7 Paradigm Shifts Happening in Marriage Ministry

7 Paradigm Shifts Happening in Marriage Ministry

I’ve been working in marriage ministry for a few years now. Actually, it’s over fifteen. And I’ve been married for over twenty years. In that time, I’ve learned a few things about how churches can help couples improve their marriage.

Studies show that people think of marriage ministry as preachy, outdated, and overly feminine. We’ve lost our relevance in people’s lives. But there are some shifts happening in some ministries that are changing how they approach marriage ministry.

3 Approaches that Fall Short

Before we get into the ways to improve how your church approaches marriage, let’s take a quick look at the trends that do not work.

  1. The Hands Off Approach: Many churches do little to help marriages because of the pace of ministry or because they don’t feel a need.
  2. The Topical Approach: Some churches view marriage as a topic to be covered, so they address it through various “one-offs”—a sermon series, a study, an event or a book. They treat marriage ministry like a task on a to-do list.
  3. The Reactionary Approach: Other churches spend time and resources on marriage, but they focus solely on couples in crisis—in essence, waiting until marriages are in trouble before offering help, rather than taking a proactive approach that could help couples avoid crises in the first place.

A Proactive, Strategic Approach

A proactive approach—a strategy—is more effective than a topical or reactionary approach. Changing from one of these historical marriage ministry approaches to a proactive approach requires some paradigm shifts.

  1. From an intervention to intervention and prevention
: Intervention is emotional and the results are measurable. Prevention is neither—but is far superior.
  2. From children’s ministry to family ministry: We know that better marriages make for better families. One of the best things you can do for your kids is leave.
  3. From isolation to relationship
: Technology makes people feel more isolated than ever before. A strategy ministry places a priority on building community and authentic relationships. Not just between couples, but with others that we can learn and grow from.
  4. From information to experience
: As a society, we’re suffering from information overload. As a result, people value experience more than another content dump. That’s why it’s important to give people less content, more often.
  5. From feminine to feminine and masculine: Too many marriage ministries are geared almost exclusively at women. They’re overly harsh on men, who stop listening as a result. We can improve more marriages if we appeal to both men and women.
  6. From general to focused: Sharing an overly general message doesn’t resonate with people. Getting specific with examples and practical applications makes a message relevant to couples. They want to hear authentic stories they can understand and use in their marriage.
  7. From programs to process: Marriage retreats are great—but they give couples a year’s worth of resources in a weekend. That’s a lot to process and they often forget what they learned after a week. Why not give them bite-sized pieces of advice spread out through an entire year? Help them process and progress gradually.

How Our Strategy is Proactive

Because marriage is a process, the MarriedPeople strategy is designed to encourage and empower couples on a consistent basis—no matter where they are in their marriages.

This shift is what makes MarriedPeople a proactive approach, not a topical or reactionary one. Our strategy leverages three environments to reach couples:

  • Individual Couple Experiences: date nights and monthly emails to help couples connect
  • Small Group Experiences: community, accountability, and faith building
  • Larger Group Experiences: vision casting, outreach, and inspiration

What Now?

7 Paradigm Shifts Happening in Marriage Ministry

7 Paradigm Shifts Happening in Marriage Ministry

I’ve been working in marriage ministry for a few years now. Actually, it’s over fifteen. And I’ve been married for over twenty years. In that time, I’ve learned a few things about how churches can help couples improve their marriage.

Studies show that people think of marriage ministry as preachy, boringoutdated, and overly feminine.

We’ve lost our relevance in people’s lives. But thankfully, there are some shifts happening in some ministries that are changing how they approach marriage ministry.

3 Approaches that Fall Short

Before we get into the ways to improve how your church approaches marriage, let’s take a quick look at the trends that do not work.

  1. The Hands Off Approach: Many churches do little to help marriages because of the pace of ministry or because they don’t feel a need.
  2. The Topical Approach: Some churches view marriage as a topic to be covered, so they address it through various “one-offs”—a sermon series, a study, an event or a book. They treat marriage ministry like a task on a to-do list.
  3. The Reactionary Approach: Other churches spend time and resources on marriage, but they focus solely on couples in crisis—in essence, waiting until marriages are in trouble before offering help, rather than taking a proactive approach that could help couples avoid crises in the first place.

A Proactive, Strategic Approach

A proactive approach—a strategy—is more effective than a topical or reactionary approach. Changing from one of these historical marriage ministry approaches to a proactive approach requires some paradigm shifts.

