What does your church do to strengthen marriages? What kinds of resources (books, videos, classes, etc.) have you found helpful? Are there any special tools, such as personality inventories, etc. that you’ve found to be helpful? Does your church offer any type of counseling for couples, marriage retreats, etc.? How often do you teach on marriage and relationships from the pulpit? I’m looking for any and all ideas that we can possibly implement in our church to help our couples have successful marriages.
Pastor John Lowe—Warsaw, IN
We always teach on the home—constantly. We do a marriage conference annually in February. From Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, I teach on the home, money, kids, communication, sex (yes, sex), etc.
We have a complete marriage conference manual we make available to churches and ministers all over the world. We have had it translated into Russian and Ukraine, and it is virtually the same with some differences. It has also been used in France and India and England.
I use, as of more recent times, materials from www.GreatCommandments.net ministries in Austin, Texas. It is awesome relational theology material.
We do marriage encounters, advances, and seminars (never liked the word ‘retreat’ for anything). Great love and respect.
Pastor Brad Allen—San Mateo, CA
1. For Pre-Marital counseling, we use a small book I wrote called “Questions To Answer Before You Say I Do.” It’s divided into sections relating to Money, Communication, Past Relationships, Children, Relatives, Decision Making, Working Together, Conflict Resolution, etc. It’s a great tool for couples to work through with their pastor during a series of pre-marital counseling sessions. Many parents have purchased it for their marriage-minded young adults so that they make one of the biggest decisions of their lives with their eyes open. I can email pastors a free copy. BradJAllen@sbcglobal.net
2. Next to Tony Cooke, Rev. Joe McGee, is one of the best guest speakers you can bring in to speak to your church. He’s hilarious and effective. His teachings have helped our marriage, and I use a lot of his material when I teach on marriage. We’ve partnered with other churches to bring him in and get a good size group for him to speak to.
3. Pastors don’t always know when couples are having serious problems. So I try to schedule at least once every two months, teachings on “walking in love” and “serving one another” and forgiveness with a focus on marriage but delivered in a way that is applicable to singles.
4. I try not to meet with one person. I try to meet with the couple and with my spouse. When the four of us meet together, we really find solutions. When I’ve met with a couple by myself, things I said in the counseling session were twisted by the fighting couple, but I find that doesn’t happen with four people in the room. Also my wife has the gift of restating things I’ve said in kinder terms and/or stronger terms so that the couple accurately hears what we have to say.
Any couple that we’ve met with will also need follow up. They stay on our “people to call” list and “people to go out to meals with” list for next year.
Pastor Phil Edwards—Ennice, NC
I recommend Willard Harley’s books, “His Needs, Her Needs,” and “I Promise You.” I don’t use them to prevent promiscuity but to teach the Love Bank deposits and withdrawals and for teaching the 5 basic needs of a man and a woman. I also like John Hagee’s books. I like “Men Are Like Waffles and Women Are Like Spaghetti.” It is written with humor and makes marital sessions fun. Then there are a sundry of other books I use, “The Five Love Languages,” etc.
I normally use the month of February (for oblivious reasons) to teach on marriage and the family. I teach on relationship every Sunday and then the last Sunday we have a Cinderella Sunday, where the man takes his wife or significant other on a dinner date (without the kids) and it has to be a nice place within their budget. If they cannot afford it, the church usually helps out.
If you can get a couple into romantic love, the outcome of the relationship is very predictable. The opposite is also true.
Pastor Don Adkins—Lexington, KY
We give every pre-marital couple a personality profile. We offer 6 weeks of pre-marital counseling. We usually use the month of February to teach on marriage. Sometimes we do a split-session (girls and guys apart). We use probably the same materials as most pastors.
Pastor Walker Schurz—Lusaka, Zambia
For pre-marital couples, we do an 8 session course with an associate pastor and other mature couples to prepare our young couples. There is also individual time with a pastor as the need arises. Each couple purchases Before You Say I Do by Norman Wright and does weekly homework. We have seen great marriages come as a result of this preparation in the last 9 years.
For existing couples, we do some sermons from time to time on relationships and marriage. We have had a weekend with a Christian psychologist and his wife that was also helpful. Mostly we do emergency room help when marriages are in trouble. Some marriages are saved, but others don’t make it.
Last year we hosted a weekend DVD marriage course called, The Art of Marriage by Family Life, a division of Campus Crusade. I cannot recommend it more highly. The fruit was and is fantastic. The course is reasonably priced and comes with interactive notebooks and the facilitation is live. It is funny, inspiring, factual, Biblical and relevant. It is well worth the time and investment.
Pastor James Hosack—Carlsbad, NM
In our second year of pastoring Church On the Move in Carlsbad, New Mexico, we report that we have counseled individual couples on an “as needed” basis only, and have not implemented a set curriculum at this point.
