4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

4 Reasons Why Your Church Needs a Marriage Ministry

There is a temptation to lump religious people into the same category as non-religious people when it comes to predicting the success rate of marriage. Many have promoted the idea that the divorce rate among the two groups is nearly the same.

Speculation that non-religious couples are more likely to cohabitate rather than get married has caused some to skew the numbers toward a higher rate of divorce among people of faith, even though that can’t be verified.

Ed Stetzer points out a fact that is likely overlooked in the research. Among active people of faith, the divorce rate goes way down. Only if you look at non-practicing believers is there greater similarity in the figures.

Turns out, it’s not just about casually aligning yourself with a group of faith. You’ve actually got to practice what you preach for there to be any impact to your relationship. Novel idea, huh?

Active Faith Impacts Marriage

Imagine if you coupled an active faith with an intentional focus on keeping marriages in your church strong. If the numbers go up when people take their faith seriously, imagine how they would skyrocket if they actually turned specific attention to improving their marriage.

That’s why a marriage ministry at your church is important. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of adding one more thing to the list of activities sponsored by your congregation. However, it doesn’t have to be highly involved or expensive. It just has to be intentional.

If you’re still on the fence, consider these four points.

Not different problems, a different solution.

The people in your congregation don’t have any less exposure to marital troubles than people outside the walls of your church. They are still susceptible to miscommunication, conflict, sexual temptation, physical challenges, and other stumbling blocks.

The difference is how we respond to those obstacles, and the grace upon which we rely to get through them. Understanding how those two gifts should work within marriage is vitally important. A good marriage ministry teaches couples how to respond to problems and to accept the grace that God offers.

You’ve got a great cloud of witnesses.

There is nothing worse than going through one of life’s storms and feeling like you’re alone. When there is a group in your church working to preserve, protect, and help marriages, struggling couples have a safe place to turn. And, they feel less isolated in their struggles as they walk alongside other couples.

Go beyond information to transformation.

A good marriage ministry doesn’t just serve as a conduit for transferring facts, figures, and inspirational sayings. Only one that promotes and facilitates behavior change will have a true impact on your church family. That’s really the whole point of why we came to know the Lord in the first place, isn’t it? It wasn’t just about knowing who He was, it was about letting Him make a difference in our lives. The result of any effort in your church, including marriage ministry, should be positive change that moves people toward Christ.

Repetition anchors change.

After serving thousands of couples with an 85 percent success rate, we’re sold on one of the ingredients of our “special sauce.” Our offerings are designed to facilitate a community of people dedicated to working on their marriage for the long haul.

Week after week, couples develop the habit of paying regular attention to their marriage. They share their highs and lows and discover steps they can take to produce transformation in their relationship.

In our opinion, the question isn’t whether you have the time, money, or energy to implement a marriage ministry in your church. The real issue is whether you can afford not to. Couples who are active in their faith and consistently attentive to their marriage relationship are on the road to success.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

Marriage Dynamics Institute is a non-profit Christian ministry committed to providing marriage workshops and courses that build safe environments, promote self education, and produce extraordinary results.

6 Things Marriage Teaches You About Leadership

6 Things Marriage Teaches You About Leadership

I once spent a day with a group of ministry friends and mentors. All of whom have been leading their organizations for a long time. We had a heartfelt conversation about the challenges of leading in the same organization for most of our adult lives.

As I processed our day together, I realized there are common denominators between leadership and marriage. Most of us try to make our relationships work out, both personally and organizationally. And it’s not easy.

As you read this, know this post comes out of my experience. I realize many marriages don’’t make it. I realize that I will have a hard time understanding those dynamics. I’’ve been married to my wife Toni for 23 years. We have not always had an easy marriage, but we are both so thankful that we decided to work through the issues.

Similarly, I’’ve been in leadership with many of the same people for 18 years in the same community. It hasn’’t always been easy. But we’’ve seen some incredible things together. While these reflections come out of my personal experience, I offer them in the hopes that they help us all filter through the challenges of life and leadership.

