At the pinnacle of scoring my first boyfriend, earning my driver’s permit, and obtaining a position as the varsity football team’s water girl, my parents told me that they were getting a divorce. Their timing was terrible.
Instead of planning my future as Mrs. Some Football Player, I was moving to another high school. I had to reestablish a new normal in a city 20 miles away that smelled like cows and had no Target.
Years later, I wonder if it would have been different had my parents been part of a marriage small group. What if they had connected with other married couples in a Bible study aimed at growing their understanding of what it means to have a Christ-centered marriage.
Perhaps their marriage could have survived. It couldn’t have hurt. I do know that.
Keeping couples married is paramount for a healthy home. And a marriage ministry has the privilege of providing a place for couples to invest in their marriage, so families are less likely to implode.
Many couples spend time together, yet they barely talk. They see each other at home, share the same bed, and busy themselves with their kids’ activities. But they invest little effort into cultivating conversations with each other.
Because of this reality for many couples, the church can be the catalyst for couples who need a space to connect—such as a date night where they can have fun, remember why they fell in love, and eat a meal that someone else cooked.
Whether it is a comedy night, date nights with childcare provided, or marriage small groups, marriage ministry has a unique opportunity to provide the space for couples to connect and converse, away from laundry and Netflix.
Foster Faith Foundation
Most church leaders would agree that spiritual maturity is essential to a relationship with Jesus. While individuals have a personal responsibility to grow their faith, marriages benefit when couples are developing spiritually together.
When couples are spending time in God’s word, praying, attending church regularly, and learning about what it takes to have a godly marriage, the benefit is monumental. Marriages built on this foundation of faith are more likely to last.
Transparency, authenticity, accountability, and lasting friendships are all created in community. Marriage ministry can build opportunities for couples to experience community. This can be done through life-stage specific small groups and Bible study classes, and by using round tables during events in order to encourage conversation and connection.
When couples are regularly placed in groups with other couples who are on the same journey, comfort begins to occur and a lasting bond is developed over time. This accountable and like-mindedness contributes to the health of marriages.
Since the rate of divorce is high among Baby Boomers, it’s likely that couples married less than 10 years have at least one set of parents who have divorced. Consequently, there are a host of couples today who have been left with flimsy impressions of marriage, along with uncharacteristic expectations.
Premarital counseling is not a new concept, but was not widely considered for those outside of a faith. Many marriages start off well intended, but ill prepared. A healthy marriage ministry uses seasoned couples, to mentor, encourage, and provide support for couples during those first few years of marriage. We can allow older couples to share their experiences and to be a tether for couples who are just stepping into marriage for the first time.
While marriage ministry can’t eliminate divorce, it does help to provide a place for couples to strengthen their faith, spend time together, and build a community. These are all important elements in helping these couples stay married.
I absolutely love and admire Aaron. He’s a Hispanic guy who used to be the janitor at his church. Aaron and his wife asked the church leadership if they could start a Bible study for young married couples to help build strong marriages in their congregation.
Today, Aaron is a full-time marriage and family ministry pastor, serving that same church with literally hundreds of couples being reached by his ministry. All because he saw a need for a marriage ministry at his church and was bold enough to be the one to step in to help.
I have a phrase in my office that reads: “When you reach the family, you reach the world.” Aaron saw a need in his church and fulfilled it. Shortly thereafter, people from the community began to look at his church as a place to get help for their marriages and parenting.
How about your church? Is your church viewed as a place where people can receive the practical help they need for their marriages and families?
Whether you have a thriving marriage ministry or it’s just at the visualizing stage, setting realistic goals for the coming year will help you help others. Here are a couple of principles to consider:
1. Something is better than nothing
Don’t get so overwhelmed with the needs of marriages in your church that you become paralyzed and do nothing. One small group or one date night event in a year is better than nothing. Start small.
2. The essence of creativity is the ability to copy
I’m not talking about plagiarizing here but find what is working at other churches and copy it. Don’t create your own programing when you can use programs and ideas from MarriedPeople or others.
