You may have noticed that we recently announced something new at MarriedPeople—a premium membership for especially for married couples. It’s like an online library full of the resources we’ve been creating for marriage ministries over the last several years.
That means plenty of marriage videos, ebooks, date nights, and so many more things specifically to help the average married couple. Plus, new stuff gets added every single month.
But what does this mean for your marriage ministry? Even though we’ve created this for couples, we still want your church to succeed when it comes to helping couples. That’s why we’ve built in a few ways that you can use the membership to your advantage.
Point To Membership as a Next Step
Since the beginning of MarriedPeople, we’ve talked about the three different environments where you can empower marriages: larger groups, small groups, and individual couples. Most of the resources we create for churches place a heavy emphasis on those first two environments.
The MarriedPeople membership helps to serve the third environment—individual couples. This was done intentionally, because that’s where couples spend the majority of their time.
Most couples wonder what to do next after a marriage event or a Bible study on marriage. The membership can be your answer to that. Help us to spread the word about the membership as a way to give couples practical ways to thrive together.
Let It Pay For Your Ministry Budget
What’s in it for your church besides helping marriages? How about helping you to fund your marriage ministry budget? We’re very excited about our Champion program where you can earn money for every couple that you refer to us.
Champion affiliates earn 25% of the revenue they help to generate. That means, for every couple who buys an $80 annual membership through your link, you earn $20. And since our Marriage Ministry Starter Pack is $249, you only have to refer 13 couples to earn enough money to fully fund a Starter Pack.
If you’re at a bigger church, it only takes 20 referred couples to earn enough to fund a $399 Marriage Ministry Annual Pack. That’s everything your church needs to run a marriage ministry, plus that many more couples who are directly having their needs met.
Buy Memberships For Couples
What if your church doesn’t have to worry about the budget, but your local couples do? In that case, you can actually purchase memberships for couples in bulk at a steep discount. This is something we built into the membership specifically with churches in mind.
- Get 10 annual memberships for only $480; that’s only $48 per membership, which are normally $80. Do the math—that’s 40% savings for each couple.
- Get 20 memberships for $800—or $40 per membership. Which calculates out to an 50% discount on each membership.
- Get 50 memberships for $1,600—which is only $32 for each couple. That comes in at a whopping 60% savings per membership.
- And if you need even more memberships, or a custom deal worked out, we’re happy to work with your church to find a solution.
Those are just a few ways that your church can use the new MarriedPeople membership to your advantage. We’ve worked really hard to create a resource that works for both married couples and marriage ministries alike.
Fun fact: Did you know the original colors of the traffic light were red (stop), white (go), and green (caution)?
We all know a traffic light or signal when we see one. Typically, we have a love/hate relationship with the traffic light. We don’t like to be stuck at lights. Plus, it always seems like we get red or yellow when we’re in a rush.
A traffic light can be defined as a set of automatically operated colored lights—typically red, amber, and green—for controlling traffic at road junctions and crosswalks. Green means go, red means stop, and yellow/amber means slow down because a red light is coming.
In fact, the red light indicates that danger is on the other side of the light. A red light beckons us to stop so we can avoid danger (i.e., a car speeding the opposite direction that could harm us if we keep moving forward).
How is a pre-married ministry like a traffic light?
Years ago in our pre-married class at Watermark (called Merge), I started to use the image of a traffic light to help couples discern next steps in their relationship. While in our class, the green, yellow, and red lights have nothing to do with automobile traffic, they do provide a helpful guide for ministry leaders and mentor couples.
As you lead pre-married couples, this simple analogy helps guide them to think about moving forward towards engagement or marriage, hitting the pause/slow down button, or encouraging couples to end their relationship.
Green means “go”
This means you’re excited about a couple moving forward towards engagement or marriage. Friends and family support and cheer the couple on as they move forward in their relationship.
No, this doesn’t mean the couple is perfect. But it does mean they’re making good decisions in their relationship. You’d be honored to officiate or attend this wedding ceremony!
Yellow means “slow down”
Trouble is coming in the opposite direction and couples need to be cautious about moving forward. For a pre-married couple, a yellow light doesn’t mean they need to break-up, but it does mean they should slow down and process things at a deeper level.
The typical “yellow light” couple has some questions they need to answer before they either move forward toward engagement and marriage or before they hit the eject button.
Red means “stop”
Danger is coming, hit the eject button, and get out while you still can! For the pre-married couple who gets a red light, this means there are some major barriers in place that should lead them to break up. This might be because they’re unequally yoked, which is when a Christian marries a non-Christian.