1. There is no such thing as casual leadership

As much as we live in a culture where casual sex has become normal for many people, it doesn’’t produce strong or healthy relationships. Similarly, there is nothing casual about leadership.

Like a healthy relationship, it takes work, effort and commitment over the long haul. As much as we try to make things easier and easier in our culture, leadership will remain challenging by its very nature. Just like great relationships—it will always take work, effort and commitment.

2. You need to choose between serial commitment and long-term commitment

Someone once told me that commitment in our culture has shifted from life-time monogamy to serial monogamy; you’’re with someone exclusively for a few years until you move on.

Take a look around you. Many leaders approach leadership the same way. They’’re with an organization for 3-5 years, and then they move on.

I’’m not saying that’’s always a bad idea. But most of the people who make significant impact in an organization stay at least a decade. If you think about most ministry leaders you admire and who have transformed their organizations and communities, most have been there their entire lives.

3. It’’s easier to leave than it is to work through your issues

This is the gut wrenching part. Every leader I know who has been in leadership for a long time has been tempted to leave, tempted to pursue other interest and hit cruise control…. In other words, been tempted to have an affair on what might be their real calling.

Very few couples who make it over the long haul do so because they have “no issues”. They stay when it’s easier to leave.

4. There will be some joyless seasons

It’’s not all dancing and singing all the time. Every leader I know who is in long term leadership has either had to scale significant organization issues or even personal crises. God uses dark nights of the soul to grow us and shape us.

But here’’s the promise. If you’re being faithful, your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience.

5. Wise people realize that they are the problem

Many relationships fail because one partner says the other partner is the problem. I lived like that in my marriage and in my leadership for a season until I realized that I’’m the problem. In fact, the longer you stay in a relationship or leadership, the more you will have to come to terms with the grinding truth that you are the cap on progress.

That’’s why serial relationships and serial leadership is so wide-spread. Leave soon enough and you never have to look in the mirror. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Wise people understand that embrace that they are the problem. I tell myself almost daily that I am the problem in leadership where I serve, and that potentially God might work a solution through me.

Wise people also seek help in identifying their blind spots and problems by gather mentors, counselors and friends around them to help them spot their issues. They are also wide open to hearing about problems from the people they work with.

6. There is certain joy that only happens after years of being together

When you are able to work through your issues in a marriage, everything gets better. There’s a certain joy that comes in being with the same person for 23 years. We know things about each other that no one else can know. We can read each other better than anyone else can read us. The deep pleasure in simply being together grows every year. There’s an intimacy that only time can deliver that is almost hard to put into words.

That’s one of the things I love about working with some of the same people for years and years. There are stories whose mere mention brings a smile to everyone’’s face. The trust runs deep. And there’’s a joy in knowing you’v’e been in this together for so long and it’’s making a difference.

So what’s your experience? Do you see parallels between love, marriage and leadership? What are you learning?

Reposted with permission. Originally posted here.

How Church Can Show the Love on Ash Wednesday

How Church Can Show the Love on Ash Wednesday

Valentine’s Day happens on February 14 every year. In 2018, that day also happens to be Ash Wednesday.

These are two pretty different holidays. Valentine’s Day mostly involves excess—cheesy love songs, over-the-top romance and elaborate gifts. Conversely, Ash Wednesday is primarily about moderation. It marks the start of Lent, when most people give up something for 40 days.

Despite these differences, there is one similarity between these two days—love. Valentine’s Day revolves around romantic love. Ash Wednesday is a solemn reminder of Christ’s sacrificial love for us.

What Does This Mean For The Church?

What is the church to do when one of our traditional Christian holidays falls on the same day as a flower-filled, Hallmark-driven, love-fest? This is actually a great opportunity to connect with those people in your community who don’t know about your church.

Ash Wednesday is an event some within the church know. For others, it’s a tradition that’s at least vaguely familiar. However, it’s not something those outside the church know at all.

The fact that these holidays fall on the same day gives us the chance to make a church tradition relevant to what society does. We have the chance to spread God’s love on a wider scale.

