Marriage & Family Ministry

Four Types of Help for Your Marriage

Just like your car, your marriage needs maintenance. Just like your car there are some things you can do yourself, some your friends can help with, some you can take care of with a class, and sometimes you may need to call in a professional.

The first type of help is self-help. This is where you get a book, read some reputable articles, or watch some DVDs of good marriage material. This is the type of help that I recommend to all couples to keep things running smooth. The analogy is checking the oil in your car and keeping it filled to the appropriate level.

The second type of help is what I call group education. This may be a class at your church or local mental health center. Seminars also fall into this category as do marriage retreats and workshops. The emphasis here is on education with some skill building. This level helps keep things running smooth and also helps when a minor adjustment is needed.

The third type of help is peer assistance. Mentoring programs, coaching programs, and support groups fall are examples. With these programs there is an emphasis on learning and using marriage skills proven to work with other couples.

The fourth type of help, and the one many people avoid, is professional counseling. While we might be able to change our own spark plugs or oil, putting in a new transmission usually requires a trained mechanic. When the previous types of help do not produce the desired results it is time to see the trained professional.

Keep up the regular maintenance and you may never need that trained professional. It does take work and time and it is worth it. Just like that car that you maintain for all of those years becomes a “classic” your marriage will be a “classic” when you keep it maintained. Then it will be your marriage getting the envious looks that “classics” always get. Maintain that marriage and become a “classic.”

Virginity Pledges DO Make a Difference

Virginity pledges do make a difference. The Wall Street Journal today had an article describing the flaw in recent reporting about the lack of effectiveness of virginity pledges. It turns out that those who make those pledges come from more conservative home and churches and have far less risky sex and delay first sexual experiences by four years. Also, one out of four of those who make the pledges to remain virgins until marriage. Good for them.

Read the article and pass it along. Those who wait until marriage to have sex have a headstart on building their lifelong REAL marriage.

Offer Classes That Impact Marriage

Money, sex, and children really impact our marriages. In your local congregation it is good to offer classes, through your marriage and family ministry, that address these issues. The economy is in terrible shape at the moment which makes it a perfect time to offer a class about money management such as No Debt, No Sweat or Financial Peace University. Couples who manage money well to not have to stress out or argue about money and thay are more likely to teach good money lessons to their children. This pays off in the future as well.

Sex is another topic that seems to cause frustration in marriage. Have a class at your church dedicated to discussing the development of a good sexual life from a godly, biblical perspective. Teach a class on the Song of Solomon or use a book such as A Celebration of Sex by Douglas Rosenau. When a couple’s sex life is going well they tend to do a little better in other areas as well.

Parenting is another issue that is often on a married couple’s mind. Start with my articles on Teen Discipline. Most of this information may be applied to younger children as well, especially the basics. I have long recommended 1-2-3 Magic and I can also recommend Love and Logic. Both are used in school systems around the country and it may be helpful to use the program used in your school system so there is consistency between home and school. Just today, at the congregation I attend, we started ScreamFree Parenting. I will likely have more to say about it once I sit through the class.

All of these things can be done in your congregation for a relatively small amount of money. Once you have people trained as presenters you can offer the classes on a rotating basis. All of these classes have application to the churched and the unchurched and make a great way to reach out to your neighborhood. Offering classes like these are one more way to help couples have a REAL marriage.

The Cost and Cure of Out-of-wedlock Childbirth

An article posted this last Thursday on Slate has caught my attention this morning. Click here to see an article about out-of-wedlock births. This article lists some of the current research on the cost to society of out-of-wedlock births. It also suggests that women give more thought to having sex with someone they are not willing to have as a husband and that waiting to marriage is a more stable situation for having children. By implication it suggest men should not have sex with someone they would not be willing to have as a wife.

We have long known that divorce and out-of-wedlock births result in pain to those involved and there has also been indication that there is a financial cost to divorce and out-of-wedlock birth. On April 15th the Institute for American Values, in cooperation with the Georgia Family Council, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Families Northwest, releases a report entitled, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and all 50 States.”

With divorce and unwed childbearing costing so much pain and taxpayer money it seems to me that we should do something about these events. My plan is simple to understand and more difficult to implement yet it is possible. We need to act on personal, community, and governmental levels.

On the personal level:

  1. Learn about mate selection by taking a course or reading good material or both.
  2. Wait until marriage to engage in sex.
  3. Take advantage of premarital education once you are engaged.
  4. When you are married maintain your marriage by taking marriage enrichment classes, going to seminars and retreats and reading books that will help you have a good and healthy marriage.

On the community level:

  1. Churches need to lead the way in providing the education listed above. Most people are married in a church and it is the church’s responsibility to provide good education.
  2. We need to support marriage.
  3. We need to support chastitity until marriage.
  4. We need to discourage divorce.