As Pastor, I have taught one, several-week series entitled, “Marriage Tool Box.” In this series, I equipped our couples with practical tools to begin using to work on their marriages. This list included ideas from Dobson, LaHaye, Smalley and others:
Tools For Marriage Toolbox
1. Learn the other’s language
2. Hot buttons
3. Listen—what are they really saying?
4. Pebble versus the Boulder
5. Open vs closed spirit
6. Love Bank—learn to make deposits before making withdrawals
7. Make arguments productive. Admit your faults—work on them!
8. Become skillful communicators
9. Use of word pictures
10. Money management and agreement
We covered more than just these areas, however, some of our couples responded very favorably to these, and were very appreciative. We learned that one couple had actually listened to each message together at home and then discussed how to apply these principles to improve their marriage.
Additionally, I generally take the month of February to teach on marriage, and this coming February we have Ken Blount and his wife coming to do a 3-day marriage enrichment seminar around Valentine’s Day.
Pastor Tim Phillips—Harrison, AR
Strengthening relationships is a very important aspect of the Church’s ministry. What I have found helpful are in these suggestions:
1. I have employed the Prepare/Enrich program in my pre-marital counseling. The program begins with a personal evaluation form to be filled out by the couple. Once received back from Prepare/Enrich, the counselor is able to instruct the couple on particular areas of strengths and growth areas. The counselor will deal with Communication Skills, Resolving Conflict and planning for the future with budgeting and ideas of what the couple would like to see happen in their lives. Prepare/Enrich is now connected with the video series “Marriage 101, Back to the Basics” series by Grace Products, Richardson, TX (www.marriage101online.com). This is a video series with workbooks for the couple and counselor to follow along with.
2. In our School of the Bible classes (Sunday school), we incorporate these types of video and also live teaching to help people in their marriages.
3. When needed, we also include mentoring couples. These married couples within the church will coach and train others in the skills necessary for successful relationships.
4. I do include preaching sessions on the subjects of marriage and relationships every so often through the year. People appreciate it very much.
Pastor Roger Wright—Waynesville, MO
Since my belief system includes that the marriage/family was ordained by God before the local church, I am a huge advocate of promoting both in our church. I will preach on marriage and family every year with at least one, 4-part series, then offer in our mid-week bible study setting, a more complex study on the area of raising a family, “parenting 101” type of an option.
Retreats are also a recommended form of growth, and since I believe that it’s healthy marriages that build into a healthy church, we are very much in favor of this once every year or two. I have also started offering a 4-part video series that helps our church couples understand the differences between men and women’s brains…it’s a natural/scientific difference that many of us miss. We offer child care and do a weekend with this material, culminating with a new set of marriage vows recited back to each other….very powerful.
We then provide each spouse with a test called the Flagpage, which is offered through “Laugh your way to a better marriage.” This test reveals who you are at the core of your being and helps them understand their heart motivations in life, which lends a great benefit in our marriage relationship. Many times this information is simply revolutionary, in that it characterizes basic emotional needs that each of us come with, not to mention a revealing look at why we do what we do and why we react the way we react. It takes much of the guess work out of asking ourselves questions concerning our spouses and makes it easier to understand the person that we’ve vowed to spend the rest of our lives with. Information about his material can be obtained upon request.
Lastly, while marriage retreats, sermon series and counseling are much needed today in our present church climate, it still won’t eclipse the benefit of seeing a pastoral staff live out their lives in relationship with their spouses, sharing hurts, victories and day-to-day challenges that come as a result of blending two lives into one. Our people need to see us as human, vulnerable and in touch with their lives, seeing us overcoming the very same things that they face, while fully relying upon the message of God’s Word as our bases for success. I find that the more I allow myself and my wife to be real and touchable, the more our church appreciates it and responds to it.
Pastor Dan Morrison—Farmington, NM
Besides the wonderful resources already mentioned, I have to recommend the most helpful and practical book that I’ve found on the subject of communication and conflict resolution: A Lasting Promise—A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage, by Stanley, Trathen, McCain, and Bryan. The book shares conversation examples as well as marriage-changing principles that I have used with many couples over the years.
Pastor Chris Pugh—Parkersburg, WV
I usually teach at least one series a year on marriage/family. Of course marriage and family is touched on throughout the year in the course of other sermons. I always try to be serious of course, but lighthearted as well with catchy titles. For instance, a couple of years ago, I did a series called “Toothpaste Tubes, Toilet Seats and Trash Cans,” that was really well received.
One resource I discovered late last year was a book called, “Love and Respect,” by Emerson Eggerich. It deals with conflict in marriage and stopping what they call the “Crazy Cycle.” It’s one of the most dog-eared books I own and I regularly recommend it to my pastor friends. They have a 5-DVD video curriculum that we showed on Wednesday nights during the first of the year, and it was extremely well received.
As a matter of fact, we made the first three videos a mandatory part of our pre-marital counseling program, as well as a tool for marital counseling in general. I really encourage pastors to buy the book and read it. We really haven’t had any retreat type things, but I’m sure we will someday. Hope this helps. Blessings!!
Pastor Thom Fields—Kennewick, WA
I don’t think there is a more greater need in the American Church than the need for strong families. Biblically-based family is under attack and it’s vital that we stand up and fight for marriage. With that said, the following is how we attempt to address that need at The Garden.