  1. From an intervention to prevention
: Intervention is emotional and the results are measurable. Prevention is neither—but is far superior.
  2. From children’s ministry to family ministry: We know that better marriages make for better families. One of the best things you can do for your kids is leave.
  3. From isolation to relationship
: Technology makes people feel more isolated than ever before. A strategy ministry places a priority on building community and authentic relationships. Not just between couples, but with others that we can learn and grow from.
  4. From information to experience
: As a society, we’re suffering from information overload. As a result, people value experience more than another content dump. That’s why it’s important to give people less content, more often.
  5. From feminine to both feminine and masculine: Too many marriage ministries are geared almost exclusively at women. They’re overly harsh on men, who stop listening as a result. We can improve more marriages if we appeal to both men and women.
  6. From general to focused: Sharing an overly general message doesn’t resonate with people. Getting specific with examples and practical applications makes a message relevant to couples. They want to hear authentic stories they can understand and use in their marriage.
  7. From programs to process: Marriage retreats are great—but they give couples a year’s worth of resources in a weekend. That’s a lot to process and they often forget what they learned after a week. Why not give them bite-sized pieces of advice spread out through an entire year? Help them process and progress gradually.

I actually did a webinar about this very topic on our Facebook Leader’s group. You can watch the whole thing here and join the group to watch future webinars live.

How Our Strategy is Proactive

Because marriage is a process, the MarriedPeople strategy is designed to encourage and empower couples on a consistent basis—no matter where they are in their marriages.

This shift is what makes MarriedPeople a proactive approach, not a topical or reactionary one. Our strategy leverages three environments to reach couples:

  • Individual Couple Experiences: date nights and monthly emails to help couples connect
  • Small Group Experiences: community, accountability, and faith building
  • Larger Group Experiences: vision casting, outreach, and inspiration

What Now?

Escape from Content Mountain

Escape from Content Mountain

How would you explain how to walk to someone?
 This is how Wikipedia describes walking.

“Walking (also known as ambulation) is accomplished with a strategy called the double pendulum. During forward motion, the leg that leaves the ground swings forward from the hip. This sweep is the first pendulum. Then the leg strikes the ground with the heel and rolls through to the toe in a motion described as an inverted pendulum. The motion of the two legs is coordinated so that one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground.”

Talk about over complicating a seemingly simple process. How about just “put one foot in front of the other?”

Overcomplicating Marriage Ministry

It’s not unusual for those of us in marriage ministry to sound like this. Sometimes it’s necessary to over explain—but usually not. Most marriages just need simplicity.

That’s why I always encouraged church leaders to be consistent, encouraging, and simple.

Encourage married couples to take one step, take that one step often, and to know that you’re cheering them on as they do. Simple as that.

Teach Less For More

Through the years, I’ve learned that if you teach people less, they will actually learn more.

This principle may seem counter-intuitive. It’s a principle that’s rarely applied, especially within ministry to married couples.

Many church leaders believe if we give people enough information, something is certain to work. But heaping more content on stressed couples can become the tipping point between “energized and encouraged” and “giving up.”

Churches schedule a weekend marriage retreat that requires thirsty couples to drink from a fire hose, or tired couples to hike to the highest mountain. Or they plan a five-week sermon series on marriage, giving couples enough content to last them for several years until they do a series again.

These well-intentioned church leaders offer couples everything they know about marriage all at once. Even if it’s great content, it’s too much to digest in one sitting.

When it comes to helping marriages, the church is content heavy and application light. What’s the solution to this dilemma? Teach less for more.

Give Couples Less Content More Often

Instead of covering a lot of ground at a retreat or through a sermon series, narrow your focus to only the most important topics and talk about them more often.

Whatever marriage-supportive experiences your church offers, give people the opportunity to take “just one step” weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

If you can’t do anything else, give couples a step-by-step date opportunity once a quarter and send them the MarriedPeople Monthly email resource. These simple, bite-size resources help couples succeed in practical ways.

Move from General to Focused

While there are many effective marriage principles and practices, giving couples a single, clear, focused message is powerful. Reduce the total number of topics you could cover to just a few essentials that you will cover.

The MarriedPeople strategy uses a clear, consistent terminology throughout. But just as important, it condenses a multitude of principles and practices into a few key values.

We call them the Core 4 Habits.

  • Have Serious Fun
  • Love God First
  • Respect and Love
  • Practice Your Promise

Everything we do is focused around one or more of these major topics. That’s not to say there aren’t other things that could be helpful to married couples. Just that we’re trying to stay focused to prevent couples from being overwhelmed.

Provide Action Steps

Would you rather married people spend an hour reading a chapter in a marriage book or have them spend 10 minutes filling in the following blanks for each other?

  • I am impressed with how much you know about ______ .
  • Something special about you that not many people see is ______ .
  • 
One of the nicest things you’ve ever done is ______ .

If you’re like us, then you chose the later option. Because it’s a practical application of the principles we teach. Reading marriage books is great, but actually taking action is even better.

When in doubt, give couples something you know they and will do. If I could go back and do one thing differently in my first years in ministry, I would have made our content more practical.

This post is an excerpt taken from, MarriedPeople: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last, by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields.

