By Dave Willis
I think most of us already recognize the need for building stronger marriages and most of us also see the need for churches to do more. The disconnect isn’t in the knowing; it seems to be in the application. We simply don’t know how to create churches that are intentional about building stronger marriages. It doesn’t fit within our models and mindsets, so it gets put on the backburner. The good news is that doing more to build stronger marriages within your church is simpler than you might think and you can get started right away!
I certainly don’t claim to be any kind of “guru” when it comes to this stuff, but my background and platforms have given me some unique perspective. The list below isn’t comprehensive, but hopefully, it will help you take some next steps towards building stronger marriages in your church.
Whether your church already has a thriving “Marriage Ministry” or you’re just starting to develop a strategy to strengthen marriages within your congregation, here are five strategies I believe every church can and should implement:
1. Marriage-focused classes and/or groups
There are countless resources out there to help you offer these kinds of options. Make sure your small groups and/or Sunday School classes have options geared specifically for marriages. A quick search in any Christian bookstore or online outlet will show you endless options for books, study guides, DVD studies and other resources that can be used for group study. In addition to the material itself, connecting couples to each other in a small group setting is a Biblical and practical way to bring growth and encouragement. Iron sharpens iron.
2. Marriage “Coaches”
Pastors are not trained marriage counselors, and frankly, they don’t typically have the time, energy or expertise to sit down one-on-one with every couple who needs help. That’s why your church needs some “coaches.” This is a team of healthy couples in your church who go through a training and then agree to meet with couples in crisis for a period of time and offer encouragement, mentorship and support. This “coaching” doesn’t necessarily need to have a title attached to it. The best coaching often happens within small groups under the care of a husband and wife who have a strong marriage and model a healthy marriage through their regular interactions with the small group or Sunday School class. It comes down to connecting couples into healthy community with healthy leaders and mentors. Healing happens best in the context of relationships.
3. Marriage retreats
Most married couples don’t get away together without kids, and this is vitally important for the health of a marriage. Getting away with the specific intention of building a marriage can work wonders. Off this option once or twice a year and it will be a potentially life-changing weekend for the couples who attend. If your church decides to put together a marriage conference or retreat, it can be a wonderful time of marriage-building and friendship-building among the couples in your church. If you don’t host events of your own, let your congregation know about other opportunities in your area.
4. Marriage sermon series
Our church did a marriage sermon series last year and created a basic website to go along with it. The series had huge attendance and great feedback. Plus, it was a lot of fun! Teach about marriage and do it consistently. The people want (and need) to hear it. Even the single people in your church can benefit from teachings on marriage. The better we understand God’s plan for marriage, the better we understand our other relationships (including our relationship with Christ).
5. Marriage resources
Provide books, videos and other resources to your people. This doesn’t require a massive financial investment. In fact, there’s a wealth of marriage-related resources online that are completely free. In your emails and social media posts, consider including links to marriage articles and videos. Have a few marriage books and couples’ devotionals available in your church’s resource library. You can start small, but start somewhere!
In short, making marriage a priority in your ministry is one of the most effective ways to build stronger families and stronger churches. An investment in marriages will create a multi-generational legacy and an eternal impact.
Dave and Ashley Willis are the founders of StrongerMarriages.org which reaches more than one million readers monthly. They live with their four young sons near Augusta, GA where Dave serves as a pastor at Stevens Creek Church. For additional resources, please visit DaveWillis.org.