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How Traffic Lights Can Help Your Pre-Marriage Ministry

How Traffic Lights Can Help Your Pre-Marriage Ministry

Fun fact: Did you know the original colors of the traffic light were red (stop), white (go), and green (caution)?

We all know a traffic light or signal when we see one. Typically, we have a love/hate relationship with the traffic light. We don’t like to be stuck at lights. Plus, it always seems like we get red or yellow when we’re in a rush.

A traffic light can be defined as a set of automatically operated colored lights—typically red, amber, and green—for controlling traffic at road junctions and crosswalks. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow/amber means slow down because a red light is coming.

In fact, the red light indicates that danger is on the other side of the light. A red light beckons us to stop so we can avoid danger (i.e., a car speeding the opposite direction that could harm us if we keep moving forward).

How is a pre-married ministry like a traffic light?

Years ago in our pre-married class at Watermark (called Merge), I started to use the image of a traffic light to help couples discern next steps in their relationship. While in our class, the green, yellow, and red lights have nothing to do with automobile traffic, they do provide a helpful guide for ministry leaders and mentor couples.

As you lead pre-married couples, this simple analogy helps guide them to think about moving forward towards engagement or marriage, hitting the pause/slow down button, or encouraging couples to end their relationship.

Green means “go”

This means you’re excited about a couple moving forward towards engagement or marriage. Friends and family support and cheer the couple on as they move forward in their relationship.

No, this doesn’t mean the couple is perfect. But it does mean they’re making good decisions in their relationship. You’d be honored to officiate or attend this wedding ceremony!

Yellow means “slow down”

Trouble is coming in the opposite direction and couples need to be cautious about moving forward. For a pre-married couple, a yellow light doesn’t mean they need to break-up, but it does mean they should slow down and process things at a deeper level.

The typical “yellow light” couple has some questions they need to answer before they either move forward toward engagement and marriage or before they hit the eject button.

Red means “stop”

Danger is coming, hit the eject button, and get out while you still can! For the pre-married couple who gets a red light, this means there are some major barriers in place that should lead them to break up. This might be because they’re unequally yoked, which is when a Christian marries a non-Christian.

The Bible doesn’t tell us who we should marry, but it’s very clear a Christian shouldn’t marry a non-believer (See 2 Corinthians 6:14). Or maybe there’s some major dysfunction in their relationship (i.e., infidelity, unaddressed addictions or unhealthy pre-married sexual activity). Or perhaps the couple can’t learn how to communicate and resolve conflict.

Other people around the “red light” couple are begging and pleading for them to break-up. It’s not because they don’t want the couple to be happy, but rather because they love them and don’t want them to sign up for a life of misery together or a future divorce.

Unfortunately, in my experience, too many couples in the red zone keep going forward. This happens because the couple doesn’t want to hear what others say, or because others are too afraid to share their concerns.

Ready or Knot?

I wrote Ready or Knot? 12 Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have before Marriage to help provide guidance. The book is intended to help couples see if their “traffic light” is green, yellow, or red.

I wrote it as a biblical, practical, and authentic guide to help couples take the next best step in their relationship. I pray couples would read Ready or Knot? and break-up. I also pray the money they spent on the book would spare them much pain and hurt in the future.

I also wrote Ready or Knot? to help “green light” couples move forward toward marriage with confidence. Too many couples move towards marriage with excess levels of fear and anxiety. While the decision is a big one, Ready or Knot? can help a couple say “I do” with joy and confidence in the Lord.

As you counsel pre-married couples, where do you think they land?

  • Are they green? Let’s hear those wedding bells.
  • Are they yellow? What can we do to help them figure out the next step?
  • Are they red? Let’s help them end things so they don’t end up living in misery or getting divorced. The break-up is the best possible result for some couples.
Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas for Your Church

Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Ideas for Your Church

If your church is like most, your children’s ministry rocks! Kids love coming to church and drag their parents along with them.

You might also have a great place for students to grow in their relationship with Christ. High school might be a tough place to stand strong in faith, but students know they can invite their friends to your church.

However, when it comes to marriage ministry, you don’t know what to do and where to start. You look at the calendar and realize Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Many couples are looking to you to help fix, save, and strengthen their marriage.

So what do you do when resources are tight and you haven’t done anything to support couples? Here are five different ideas you can execute last minute to reach couples. Pick one or two that won’t break the bank, but can still have a big impact.

1. Host a Couple’s Game Night

Reserve a room at church. Get all the round tables and chairs you can find. And ask everyone to bring their favorite board games. For a relatively low cost, you can get some snacks and coffee to create a fun environment where couples can get some time with other couples and away from kids.

