The Super Bowl is a big deal. From half-time performances by music royalty to the most expensive advertising space on television, this football game has turned into a worldwide spectacle, and often the only sporting event some people watch all year.
The economic power of just one event is life changing for the city lucky enough to host it. The 2018 Super Bowl brought in over $370 million to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Not to mention that it’s an unofficial national holiday in the US as grocery and restaurant sales increase across the country.
Valentine’s Day is a similar phenomenon that happens around the same time of year as the Super Bowl. And it’s a major opportunity for your marriage ministry to reach people.
Some Valentine’s Day Facts
Valentine’s Day happens the same day every year—February 14, in case you forgot. But somehow it still manages to sneak up on us time and time again.
Here are a few fun facts about this romantic holiday (from The National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics) to get you prepared:
- 55% of the US population will celebrate Valentine’s Day
- 75% of 18-34 year olds will celebrate Valentine’s day
- $12.1 billion of those dollars are spent on a significant other
- 25-34 year olds average $202 per person on Valentine’s Day
- 44% of 18-34 year olds want to experience something together for Valentine’s Day
This reveals that most Americans are ready to put their money where their mouth is on Valentine’s Day. Hallmark, chocolatiers, and florists know how to ride the wave to profits this time of year. They seek to provide the easy way out, and most husbands take the bait. What if the church could do them one-better?
How the Church Can Help
The size of Valentine’s Day reveals that people care about their relationships, especially their marriage. They’re willing to spend time and money on it, but they aren’t always sure what the right solutions are. Why can’t we meet couples’ needs through the church?
Marriage ministry events on or around Valentine’s Day are no-brainers. We can learn from retail and capitalize on the season, but we can provide a lasting impact flowers and chocolates cannot.
Providing experiences gives people what they want, and it takes the burden of creativity off the husbands plate. We know what wives are typically looking for in a Valentine’s gift and experience. We also know a husband’s mental and emotional energy can often be depleted in the category of thoughtful experience planning.
So, let’s build experiences where the husband is drawn in and celebrated for his thoughtful approach to Valentine’s Day and the wife is intentionally celebrated and appreciated.
How You Can Help
So far, this is all a great premise, but it lacks practicality. How is your church supposed to pull off a Super-Bowl-sized event with a limited budget and staff? Enter: MarriedPeople.
MarriedPeople has developed Large Group Experiences that blend a husband’s wants and a wife’s wants. They’re full of laughter, sentiment, depth, levity, and memories that strengthen marriages.
It may be late in the game, but it’s not too late! Roll out the red carpet and give married people a chance to enjoy the love they have for each other. Plus, show these couples how much your church loves them.
Book a caterer or gather some people who like to cook. Steam the cloth tablecloths or go get a bunch of red plastic ones at the dollar store. Whatever your budget looks like, find a way for your church to host married couples for a Valentine’s Day they won’t forget.
What is your church planning this Valentine’s Day?
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.
At the end of 2016, our pastors invited us to take the lead on a new initiative. We were confident that by implementing this initiative, we could move the vision of the church forward in our region.
The initiative was to strengthen and build marriages within our church. We hoped to use the influence of Christ Fellowship to impact the marriage culture of our surrounding communities. After stepping into the opportunity, we quickly realized we needed to bring cohesion around all that was happening for marriages at that time.
There were several great marriage classes and programs available to the congregation. However, each operated in a silo, separate from the others. We believed the most important thing we could do was to align all the marriage opportunities around a joint mission.
Randle S. Hanson says, “a mission statement acts as an invisible hand that guides the people in the organization.” We knew that our mission statement would define the purpose of the ministry, build unity with all those who served in the ministry, provide clarity, and give us laser focus for all our ministry activities.
Here is the mission statement that we created for our ministry to married people: “To lead a radical transformation for Jesus Christ in our region and beyond, we create environments that strengthen and build healthy marriages.”
Looking back at the lessons learned from our process, here are three things to take into consideration when creating a mission for your married people ministry.
1. Make your mission statement motive-focused
A mission statement should clearly express the reason or motive behind the existence of your ministry. A mission statement isn’t a list that describes what you do. It’s a statement that declares the motivation or the “why,” behind what you do.
A key way to define your motivation is to identify your vision or goal for marriage ministry. Ask yourself: “What does the preferred future look like? What does the win look like?” From our mission statement, you can see our motivation is “To lead a radical transformation for Jesus Christ in our region and beyond.”