On the governmental level:

  1. Government can support education regarding the full spectrum of consequences of sex outside of marriage.
  2. Government can support marriage and remove or change laws that inadvertantly discourage marriage.
  3. Government can make divorce more difficult.
  4. Government can increase its effectiveness in holding father’s accountable for taking responsibility for their children.

This is not everything we can do. It is a good start.

10 Great Dates

Marriage is important to our congregations. 10 Great Dates is an inexpensive, easy to use program that has enriched thousands of marriages and won the 2005 Smart Marriages Impact Award. The program also has a Spanish version and a version for empty nesters.

Some areas have gone to local businesses, especially restaurants, and told them about the program and were able to get discounts for participants in the program. This is a great way to expand the benefits of the program. More people hear about the program, more become interested, couples save money on their date, and local businesses increase their business since participants are informed of the discounts. Also, you can often get your local newspaper to write an article about the program which leads to more outreach in your community and more marriage awareness. You may even be able to get television news covereage.

Start a 10 Great Dates program at your congregation and your members will build up their REAL marriages.

Offer Free Marriage Preparation Courses

It is not uncommon for ministers, pastors, and other clergy to do premarital education or counseling for free. Today, I am suggesting that churches start a premarital education class that is offered to their church and the community at no charge. This class can be taught by one or more lay couples in your Marriage and Family Ministry. Make it a comprehensive type of class that lasts at least twelve weeks so you can cover many topics and get to know the couples.

At the end of the class you can offer additional small groups or sessions with one couple at a time to use a premarital inventory. In this case, I suggest charging enough to cover the price of the inventory. With the inventory, each couple can go more in depth on a number of key areas, giving them even better preparation for their marriage. Also, put in a plug for your marriage mentoring ministry so that couples are well supported in that first year of marriage. (If you need a good, easy to implement, marriage mentoring program check out Marriage Mentoring: 12 Conversations.)

Plan this free marriage preparation course for the fall or winter quarter. The reason for this is to get the information to the couples marrying on Valentines day and in June. Eventually, you will be able to offer the class two, three, or more times a year and have a positive impact on marriages in your community.

Team Up

Team up with other congregations in your area to provide a wide array of marriage and family ministry opportunities. Most congregations are not big enough to do it all and that is okay. As you work together with other congregations you will be able to specialize where your gifts are while others do the same and together you will be able to serve those in your area.

Be persistent and keep serving. Sometimes it feels like you are not getting anywhere. Remember, that it takes time to build relationships and to be known for what you do. Faithful service will allow you to keep serving. Wait for God’s timing and you will not be disappointed.

Prayer in Marriage

“A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel.” Author Unknown

Also, a marriage hemmed in prayer is less likely to unravel. In your marriage and family ministries make sure you are encouraging couples to pray together and for one another. I know this sounds obvious and that I am “preaching to the choir” and yet I think we sometimes stop encouraging the obvious because we think it is obvious. The problem is, without frequent reminders, we humans tend to forget, or get distracted, and quit doing the obvious.

Include prayer in your classes and remind your couples (and everyone else) at the congregation to pray. Daily prayer about your marriage will help you build and keep a REAL Marriage.

Marriage TOOBs

What is a marriage TOOB? TOOB stands for Teach Out Of the Box. This is a program that is usually video based or has a video to train the teacher. With programs like these you can greatly expand the number of programs you offer and the number of people involved in teaching. The TOOB programs can be used with any sized congregation and are a great way to reach out to the community with quality programs and relatively low cost.

Expand your marriage and family ministry with TOOBs and you will have a positive impact on your congregation and your community.

New Release from Life Innovations

I am excited about the new release I heard about today. No, I’m not talking about Windows Vista. I’m talking about Prepare to Last. This is a DVD and workbook based program to help “nearly weds and newly weds.”

I already use PREPARE/ENRICH in my work with couples and this inventory is used by thousands of ministers, counselors, and marriage mentors across the country. This is a slightly different version that the couple can use without going to a special training. I highly recommend this new tool to ministers, counselors, marriage mentors and? couples who are getting married or within the first year of marriage.

For congregations this is a great tool to put in your library and use with people from your church. If you have hesitated to require premarital counseling before marrying a couple because of time constraints or lack of training then this tool is just what you need to make sure couples get good information before marriage.

My thanks to Dr. Olson and Life Innovations for adding another tool to the tool box.? We can all reduce divorce by doing everything we can to make our marriage successful. We can also point others in the direction of good skills, habits, and tools for marriage success.? Be? PREPAREd and you can have a REAL Marriage.

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