I shared the MarriedPeople blog with my church. And now there are many getting regularly inspired without us having to create our own blog!
3. Recruit marriage champions
I find lay people wherever I go whose passion is in marriage ministry. Who are the champions in your church? Sometimes they come in unexpected places.
My wife Cathy and I were speaking a marriage conference at a church whose leaders were doing a great job. I asked about their story. It was not the first marriage for either one of them, but they told us they finally got it right and they were now investing back into other marriages.
Make a list of possible leaders. Brainstorm with others and find those leaders to help you and eventually become the marriage mentors your church needs.
4. Become a marriage resource junkie
If you haven’t already done this, become a marriage ministry resource junkie. There are excellent resources in every aspect of marriage available at your fingertips. Look at everything from small group experiences to large group experiences to resources for individual couples.
When I first started doing marriage ministry, the resources were lacking. That is not the case today. They are out there, and they are good.
5. Don’t over program
People are already overcommitted and under-connected. Provide practical marriage ministry on a regular basis but don’t burden people with too many activities.
6. Follow the MarriedPeople model
My friend Aaron started with a small group marriage Bible study. Today his ministry reaches hundreds of people with the MarriedPeople model. As he plans and sets goals for each year, he writes down three phrases.
Underneath each phrase he writes a few goals and plans for each.
Large Group Experiences
- Quarterly date nights
- Marriage and family series in the weekend services
- Attend one large marriage event in the area
- Attend one marriage seminar and one parenting seminar each year
Small Group Experience
- Provide a five-week marriage small group twice a year
- Provide a Getting Ready for Marriage class for engaged couples three times a year
- Make available a resource library of other small group marriage curriculum for groups to use anytime
- Book, blog, newsletter and video resources
- Professional counseling referrals, pastoral counseling, lay ministry mentors from the church
- Youth group baby-sitting (for a fee) once a month at the church to enhance date nights
Whether your church is small or large, whether you have a marriage ministry or not, make this year the year to consider developing some healthy plans and goals to help marriages succeed.
It’s been said many times by many different people that everything rises or falls on leadership. I don’t think that’s ever truer than in ministry. Charles McKay, a former professor at California Baptist College, used to say, “If you want to know the temperature of your church, put the thermometer in your mouth.”
You can’t ever take people further than you are yourself, spiritually or any other way.
I remember when I was interviewed on the ACTS television network by former SBC president, Jimmy Allen, and he asked me about starting new churches. He said, “How important is location?” I told him that location is the second most important thing. But the most important thing is not location, but leadership in a church.
You don’t have to be a charismatic leader (in the emotional sense) to be a great leader. Personality has almost nothing to do with dynamic leadership.
It’s not the charisma of the leader that matters, but the vision of the leader. Whatever your assignment may be in your church, no matter what your ministry concentration may be, your number one responsibility of leadership in that area is to continually clarify and communicate the vision of that particular ministry.
You must constantly answer the question: Why are we here? If you don’t know the answer, you can’t lead.
As a senior pastor, my job is to keep us focused on the five purposes Jesus gave the church in the New Testament. That gets much more difficult as your church grows larger.
When we were very small, the only people who wanted to come were non-Christians. We didn’t have a lot of programs. We didn’t have a children’s ministry or a music ministry or a youth ministry. The people who wanted all those things went to churches that had them. Now that we’re big enough to not only have these programs but to excel at them, we have people transferring their membership to Saddleback.
Every week I meet people coming from other churches. This dynamic presents an acute problem. Often, people coming from another church carry cultural baggage and the expectation that Saddleback will be like the church they left. But the vision of the church someone just left isn’t the key issue. What matters is the vision you have as the spiritual leader of your congregation.
You must continually clarify and communicate your church’s vision to everyone who walks through the doors. You must make clear what you are doing and why you are doing it. No one can be left in the dark to the question of vision.