3 Most Frequent Questions We Get About Marriage Ministry

3 Most Frequent Questions We Get About Marriage Ministry

Call it helping marriages, creating a marriage strategy, or revamping an existing marriage ministry. Church leaders have questions for us about helping marriages. And the questions are coming from people in every position of the church.

In fact, MarriedPeople, the marriage division of Orange, has a running list of the different types of positions who have added helping marriages to their already full ministry plate. These positions include children’s pastors, youth pastors, Next Gen pastors, family pastors, bi-vocational pastors, senior pastors, senior pastor assistants, volunteers…the list goes on and on. While the positions and passions of these leaders vary greatly, there are a few common questions:

How is MarriedPeople Orange?

While Orange is primarily known for helping children, parents, and student ministries, we added MarriedPeople in 2010. While not every child has two parents at home and we never want to marginalize single parents, we know that marriage is relevant to everyone in our churches and communities.

That is why we say all the time: one of the best things a church can do for kids is help marriages thrive.

From parents to small group leaders to paid staff, marriage impacts the health of everything including the lives of kids and of course the life of the church.

How can our church help marriages when our staff is already so busy?

Giving a great answer to this question is one of the driving forces behind MarriedPeople. We know that 90% of churches don’t have a paid staff devoted to marriage, or a part-time staff for that matter.

That is why MarriedPeople gives church a customizable, plug and play marriage strategy and the resources to empower that strategy, plus a real life person to help churches. We truly want you to think of the MarriedPeople team as your marriage ministry staff.

Where do we start?

Step One is getting buy-in from senior leadership. Let’s start with the obvious. We need to recognize where the power for change lies—senior leadership. You can put so much effort into a ministry, but if it isn’t supported and promoted by the leader, not as many people will know about it or participate.

And then that same leader will say, ‘See? There’s no need/desire for this. Getting senior leader support will be the base you need to create a marriage strategy that last. (To continue this conversation, check out our marriage ministry crash course.)

You can do it. We can help.

For years, Home Depot’s tagline was, “You can do it. We can help.” I would really love to rip off that tagline because that is the heart of MarriedPeople. Instead, our version of that is: You empower couples. We empower you.

Here’s how we seek to empower church leaders like you:

How To Promote Marriage Events at Your Church

How To Promote Marriage Events at Your Church

I recently spoke at a marriage event at Fellowship Bible Church in Batesville, Ark. The event had a great turnout, primarily because the church did such an incredible job promoting it within their community.

I was so impressed with their work that talked to Tera White about she did to promote the event. And since this is so important, I thought I’d share her answers with you.

Who did you reach out to within the community to help you spread the word?

Our Chamber of Commerce sends out a weekly e-newsletter to roughly 2000 recipients, comprised of Chamber members and other community members. You can advertise free of charge in this newsletter.

As Chamber members, we also have the opportunity to send out two “All About You” email blasts per year to the same e-newsletter distribution list. This advertisement also gets posted to their social media networks.

How did you use digital advertising for the event?

We created a Facebook event for the evening and boosted the event for a month. Boosting allows you to target an audience that you set.

The boosted post will show up in that target group’s newsfeed for the duration and budget you set. Our target was men and women, ages 18 – 65+ who live in Arkansas. This cost us only $30 for the entire month.

The main ad was a picture of Ted & Nancie Lowe, straight from the promotional material.

Our description for the event/ad:

Experience a night of comedy and laughter while exploring what it takes to make a marriage work! During this fun, exciting, ONE-NIGHT marriage event, you will hear from speaker, blogger, and director of MarriedPeople, Ted Lowe and his wife Nancie.

Don’t miss a FREE night out ON US! In addition to our fabulous speakers, we will provide childcare, yummy snacks, a photo booth, and great door prizes!

 Let us know by January 21 if you plan to attend, and if you need childcare! 
Some ways to let us know you plan to attend:

How did you announce the event in worship and the bulletin?

We began with a basic “Save The Date” graphic about two months out with minimal info during our announcements. We also put the graphic in our church newsletter around the same time.

After a few weeks of “Save the Date” announcements, we moved into giving more detailed information during our announcements with a different graphic. This graphic was the picture of Ted and Nancie with some basic info (date, time, etc) about the event.

Our pastor started a short marriage series two weeks before the event to prepare hearts for the event. He also gave shout outs for the event before each sermon, as well as showing the promo video.

How did you get the word out around your town?

We posted 25 posters around our town. We also put out postcards at the locations that we hung the poster.

What other advice do you have on promoting special events at church?

A few additional avenues that we used:

  • Weekly community circulars that allowed us to advertise for free
  • Radio spot on a local radio station
  • Social Media shares on staff’s personal accounts
  • Church Member Chat video that included members of our church telling why they were excited about the event
  • Facebook Live video describing event and inviting people to come

How do you promote marriage events at your church?

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