We kick off the year with, what we call the “5 F’s.” January through May we do a set of series each month on the following topics:
January is Fasting
(we start the year off with a corporate, 21 day fast)
February is Fitness
(most people are just about ready to cave in on any of their New Year’s resolutions!)
March is Finances
(people are preparing for tax season)
April is Family
(we direct our teaching towards developing healthy homes)
May is Fun
(people are getting excited about their coming Summer!)
Through all of this, I attempt to weave strong relational health into the fabric of every household. I really push, for example, fasting TOGETHER during the month of January. I stress the power of agreement and praying WITH EACH OTHER during the fast. Our entire church has become very involved in the fast that we use to kick off every year and it is a powerful season. Jentzen Franklin has a lot of material to help with this issue, by the way. (www.jentezenfranklin.org)
Likewise, during our series on finances, it’s very easy to lead the entire household into the mix by teaching the need for teamwork and communication to produce a healthy financial environment.
So, as you see, we’re teaching marriage and relationship values pretty strong for the first 5 months of the year and then we spend the rest of the year attempting to go deeper!
We’ve participated in marriage events in our city and partnered with other churches to bring in special guests. For example, last year several churches worked together and hosted an event with Bill and Pam Ferrel, authors of, “Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti.” This was a very effective seminar and their materials are very helpful in developing strong marriages.
With all of that said, I believe the VERY BEST THING any of us can do to produce strong marriages in our ministries is to BUILD ONE OURSELVES. I’ve found that the stronger my marriage is, the wider the door to ministry becomes. God will bring hurting people to those who have prepared and positioned themselves.
On the other hand, it isn’t always effective to hold marriage seminars and teach wonderfully eloquent series just to allow people the opportunity to see our own marriage suffer. I think the Bible says that a seed will always produce after its own kind. If strong marriages are truly our desire, we must be willing to grow them… starting with our own.
I just returned from a set of meetings where Pastor Doug Jones spoke about 4 Levels of Commission. He listed them as follows:
- Personal Commission
- Domestic Commission
- Cultural Commission
- Great Commission
His teaching revealed that our Personal Commission deals with our own character. When we’re healthy, it sets us up for success in our Domestic Commission: Influencing our own family. When our Domestic Commission is succeeding (strong marriage, included) then we’re positioned to influence others through our Cultural Commission. And finally, when the workplace is influenced by us, The Great Commission comes with much greater ease and very naturally. Yet it all flows from our attention to our Personal Commission – influencing ourselves.
The stronger we are, the stronger our own marriage will be. The stronger our own marriages, the greater our influence will be upon the marriages that surround us. Get enough strong marriages to stand together with a vision of influencing others and we can change the world!
I know that God LOVES marriage and desires to see all people experience what He had in mind when He instituted it. I’m praying for your success as you lead others into a God-shaped marriage!
Pastor Tim Kutz—Bartlesville, OK
There is a very plain and simple fact that all pastors have to come to grips with; as with any subject they teach on, there is much study, preparation, research and prayer required. This is to be especially true concerning marriage and family issues.
Most pastors, if not all pastors, must give much diligence to their own marriage enrichment where study is concerned simply because (he) is not the same as his wife, or (she) is not the same as her husband. So, to answer the first part of the question; What does your church do to strengthen marriages?, the answer for us and for you should be to FIRST strengthen your own marriage. You may be reading this and think that this is a given, but examine your life and ask yourself what you are doing to strengthen your marriage. Whether you like it or not, your marriage is “the” example in your church of what a marriage should be. Because of the rigors of ministry, many of us do not take the time to romance our spouse, and one of the unintended consequences is a lack of passion teaching our people on the issue. It is the same as teaching on any other principle from the Word that you are not living in your own life. There is no power in your teaching. So, number one, romance your own spouse and pursue them.
As probably many will say here, I personally think that two of the best resources on marriage are the books, “Love and Respect,” and “Marriage On The Rock.” May I suggest that you also get the video series, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage,” and do a once a week (or every other week) video/romantic dinner and use the tools provided with that series and website. Let your youth group provide the main help for cooking and serving, maybe as a fundraiser for them; just an idea I’ve done resulting in a great building time for marriages. But nothing will take the place of you building your own marriage and ministering from that place.
Pastor Ray Almaguer—Covina, CA
One of the best resources we use to help married couples is the book Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer. In the book, she explains the 4 temperament types in layman’s terms. The book includes a personality profile which we find to be pretty accurate. I believe it is extremely important for married couples to understand the temperament type of their spouse, as well as themselves. An understanding of each other’s tendencies will help to relieve tension and conflict. This is especially helpful in pre-marital counseling.
We also like to use the book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Smalley. It is very important to know and speak the “love language” of your spouse. We also use the set of books If He Only Knew and For Better or For Best.
We have a married couple’s retreat planned for the spring of next year. My wife and I will teach on marriage there. We have found retreats to be very beneficial. We lead a small group that targets marriage and family. I work marriage and family illustrations into my messages, and my wife and I will team-teach a sermon series on marriage and family every couple of years.