The Bible doesn’t tell us who we should marry, but it’s very clear a Christian shouldn’t marry a non-believer (See 2 Corinthians 6:14). Or maybe there’s some major dysfunction in their relationship (i.e., infidelity, unaddressed addictions or unhealthy pre-married sexual activity). Or perhaps the couple can’t learn how to communicate and resolve conflict.
Other people around the “red light” couple are begging and pleading for them to break-up. It’s not because they don’t want the couple to be happy, but rather because they love them and don’t want them to sign up for a life of misery together or a future divorce.
Unfortunately, in my experience, too many couples in the red zone keep going forward. This happens because the couple doesn’t want to hear what others say, or because others are too afraid to share their concerns.
Ready or Knot?
I wrote Ready or Knot? 12 Conversations Every Couple Needs to Have before Marriage to help provide guidance. The book is intended to help couples see if their “traffic light” is green, yellow, or red.
I wrote it as a biblical, practical, and authentic guide to help couples take the next best step in their relationship. I pray couples would read Ready or Knot? and break-up. I also pray the money they spent on the book would spare them much pain and hurt in the future.
I also wrote Ready or Knot? to help “green light” couples move forward toward marriage with confidence. Too many couples move towards marriage with excess levels of fear and anxiety. While the decision is a big one, Ready or Knot? can help a couple say “I do” with joy and confidence in the Lord.
As you counsel pre-married couples, where do you think they land?
- Are they green? Let’s hear those wedding bells.
- Are they yellow? What can we do to help them figure out the next step?
- Are they red? Let’s help them end things so they don’t end up living in misery or getting divorced. The break-up is the best possible result for some couples.
Can you believe that 2018 is almost over already? It feels like it just started. As we wind down this year, it’s a good time to look back at some of what we’ve done over the past 365 days.
Hopefully you’ll find some time amidst the craziness of the holiday season to reflect. Perhaps recapping some of the best blog posts we published during 2018 might help.
We publish a new post for church leaders working with marriages every week—Thursday mornings to be exact. That more than 50 blog posts every year. Here are the top 10 articles we shared in 2018.
Top 10 Blog Posts of 2018
- How To Promote Marriage Events at Your Church
- Why Pretty Much Every Church Leader Needs Marriage Counseling
- OC18 Breakout Notes: MarriedPeople Interactive
- Introducing the New MarriedPeople Monthly
- How Your Church Can Be a Game Changer For Marriages
- Meet the Communicators: Game Changers
- LEADER PROFILE: Laura Wright
- What a Strong Marriage Ministry Should Look Like
- Reaching Married Couples Using Social Media
- Behind-the-Scenes: Strategy Pack
We’ll also be sharing some of our top 10 couples posts and top podcast episodes of the year. Hopefully some of these resources have been helpful to you. And looking forward to sharing even more in 2019!
What was your favorite blog post this year?
Do you work in marriage ministry? Do you live in Atlanta or Southern California? Then you might want to join us for one of our two upcoming Marriage Ministry Gatherings.
Working in ministry can be a lonely endeavor, especially when you work as a field as small as marriage ministry. We try to help cultivate community with things like our webinars and Facebook group. But digital connections only go so far.
Sometimes you just have to meet with people face to face and relate to them in person.
Marriage Ministry Gathering Atlanta
Want to join us for the Atlanta event? Sign up now!
Marriage Ministry Gathering Southern California
Want to join us for the California event? Sign up now!
What do you get out of it?
- Get to hangout with other church leaders just like you
- Learn from marriage ministry experts
- Workshop some marriage ministry issues and solutions
- Get lunch and swag
What do I do to get there?
- RSVP for one of the events—there’s only 40 spots for each one, so act quickly
- All of the details are on the event page, so mark the date on your calendar and get driving directions
- The event costs $25/person, but that includes lunch and cool swag
- Be sure to show up on time and ready to learn from one another
Are you ready to take your marriage ministry to the next level?
At MarriedPeople, we’re all about providing couples less content, more often. Rather than dumping a year’s worth of marriage content on them during an annual retreat or sermon series, we’d prefer to share practical advice for their marriage on a consistent basis.
That’s because married couples are busy. They’ve got so many things vying for their attention. For that reason, their marriage sometimes gets put on the back burner. Without meaning to, they grow disconnected from their spouse and allow their marriage to weaken.
A Practical, Consistent Resource
That’s one of the reasons we create MarriedPeople Monthly—a monthly email with simple, fun tips on how to stay connected in marriage. And we’ve built this resource so that churches can customize the content and send directly to local couples.
Even if you can’t pull of a huge marriage event, or organize a marriage small group study, we have confidence that your church can send out an email newsletter to married couples. Since we do most of the hard work already, all you’ve got to do is collect email addresses and click send once a month.