At Saddleback, we constantly communicate our vision through Class 101, through our website and social media, and in any other way we possibly can. Our purpose for being is always out front where everyone can see it. Everyone needs to know why we are here and catch our vision.
Vision Is the Difference Between Management and Leadership
Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving, and planning. If you go to any management course, it will be composed of those three things. But leadership consists of vision and values and the communication of those things. If you don’t clarify God’s purposes as the leader, who is going to do so?
Most churches are over-managed and under-led. Your church needs to be managed, but it also needs to be led. You have to have both.
When you only have management in the church, you get the problem of paralysis of analysis. Management without leadership results in constantly analyzing and looking, but never actually doing anything. You need managers within the church as well. Without them you end up with a church that makes decisions without direction.
Vision Is Powerful
Some people have dreams, but not vision. There is a difference. A vision is a pragmatic dream. Lots of people have great dreams. They have grand ideas of all they would like to accomplish, but they can never get their dreams in a concrete form where they can do something about it.
A vision is a dream that can be implemented. It’s specific. Nothing becomes dynamic until it becomes specific.
When you look out on a congregation filled with people who have been reached with the Good News of Jesus, whose lives have been eternally changed by God’s power, you get to witness the power of the vision God has placed in the heart of a church leader.
If you’re not sure where God wants you to be taking your congregation, get alone and spend time with him until he makes it clear.
Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.
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:
- They recognize their own shortcomings and limitations and behave differently in response.
- They appreciate the strengths of others, give credit where it’s due, and highlight the team’s success over their individual achievements.
- 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.
Every relationship — even a good one — has conflict. If you don’t know how to deal with it, how to resolve it, how to manage it, you can kill your relationship.
The Bible says conflict is caused by selfishness. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you?” (GNT). I am basically a selfish person. I think of me before I think of anybody else. And you do, too. I want what I want and you want what you want, and when these competing desires collide, that’s called conflict.
The night before I got married, my father-in-law sat down with us and said, “There are five areas where marriages usually have conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children, and communication.”
My father-in-law was a prophet. In our marriage we’ve gone five for five! We’ve hit every single one of them.
Some of you are in major pain right now. You are frustrated. You feel stuck in your relationship because you have argued about certain issues over and over with no resolution, much less reconciliation. You don’t know what to do.
If you’re going to pull together when conflict pulls you apart, you need to follow these five instructions.
1. Call on God for help
Pray about it. Before you go to the other person and talk to them about the problem, discuss it with God.
I challenge you to practice what I call venting vertically. Many people are skilled at venting horizontally, but venting vertically is when you go to God.
Conflict often occurs when we expect other people to meet needs that only God himself can meet in our lives.
One day you stood in front of a bunch of people and you said, “I do.” What you were really saying was, “I expect.”
You weren’t thinking about what you intended to do and the promises you were going to keep. You were thinking, “Good! All my needs are going to be met now! This person is the answer to my dreams and is going to fulfill me in every way.” There is no person alive who could possibly meet all your needs. Only God can do that.
Anger is a warning light that says, “I’m expecting somebody to meet my needs.” When I have a need for you to be on time and you’re late, or when I have a need for you to notice me and you don’t, I get angry. God says, “Why don’t you try talking to me about it first?” Instead of expecting your mate to meet all your needs, God wants you to look to him.
2. Confess your part of the conflict
Before you start attacking and blaming, you need to do a frank evaluation and ask yourself, “How much of this conflict is my fault?”
When you’re wrong, admit it. And when you’re right, shut up!
Jesus said this . . .
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT)
Everybody has blind spots. Jesus says, “Before you start getting the sawdust speck out of your partner’s eye, why don’t you get the telephone pole out of yours?” Using exaggeration, he is saying to check yourself out first.
Marriage is a lifelong process of overcoming your differences. Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception. But the fact is, it’s not incompatibility. It’s selfishness and an unwillingness to change.
3. Convene a peace conference
Conflict does not resolve itself. It must be dealt with intentionally . . . deliberately. Conflict gets worse when you leave it alone. Hearts grow hardened and positions get solidified, and bridges get broken beyond repair. So you have to intentionally deal with the conflict.