A second way to dial into your motivation is to look at your past wins. Where have you found forward motion and success? This could be an indicator of your unique ministry motivation and point toward your mission.
Lastly, look for ways that you are positioned to make a difference. Being uniquely graced to speak into a specific area of need can be a huge motivation for a mission. When you answer the “why” question, you will begin to see the answers to the “how” questions more clearly.
2. Make your mission statement measurable
Be specific enough in your mission statement so that you can measure your successes and failures. If you refer back to our mission statement, creating environments is what we do. We determine the success of an environment by whether or not it strengthens and builds into a healthy marriage. This gives us a tool to ask, “How are we doing? Is this environment or experience working?”
One of our environments is our Prep 4 Marriage course. We know that couples who take a class like Prep 4 Marriage before they get married, will reduce their risk of divorce by 31%. For us, one of the measurements of success is the number of couples we graduate out of the course each year.
Another environment that we measure is groups. We know that biblical community is critical to having a healthy marriage. So, gauging the number of couples in group life, as well as the number of new groups launched, will give us an indication of how we are doing at fulfilling our mission.
3. Make your mission statement memorable
Your mission statement should be stated in as few words as possible. Try to keep it to one sentence. This will help it to be easy to teach to others. People should be able to remember it! Your mission statement is the map that provides a path to follow.
If you can’t remember the mission, it will be pretty easy to drift off course.
Make sure that you are clearly articulating your mission whenever possible to your leaders and members of the ministry. A good rule of thumb is that when you start getting sick and tired of hearing yourself saying the mission, people are just then beginning to listen to you.
It’s so easy to lose sight of your mission. Post your mission statement on the walls around your ministry area or offices as a visual reminder.
4. Don’t Re-invent the Wheel
If your church already has a mission statement, you should leverage it instead of trying to create something new. Our church has a very clear mission to lead a radical transformation for Jesus Christ in our region and beyond. Everyone, Everyday, Everywhere. (Our language for the church is every person, living out their calling every day, everywhere they go).
This mission has been fundamental in the forward movement for the church. It has given us a consistent framework for growth and expansion. As we started thinking about the mission for the ministry to married people, it was evident that we needed to align to the mission of the church. There is power in a unified purpose.
The more that you can align with the mission and vision of your church, the more effective you will be.
Does your marriage ministry have a mission statement? What is it?
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.
A few years ago, my wife Nancie and I hosted a Q & A luncheon at a youth pastor’s conference entitled, “Married and in Ministry.” The room was packed. Not because of us, but because of the topic.
As couples asked questions, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they were too busy and that it was taking a huge toll on their marriage. What did surprise me were their reactions to some basic suggestions on how to change that. We mentioned things like boundaries and they responded with things like, “What do you mean by boundaries?”
The Importance of Dating
Then we brought up the absolute necessity to date. For many, it was if we had suggested they take a trip to Disney World . . . every week. Date night? Who has time for that? We have people in our church who need us, who have real issues. We are out of the house most nights of the week—doing ministry, taking our own kids to their activities.
I’m thinking to myself, how could such obviously smart people be so reluctant or even unknowledgeable about the need to take time for their marriage? As we passionately tried to give them permission to do so, we could tell some of them weren’t buying it.
Learning from Example
As we were debriefing afterward, Nancie wasn’t as surprised by their responses as I was. She reminded me that making marriage a priority when you are ministry is basic to us. Why? Because we’ve had the unbelievable, and UNIQUE blessing of being surrounded by great marriages our entire marriage.
From day one of our marriage, we’ve had couples around us who modeled date night and have held us accountable to it. She reminded me that day—and I have been reminded many times since in my interactions with pastors—that people in ministry need people to encourage them to do, among many things, date.
Go on a Date
So whether you are a dating pro or haven’t been on a date since Reagan was in office, I have a little challenge for you. Go out on a date. Remember what it was like to have fun with your spouse, and not just decompress from ministry or debrief about your schedules.
If the date works, then send some the couples in your church on the same date. Maybe start with your staff and volunteers and then move to a churchwide challenge, maybe even provide childcare. If you like the date, tell other couples about it.
Why date night?
Experiences and laughter and affirmation all have one thing in common: they connect you as a couple. And connection is what dating is all about it. Date nights are not about to-do lists or solving all your issues. They’re about enjoying your marriage. And as Proverbs 5 illustrates, maybe one of the best ways to protect your marriage is to enjoy your marriage.
So continue or start dating. It’s not extra. It’s essential. And don’t forget to let us know what happened, by posting a pic with #mpdates.
Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.
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.