We’ve done this with our newlyweds in the past and it’s been a big win! Most couples we know love playing games and meeting other couples. It’s not good for marriages to be alone, and game nights help couples grow their friendship with one another.

Cap off the night with a short talk about the importance of companionship and friendship with your spouse and with other couples.

2. Date Night Done Right

Some of my favorite resources that I recommend to other churches are the date nights from MarriedPeople. Couples often do a great job of pursuing each other before marriage, but then fall into ruts and routines after saying, “I do.”

The church can help couples remember what it’s like to pursue their spouse like they did in the beginning. We’ve done date nights in the past where we ask couples to reserve a sitter, drive by our church, pick up a date night bag, and go out on a date together.

The date bag included a few treats, some coupons for local restaurants, and a short date night guide to help them have an intentional date night. Provide them with a few questions they can ask each other on their date.

Leverage social media and challenge couples to post pictures of their date night. Give out prizes to the couples who have the most fun or are being the most intentional on their date.

3. Serve different “categories” of couples.

We break our marriage ministry up into four distinct buckets. At Watermark, we prepare engaged couples, establish newlyweds, and enrich and restore all marriages. What’s one step you can take to help each of these four “buckets” of couples?

Prepare engaged couples & establish newlyweds: While their needs are unique, you can bring your pre-married and newly married couples together for a Saturday morning seminar or a short class to help couples prepare for, and start their marriages well.

Get a few of your stronger, veteran couples together to do quick teaching on topics like money, spiritual intimacy, communication, and sex. Do a Q&A panel and allow younger couples to learn from more experienced couples.

Enrich all marriages: Depending on the structure of your church, do a marriage study in your small groups or Sunday School. Challenge all married couples in groups/classes to spend 4-6 weeks intentionally working on their marriages.

Restore hurting marriages: Like when Jesus said in Matthew 26:11 that the poor will always be among us, so will hurting marriages. Encourage couples who need help to check out the marriage ministry re|engage. You can find a list of churches across the country who offer re|engage through this website.

4. Provide a list of resources to help couples.

I like to think through resources for different needs and purposes. You can find a list of resources I put together here or come up with your own list to help couples. There’s so much out there, and a lot of it is not helpful. Look for resources that are biblical, authentic, and practical.

A simple, but effective way you can quickly help strengthen the relationships of the couples in your church is by providing helpful books, podcasts, and articles for them to go through together.

5. Prayer challenge.

Last, but certainly not least, is to encourage your couples to pray together and to grow spiritually as a couple. We do a 30-day prayer challenge a few years ago on the heels of a marriage conference we hosted and had hundreds of couples sign up to pray for each other for 30 days.

We put together a list of 30 texts that were short prayers or prayer prompts. For example:

  • God, show me today one way to serve my spouse and please give me the courage to do what you show me.
  • Today, I pray my spouse will find Psalm 16:11 joy through ___________ .
  • God, please help me to be a better listener to my spouse. Please help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

We then gathered up names, phone numbers, and email addresses for any interested couples. Every day the individual received the prayer or prayer prompt over email or text.

This prayer challenge proved to be a cheap, and effective way to help grow the marriages in our church. Sometimes the best ideas come at a very low financial cost and have a tremendous impact.

What Will You Do to Help the Marriages in Your Church?

Perhaps the most thing you can do to help couples in your church and community is to train and disciple them to pour into their own marriages. That way, they’re not dependent on the church to do everything for them.

In the same way, many parents try to outsource the discipleship of their children to the church, couples can expect the church to be the primary source of help for their marriage. While the church should be the best place for couples to go for encouragement, counsel, wisdom, and help, it shouldn’t be the only place.

The end goal for any event, class, or resource should not be stronger marriages but rather that couples would grow in their love for God and that they would become more like Jesus. In other words, the best way to grow healthy marriages is to grow healthy followers of Jesus Christ.

Whether you have months to plan or just a few weeks, you can make disciples through your marriage ministry.

Humility and The Problem with All-Stars

Humility and The Problem with All-Stars

I’m a bit of a podcast junkie. And I wanted to share with you my favorite podcast episode I’ve listened to in a long time. This is not a Christian podcast, but the topic is as “Christian” as it comes—humility.

The podcast is the TED WorkLife Podcast with Adam Grant, and the specific episode is called The Problem with All-Stars. Grant is an organizational psychologist and the podcast “takes you inside some of the world’s most unusual workplaces to discover the keys to better work.”

In The Problem with All-Stars episode, Grant looks at humility, which he says is the hidden ingredient in great teams. The truths of this short podcast episode apply to all team contexts—workplace, sports teams, church staffs, and so much more.

