There’s something that keeps coming up in my church.
I keep hearing, from many different sources, that marriages are in trouble all over the place.
We hear it from our men’s ministry and our women’s ministry. We run into it in family ministry. Prayer requests are often about failing marriages.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that we need to focus ministry on supporting, encouraging and building marriages.
In fact, I’m not sure if there is any more important area to focus ministry in our churches.
So, how do we go about this? How can we invest in marriages as a church? I have a few ideas.
1. Lay Solid Foundations
Next month will be 17 years of marriage for me.
I clearly remember the early days for us.
I can’t speak for my wife, but I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
The home I grew up in wasn’t exactly a model for a healthy marriage and so I was sort of winging it.
I think I’ve basically figured things out but sure wish I could have a mulligan for the first year or so.
Marriage is one of the most important and challenging roles that a person will ever step into and yet, in American culture, we provide much more training on calculus (which we NEVER use) than skills in marriage.
There is a HUGE opportunity to invest in marriages on the front end as a couple prepares for their wedding day.
In our church, if you apply for a wedding in one of our buildings, you are automatically signed up for a marriage prep class.
You’re paired up with a pastor to counsel and guide you.
We use an assessment called SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) to identify areas of strength and concern and we do our best to help couples lay a good foundation by clarifying expectations, facilitating important conversations and diving into areas of tension before they say “I do.”
All I’m saying is that there is a huge opportunity to invest in marriages before they even begin, by helping couples prepare.
2. Journey with Couples
As we’ve said, walking with couples before their wedding day is important for laying a solid foundation.
But, isn’t it true that as you’re preparing for marriage, you don’t even really know what questions to ask?
Everything changes when you’re living in the same house, navigating financial challenges and dealing with each other’s morning breath. Just saying.
If you want to get serious about investing in marriages in your church, walk with couples as they prepare, but continue to journey with them after the wedding day.
If you can identify couples who have solid marriages and equip them to mentor younger couples or couples who are struggling, you can provide an incredible resource for couples in your church.
So, who do you have that has a solid marriage, who would be willing to invest in others?
3. Talk About Money
It’s no secret that money is usually a part of the equation in a struggling marriage.
Every marriage study I’ve ever read stresses the importance of a healthy relationship with money if you want a strong marriage.
Money is one of those topics that churches tend to shy away from.
If we are going to invest in marriages, we must talk openly about money and we must do it from the platform.
We have to teach about saving, budgeting and generosity.
People need tools and they need pastoral guidance.
I would encourage you to lean into this conversation.
Usually, people want to make better financial decisions but they either don’t know how, or they are feeling trapped somehow.
4. Speak Authentically
Here’s the challenge with marriage struggles.
Actually, it’s probably worse.
In church, it is shameful.
And, in order to grow and get healthy in marriage, you have to reach out for help, but how do you reach out for help when you feel such shame for even admitting there is a problem?
Ever been there?
We can help with this if we speak authentically from the stage.
One of the most disarming and healthy things our senior pastor does is talk about his own marriage challenges from the stage.
He speaks openly about going to marriage counseling with his wife and whenever he does this, I can feel people in the congregation saying, “Ok, if he needs help then it’s ok if I do too.”
Our pastor’s vulnerability empowers the vulnerability of others so they can reach out for help.
If you want to invest in marriages in your church, you have to de-stigmatize the struggle and you can do this through authenticity.
5. Provide Resources
Marriage seems to be one of those things in life that if you take your foot off the gas and coast…it gets worse.
Marriages don’t usually improve when they are on auto-pilot.
Because of this, it’s important to provide injections of energy and focus for couples.
As churches we can do this through workshops, guest speakers, book studies, conferences, etc.
The point is simply emphasis.
So, when during the ministry year do you emphasize marriage somehow?
If you don’t, could you start?
Do something easy and do something church wide to build momentum and make investing in marriages part of your culture.
6. Engage the Mess
Alright. One last idea.
If you want to invest in marriages, you have to engage the mess.
Rarely is it as simple as, “Ok. You be nice to her and you be nice to him. I think we’re done here.”
No, it’s like, she is struggling with anxiety, this is his third marriage, they are losing their house, she has a drinking problem, their teenager is off the rails, he has a porn addiction, there was infidelity four years ago, there is $50,000 in credit card debt…it’s just messy.
It can be ugly.
And, there are no easy fixes.
If you want to invest in marriages, roll up your sleeves, get ready to listen and cry with people who are experiencing real pain and plead with Jesus to give you what you need to speak with grace and wisdom.
Just know that it is a journey and sometimes it doesn’t end well.
But that’s ok.
It’s still worth investing in marriages because that’s what Jesus would do and that’s what the church does.
Investing in marriages is one of the most important and strategic places to invest.
I pray that you engage and invest. We’d love to hear your thoughts below. Thanks for reading.