send people to a marriage conference?
One of the most strategic things you can do to grow a healthy congregation is to invest in marriages. I hope these suggestions have been helpful.