How Shane Battier is Humble

The episode starts off with an interview with retired NBA player, Shane Battier. Here’s a little bit of a bio on Battier:

  • He’s the only basketball player to win both the high school and college national player of the year awards.
  • He’s a graduate of Duke University.
  • He won two championship rings with the Miami Heat (and also played for the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets).
  • His career stats won’t “wow” anyone, but low stats can be deceiving (which is largely the point of this episode).

Battier was the best of the best in high school and college. But, when he got drafted into the NBA, he realized everyone was much more talented than him. He was no longer the best. As a result, many focused more on his deficits than his strengths.

But Battier overcame the criticisms and became a central part of the Miami Heat when they won 2 NBA Championships in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The reason why he was a central part of the team’s success is because he asked himself this question:

How can I make my team better when I’m not the biggest star?

Heating Up on Humility

A little backstory will help. In 2010, the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They joined Dwayne Wade (who was already on the Heat) to become the NBA’s first Super Team. In the press conference when James and Bosh announced their signings, James claimed the Heat would win as many as seven NBA Championships starting with the 2010-11 season.

To everyone’s surprise, the Heat didn’t win in 2010-11. When everyone wants to be the alpha dog, you have a problem.

That all changed when the Heat signed Battier. His goal was not to the best small forward in the NBA but to be the best small forward for his team and it made all the difference. He made everyone around him better and became known as the “No-Stats All-Star.”

Battier made others on his team more efficient and opponents less effective. He did it by setting picks, diving for loose balls, playing lockdown defense, and embodying a whole lot of enthusiasm and hustle. None of that shows up on the personal stat sheet but it does show up in the win column!

The Problem With All-Stars

In sports, we define star by the statistics on the court, says Michael Lewis, author of the book Moneyball and Blind Side. He goes on to say that you need other people to play a role other than the one who takes the shots all the time. Stars are overrated, and role players are underrated.

Grant goes on to talk about the idea of humility—being grounded and from the earth. When I think of humility, I think of the following:

  • John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less (said by John the Baptist about Jesus).
  • Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Keep reading through verse 11—Jesus provides the perfect and ultimate picture of humility).
  • James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

Grant and Battier go on to say that people who are humble demonstrate the following three actions:

  1. They recognize their own shortcomings and limitations and behave differently in response.
  2. They appreciate the strengths of others, give credit where it’s due, and highlight the team’s success over their individual achievements.
  3. And, they show openness to learning from others.

Humility is Contagious

Humility is contagious. When we spend time with others who embody humility, it rubs off on us. This makes everything and everyone around us better.

What would it be like if you and I practiced a humility that celebrated others over ourselves? What if we appreciated the strengths of others and gave credit away instead of trying to steal it and hog it for ourselves?

For me, this looks like celebrating the amazing speaking gifts of others on our church staff instead of coveting their talents and opportunities. Or, it might be me affirming the efforts of others on the team instead of craving the praise of man.

What is it for you? How can you better celebrate those around you and demonstrate humility?

This is what I want to do in ministry—make the team better and others better. Hopefully this is what you desire on your teams as well.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

How I Discovered My Sweet Spot in Leadership

How I Discovered My Sweet Spot in Leadership

My ninth year as Director of Premarital Ministry was my best year ever. Our ministry grew like crazy. We were having a impact in both our church and in the community.

Then came my tenth year in ministry.

Our leadership team gave me the opportunity to increase my leadership capacity. The downside would be leaving the job I loved in the marriage ministry. After much prayer and consideration, I accepted the offer.

Seven months after taking on the new role, I moved back to marriage ministry. Outside looking in, it might have appeared as though I failed. But these job transitions have been among the best things that have ever happened to me. In the process, I learned a few things about myself:

1. I’m a better soldier than a general

In other words, I am better at executing a plan than directing and crafting the plan. Give me a direction and I’’ll execute the heck out of it, but I’m more wired for others to direct the course. In my moments of insecurity, I somehow believe the general is more valuable in God’’s eyes than the soldier.

While the world and the church may more highly esteem the general, God values each one. He loves us all the same and doesn’’t value one ministry role more than the other. Looking for evidence? See the cross. Romans 5:8 says: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There is no distinction: equal need for a Savior, equal recipients of His love.

2. I learned how I’m wired

I like going deep in one area of ministry (marriage) rather than going wide and less deep. Rather than leading a large slice of the pie, I do better with one narrow (yet highly significant) sliver of the pie.

I’’d rather lead one area up close than many areas from a distance. No one grows up wanting to be a marriage pastor, but I am so thankful this is the area I get to serve and use my gifts.