Connect Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day

  1. Combine your traditional Ash Wednesday service with a Valentine’s celebration; find a balance between the colorful Valentine’s decor and the humble trappings of Ash Wednesday
  2. Send out handwritten love notes to every house in a one-mile radius of your church—this could even be an opportunity to explain why we celebrate Ash Wednesday
  3. Partner with a local restaurant to give couples a discount on their date night meal if they mention your church’s name
  4. Host a relationship/marriage focused sermon series leading up to the big day that focuses on the humility of Ash Wednesday
  5. Give away relationship/marriage books that your church can read during Lent
  6. Instead of giving something up for Lent, give couples ideas of things they can start doing to improve their relationships
  7. Give your the couples in your church date night ideas—each date could start at the Ash Wednesday service so the couples can connect spiritually
  8. Host a free fancy dinner at your church for everyone in the community who can’t afford one—offer childcare so couples are more likely to attend
  9. Publish a short Lent devotional with the theme of God’s love
  10. Organize a service project to help those who don’t feel as loved in the community—encourage couples to come serve together, or singles to be a part of something that’s not all about coupled romance
  11. Post quotes about love on social media to let people know you care; then post a few verses of scripture referring back to Ash Wednesday
  12. Write words of encouragement in chalk on the sidewalks of your town—chalk isn’t the same as ash, but it’s close enough (it’ll look even closer if you use those sticks of black chalk you normally avoid).
  13. Instead of marking people’s foreheads with ash crosses, draw some ash hearts on foreheads
  14. Buy extra Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to give away to any of the busy significant others who forgot at the last minute—they can pick them up while getting their foreheads ashed

What is your church planning on doing this February 14?

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.

3 Keys to Leaving Work at Work

3 Keys to Leaving Work at Work

A Brief Confession

I have a short list of confessions to make as I write this article on work/life balance.

  • I believe balance is overrated and rather boring. A perfectly balanced see-saw doesn’t go anywhere. We are incomplete without the ups and downs of circumstances. We learn to lean in, to share strength with others, to trust, to breathe. God reveals Himself fully in the ups and downs. He is our balance.
  • I know there are seasons in every life that are “all-in” moments where extra amounts of grace are extended, extra reserves of energy are discovered, and extra helpings of caffeine are welcomed.
  • I am a workaholic who comes from a long line of workaholics. My grandfather neglected time with his family because “things just needed tending.” My dad found solace in alcohol and prescription drugs to deal with the stress of “never enough time to do it all.” I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder almost two decades ago, in the midst of one of the most successful chapters of my career. For me, every season was an “all-in” out-of-control rodeo ride on that see-saw.
  • I’’m writing this while sitting in a recliner in my flannel pajamas. I no longer work in a traditional office setting. Working from home definitely has its benefits. But leaving work at work becomes even more challenging when it lives with you.

Search Google for “time management tips” and you’ll see 365 million possibilities. No matter the vocation, finding ways of doing good with our lives while we do good with our hands is something we all long for. I’’m still learning, but there are a few things I’’ve discovered along the way— on keeping work at work.

1. Time

Time can be such a threatening word in a world that never seems to have enough of it. One of my favorite ways to make the most of the days I’’ve been given is to use my calendar for more than scheduling meetings and project deadlines.

I make appointments with myself, blocking time for strategizing and goal-setting, reading and research, and tackling administrative tasks. I even block time to simply enjoy time with others—to catch up with colleagues over coffee or to serve someone in need.

I’’ve found that the task list seems to get done when it’s transformed into bite-sized chunks on a calendar. The focus moves from “there’s so much to do” to “this is what I’m going to focus on right now.”

2. Focus

Focus is often thwarted by things like anxiety and stress. The calendar is one way to help with the focus. But there’’s something else I’’ve found that helps me rightly focus the day before that calendar chirps its first appointment.

My day begins with worship. Most mornings, I’’ll read scripture, journal my thoughts, and spend time in honest, gut-level prayer. I’’ll admit, there are some days the prayers are happening in the shower and the scripture is a song on the radio.

