How To Help Marriages Thrive In Your Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to grow healthier and stronger churches.

I’ve been asking the question,

What is it that we can do as leaders that will create the greatest impact?

As I contemplate this question, marriage always comes up.

If we could help our people thrive in marriage, we would see tremendous impact.

I think we would have more engaged kids, more adults serving, even higher giving. And, of course, people would be happier and more fulfilled.

So, what can we do as churches to help people thrive in their marriages? I have a few ideas.

1. Make It Normal

Here’s the thing: No one has a perfect marriage.

I mean, come on.

We’re talking about two fallen and flawed people with all sorts of interesting and troublesome things in their backgrounds trying to live together.

Then, we throw babies into the mix.

And what do babies do?

Not sleep, I’ll tell you that!

Shoot, they do whatever they want, particularly what you don’t want them to do.

Can you tell that I have 5 kids?!?

The truth is that marriage is hard and we all go through seasons where it feels like the whole thing is coming off the rails.

One of the worst things we can do as pastors and churches is inadvertently create shame around marriage trouble. When we do this, we make it practically impossible for a couple to reach out for help when they need it most.

So, how do we reduce this shame?

Make marriage struggles normal!

In our church, our senior pastor talks honestly from the stage about seasons of trouble he’s experienced in his marriage.

He’ll say things like,

That’s when we went in for round 3 of counseling.

In addition, he regularly uses illustrations about conflict in marriage, relationships with ex-spouses and divorce.

We aren’t about condoning divorce but the reality is many of our people find themselves in situations they never desired or planned for and we have a choice as church leaders to either act like the entire notion of conflict, divorce and remarriage is anathema or to act like Jesus can redeem and restore anything.

Bottom line: If we want to help people thrive in their marriages, we have to speak and act like struggling in your marriage is normal.

2. Focus On Preparation

Something that has helped in our church is a strategic plan for helping people prepare for marriages.

This includes…

  • A six week pre-marriage classes with other couples who are planning to get married.
  • Taking the SYMBIS test and talking through the results with an assigned pastor from our staff. If you’re unfamiliar, SYMBIS stands for Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Check it out.
  • Spending time with marriage mentors before the wedding and periodically during the first year of marriage.
  • The goal of these conversations and this assessment is to help people realize that their family of origin deeply influences their notion of marriage.

    And, it turns out their future spouse had a different family of origin (hopefully!) and likely has a different notion of marriage.

    If each person has a clear understanding of the baggage and expectations they are bringing into the marriage, the chances of a more peaceful first year and long term health in marriage greatly increase.

    If we want to help people thrive in marriage, we have to help them prepare.

    If you’re looking for a place to start, identify a few couples as marriage mentors, who could walk alongside couples preparing for marriage.

    3. Provide Resources

    The truth is that most marriage trouble revolves around three issues: money, sex and communication.

    One of the most helpful ways to encourage couples who are struggling is to offer resources and help around these trouble areas in relationships.

    Sometimes the right resources can help couples avoid trouble and other times the right resource can help couples get out of trouble.

    If you’re looking for ideas, here are a few:

  • Budget Support. One of the best resources we offer people in our church is deacons who mentor couples around budgeting. Most people were never taught how to create and maintain a budget. It’s amazing how a simple budget can alleviate a ton of stress around money.
  • Financial Help. Sometimes, helping a couple financially by paying an outstanding bill can alleviate stress and also create a greater bond of trust with their church. Every time we offer communion at our church we invite people to give to our benevolence fund on their way out the door. We then use this fund to help people in our church and community who are in a jam.
  • Free Counseling. When an individual or couple comes to us in crisis, we often assess the situation and then connect them with a vetted and trusted therapist. When appropriate, we pay for the first 6-8 sessions.
  • Married People. Recently, we started using this resource to help couples spend meaningful time together and create healthy communication. Maybe it is a good fit for your church. Check it out.
  • Sometimes the best way to help marriages is not speaking to training directly on marriage but rather to help people create healthy boundaries and habits around the areas that always seem to create trouble in marriage.

    Wrap Up

    Let’s wrap this up. I believe one of the most important things we can do as churches is help people build healthier and stronger marriages.

    Hopefully this post has been helpful.

    Maybe you already have a strong marriage ministry. If so, we’d love to hear your ideas.

    Feel free to share an idea or ask a question in the comments below.

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