3. I gained a better respect for those different than me

I learned to respect the skill set required for senior pastors, campus pastors, or ministry directors who lead multiple, large teams. I relearned that God gives different gifts to different people for different purposes, but all for His glory and for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

I was reminded that God chooses for some to be an ear, some to be a foot, and some to be the colon. All are necessary for the body to function in the way He desires and designs.

4. I learned this all could change in the future

I wouldn’’t be surprised if at some point down the road, I move to another role, either as a campus pastor or maybe even another job at another church. I sure hope not, but it wouldn’’t surprise me.

I hope I’’m not the same person in five years that I am right now. I pray God will continue to grow and sanctify me in whatever way He wishes.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Shifting gears to you: How are you wired? What are your gifts? Are you in your sweet spot in leadership? Ask yourself some honest questions:

  • Do you think some gifts are more valuable than others?
  • Do you covet a role higher in the org chart?
  • If so, is it for the right reasons (because it fits your gifts and skills) or for the wrong reasons (more money, more power, more worldly esteem)?
  • Are you being faithful where you are right now or are you waiting for the next opportunity to come your way?

Ask others you work with if they think you’re in the right spot. Ask your boss for his or her thoughts on your ministry sweet spot. Ask how you can grow, and when they respond, be teachable, humble and don’t be defensive. If you’’re married, ask your spouse the same questions you asked your boss. Again, don’’t be defensive!

In retrospect, I don’’t think I should have changed roles. I don’’t like change, and the last year has been a year with a fair amount of transition. But, I have learned much in the process and I have gained a much greater perspective on how the Lord has fearfully and wonderfully made and designed me.

Reposted with permission. Read the original blog post here.

What Do I Hope 2018 Brings For My Marriage?

What Do I Hope 2018 Brings For My Marriage?

The end of the year provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our year and our marriages. While we should certainly seek to grow all year long, the end of the year provides that good reminder to take stock on the last year.

What can you do to not coast in your marriage in 2018? How can you make 2018 a year of growth—not a year where you plateau or even decline?

A few questions to ask each other

  • Is our marriage better, the same, or worse than it was a year ago? Why?
  • What do we want our marriage to look like?
  • Who are some couples we admire and can learn from? What do they do that makes their marriage stick out?
  • What are some specific actions steps we can take to grow our marriage?
  • Where are some specific areas where I’m just coasting in life and in marriage?
  • What will we focus on in the next 12 months of our marriage?

I also want to leave you with a few suggestions of practical steps you can take to grow your marriage. If you’ve read my blog for a few months, you’re not going to hear anything new. In fact I’m reminded often, there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Most of the time we don’t have a knowledge problem. We know what to do. We have an application problem—we don’t do what we know we should do. I hope this post reminds you of what you already know and spurs you on to do it!

1. Continue to date each other

Recently, Kristen and I went to dinner and then a concert together. We laughed, ate some good food, and enjoyed five hours away from our kids, email, and routine. We know if we’re going to grow, we need to make our marriage a priority.

2. Pursue Jesus together

We don’t do a great job of this in our marriage as a couple. We each spend time with Jesus in His Word and in prayer, but we don’t often share what God is teaching us. I know if we’re going to grow and not just coast we need to grow in spiritual intimacy.

3. Pursue each other

My friends Ryan and Selena Frederick are starting a 31-day challenge in January for married couples. They’re going to lead other couples through their 31-day pursuit books (Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit).

4. Commit to being a learner

Live with your spouse in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). I hope I never grow tired of learning more about my wife. Be a student of your spouse, ask them questions, pay attention to what they like and dislike.

My friend Kyle says he never needs to ask his wife what she wants for Christmas because he pays attention to her all year long. Can you say the same?

5. Communicate and resolve conflict

I struggle with this one, just like most other couples. I keep trying to apply Proverbs 18:2 to my marriage:  “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” God, please help me to not be a fool. Help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Lift my wife up with my words and never use them to tear her down or win an argument (Ephesians 4:29).

I have some friends who make it a point to have a significant conversation every day when the husband gets home from work. They have several kids, but still make it a priority for some husband-wife conversation time. Their kids know to leave them alone and give them some couch communication time.

Another couple has their kids wash the dishes after dinner while they go sit in another room to catch up with each other. Yes, this works better for those families with older kids, but you can probably start sooner than you realize.

6. Be on mission together as a couple

I won’t spend much time on this one since I just wrote about it a few weeks ago. What can you do as a couple to be on mission together in 2018?

Do not grow weary my friend. Don’t coast in 2018. I’m praying for you and I hope you’ll do the same for me.

What one thing can you apply that you read in this post?

Reposted with permission. Read original post here.

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