Quiet time isn’’t a revolutionary thought at all. But it’s often the first thing that’s pushed to the side when the days are full— and all those around us feel the impact of that sacrifice.

3. Sacrifice

The word sacrifice jarred me to my core as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard the words, ““You are not OK.””

I thought about my husband and son, about my family and friends. I thought about the staff that trusted me to lead them. About people who trusted me to serve them. And I thought about God—, the very One I had said was my Lord and my Guide.

For every “what” I was willing to sacrifice to do everything well while never having enough time to get it all done, there was a “who.” My own unwillingness to leave work at work caused everyone around me to carry the load.

My own all-in, out-of-control rodeo ride revealed my disregard for others. I thought about my heritage, and the history I didn’’t want to repeat.

So I learned— —to invite others to ride on that see-saw with me, to help me lean in and share strength and trust and breathe. I have a trusted group of souls who ask the hard questions about my focus and my time.

I ask permission rather than forgiveness of those who are closest to me in the necessary seasons of all-in. And I’’m embracing the power of confession from James 5:16: “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.”

Ronne Rock finds joy in helping people discover their true story. A former church communications director and corporate marketing executive, she now shares her more than 30 years of leadership prowess with churches and other faith-based organizations, and she travels the world to curate story that changes stories. Ronne narrates life with words and imagery, and finds the redemptive threads that inspire others to action. Connect with her on Facebook  and via Twitter or Instagram, and read her stories at http://RonneRock.com.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.

How to Minister to Couples Struggling with Infertility

How to Minister to Couples Struggling with Infertility

They sit in your services every week. They worship alongside you. They listen to your sermons. They serve Christ with hearts crushed by the weight of an empty cradle. They are infertile.

The heart of God is touched by infertility. Marriages affected by it are found throughout the Bible: Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Marriages touched by infertility are also found throughout our churches. One out of every eight married couples struggles with unwanted childlessness. How do you minister to those who are hurting and sometimes overlooked?

Allow me to share some practical ways to help.

Be Sensitive

Be sensitive on hard days like Mother’s’ Day and Father’s’ Day. Pray for couples who desire to be parents.

If you give gifts to moms and dads, have a gift available to those struggling with infertility and loss—. Perhaps a card sharing how you pray for them: strength on hard days; timely encouragement; healing for diseases that affect conception; healing for grief over losses; strength for marriage.

Understand their Grief

Many infertile couples experience miscarriage. Minister to married couples as if they were grieving a two-year-old. The death of a child at any age is a devastating loss.

Never say: “You can always have another baby.” Even if they are blessed with a home full of other children, they will always grieve this baby.

Host a Memorial

Host a memorial service honoring and remembering miscarried and stillborn babies to the married couples in your community.

Protect Their Hearts

Protect hearts that are already hurting. Don’’t ask women who are infertile—or who have miscarried—to host baby showers or help with Mother’s’ Day events.

Create a Small Group

Launch a small group for couples who are walking through infertility.

Discuss tensions that can grow between husbands and wives and ways to communicate through the process. Discuss grief, doubts, and God’s faithfulness. And consider opening it up as a community-wide group.

Recognize the Cycle

Remember that infertile couples grieve anew every 28 days, when another cycle signals another failed attempt at conception.

As leaders, you’re familiar with Philippians 4:13, yet ministry begins with verse 14: “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction,” (NASB).

Certainly, God gives infertile couples strength to ride that 28-day roller coaster of expensive medications, doctor’s appointments, and anxiety, not knowing until the end of the ride if they will be released or confined for another 28 days.

Nevertheless, when you walk alongside couples struggling with infertility, when you make a difficult season a little less isolating, when you share their affliction, you have done well.

Beth Forbus, founder of Sarah’s Laughter: Christian Support for Infertility & Child Loss, has written three books on infertility and loss, including an Infertility Bible study for groups. If you have questions about launching your own infertility ministry, please email her at beth@sarahs-laughter.com. For more info, including daily devotions, please visit www.sarahs-laughter.com.