The Bible is very specific about this. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (The Message).
It is impossible to worship with bitterness in your heart and unresolved conflict with others.
Postponed conflict only gets worse.
4. Consider your mate’s perspective
The secret of resolving conflict is understanding where the other person is coming from. The better you understand somebody, the less conflict you’re going to have, because you know how to deal with him or her.
How do you learn to understand someone? Listen. Listen more than you talk. Some of us get so anxious to make our point, to tell our side, to defend ourselves; we don’t even stop to listen to what the other person is saying or their point of view. It’s like the old cliché: “We must seek to understand before seeking to be understood.”
The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (NLT).
When you’re angry, you’re preoccupied with yourself. But when you’re like Christ, you look to each other’s interest and not merely your own.
5. Concentrate on reconciliation, not resolution
There’s a very important difference. Reconciliation means to re-establish the relationship. Resolution means to resolve every issue by coming to agreement on everything.
You’ll discover there are some things you’re never going to agree on. I don’t care if you both love the Lord and are both dramatically in love with each other – there are some things you’re never going to agree on simply because God has wired us differently.
You’re not going to agree with everything your mate believes or thinks. But you can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s called wisdom. It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship.
Sometimes you need to seek professional help, and that’s okay. In fact, talking to a counselor is a healthy and positive choice to make. And you always need to talk to God and to each other.
Many marriage conflicts would be solved overnight if both the husband and wife would kneel before Jesus Christ and say, “We humble ourselves and humbly ask you to make this thing work. We submit our egos to you and our hurts to you. Jesus Christ, do what only you can do.”
Republished with permission. Read the original article here.
We love telling people about marriage and the power of the church to impact marriages for the better. We talk about it a ton—on our blog, our podcast, through videos, and at conferences.
And people certainly listen to us. But there’s only so many different ways we can tell our story. We realize that this message means a lot more if it’s being told by more people.
So we want to hear from you. What does marriage ministry mean to you? What stories can you tell about the impact that marriage ministry has made in your church?
Send Us Your Videos
We’re looking for church leaders who are willing to shoot a quick video and send it to us to be shared with others.
Think you’re up for the task? Here’s what we’re looking for.
What should the video be of?
You! Specifically, you talking to the camera about one (or more) of these things.
- Why you started working at your church
- A story of the impact your marriage ministry has had
- How you first heard about MarriedPeople
- How MarriedPeople has helped your ministry
- Your favorite marriage resource
- Why other churches should think about using MarriedPeople
- A word of encouragement to other church leaders
How can I shoot the video?
Whatever way works for you. These days, everyone has a high-powered camera in their pocket, so shooting the video on your phone is perfectly acceptable. Just be sure to turn the phone sideways (landscape) to remove those black bars when the video gets shared online.
You can also use the webcam on your computer, if it has one. The most important thing is to make sure you’ve got enough light and you’re shooting in a quiet place. We can’t use any videos where we can’t see or hear you!
How long should the video be?
Ideally, about 2-3 minutes long. But it can be as long as it takes you to tell your story.
How do I share the video with you?
There are so many ways, but here are the best suggestions:
Be sure to include your name and what church you’re from. We want to make sure we know who you are, especially in case we want to send you a special treat!
What are you going to do with the videos?
We’re going to share them with other church leaders who need to hear them! That means uploading them to our website and social media platforms. We may even feature some at our conferences.
By sharing your video with us, you’re giving us permission to share it publicly. But we also don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. You can always contact us if you change your mind.
We also reserve the right to edit the videos for content or format, as needed. But don’t worry—we’ll be sure to keep the spirit of what you’re trying to say.
Why should I send you my video?
- The prestige of being featured on the MarriedPeople channels
- To help other churches find out about us and do their part to help marriages
- Because we just might send you some cool MarriedPeople swag if we like your video
Are you ready to share your story with other churches?