New and Improved
We’ve used the current framework for MarriedPeople Monthly for about the past two years. It’s included sections like Plugged In and The Spice that provide easy to understand advice for couples. But we knew that we could make it even better.
That’s why we’ve rebuilt MP Monthly from scratch. It’s organized around how modern-day couples want to get their information—whether that’s by reading a blog, watching a video, or listening to a podcast episode together.
How It’s Organized
Here are the six new sections of the newly redesigned MarriedPeople Monthly, which launches this month (September 2018). We encourage couples to pick only a few to focus on each month.
- Read This: A link to a relevant blog post, or other online resource
- Listen To This: A recent episode of the MarriedPeople Podcast
- Watch This: A fun and engaging video couples can watch together
- Text This: A fill-in-the blank sentence to complete and text to a spouse
- Ask This: A thought-provoking discussion question to start a conversation
- Do This: A practical action step couples can take to improve their marriage
How to Get MP Monthly
MarriedPeople Monthly comes as a part of our church partnerships—a year-long subscription with the Annual Plan and six months worth with a Starter Pack. You can also purchase a year’s worth of MP Monthly separately from our online store.
What all do you get every month with a subscription? If you’ve used MP Monthly in the past, you may be familiar with some of these files. But several have also be updated to match the new look.
- An HTML file of the email
- A link to the MailChimp template
- Word document with all of the content
- JPG and GIF files of all images
- Shareable social media plan and graphics
- PDF instructions for how to use the email
- MP Monthly logo
Does your church use MP Monthly? How else do you connect with local married couples?
I thought I’d write a different kind of post. I’d like to sketch out what I think a church with a strong marriage ministry would look like, and then I’d invite you to share your thoughts, in the hope that this could be a resource page or a springboard for discussion for churches that want to be more intentional about supporting the marriages.
A Strong Marriage Ministry Leverages Marriage Mentors
Pastors should not be the main focus of a marriage ministry. A pastor may not be gifted at counseling, which is OK. After all, Pastors were hired to primarily lead and preach. There are limited pastors at each church. They can’t do all the work.
A strong marriage ministry involves couples from the congregation. If a church is going to support marriages, it needs to find a way to forge relationships where couples can talk about important issues. I believe is the best vehicle for this is mentorship.
- A mentor couple should be a couple whose marriage is strong and has been married at least ten years.
- Marriage mentors are often better equipped for pre-marital counseling than pastors, who may not have the time. It’s often better to talk to a couple than just a pastor.
- Mentors should be trained on how to ask questions that encourage discussion. Most breakthroughs come because the couple is able to talk through issues.
- Mentors are not counsellors. The role of a mentor is not to help couples solve problems but instead to raise important issues for discussion and to guide conversations and prayers. If counseling is necessary, the couple should then be referred elsewhere.
- Mentors do not need to have all the answers; they need to be equipped to ask the right questions.
- The church should set up a system where it’s easy to get a mentor couple if you need one.
Choose Marriage Mentors Based on Relationships, Not Past
We have a tendency to promote leadership that looks one way—Christians their whole life; always chose well; never rebelled; still married to their first spouse.
However, the strongest marriages are not necessarily those that fit the “ideal” Christian mold. If congregation members are to relate to marriage mentors, then there should be some diversity in faith journeys among the mentors. While all should have solid marriages now, it’s OK if some people were not born in the church, and became Christians after a difficult faith journey.
It’s even best if some marriage mentors are blended families. Let’s have the marriage mentors resemble the congregation, rather than assuming that those who “look” the most Christian automatically have the strongest marriages.
A Strong Marriage Ministry Flows From an Authenticity Culture
The culture of a church is passed on, top down. At the church my daughters attend, the senior pastor is very open about some of the mental health battles his family has faced, so the church family can pray for them.
At the last song of the service, those who need extra prayer are always encouraged to come up to the front, without judgment. It’s never seen as a sign of weakness. People will not open up to marriage mentors unless the church does not punish those who admit failings. If churches want to rescue marriages, then people need a safe place to admit when they have problems. If they don’t have that, no one says anything until the marriage implodes.
The more we deal with the messiness of life, the more people can admit problems when things do get messy. If no one can dare admit an issue without appearing strange, then no amount of marriage programs will accomplish much.
Leaders Must Have Strong Marriages Themselves
It’s a biblical principle that one shouldn’t serve on church leadership unless one has strong family relationships at home. If the church wants to send a message that marriage is important, then, it must choose leaders that have good marriages. Even if those couples do not directly take part in marriage mentorship, the leadership of the church must still model good marriages.
- Leader couples should always speak well of each other
- The couples should have no whisperings of impropriety
- The couple should support one another in their giftings, rather than the wife seen as simply an appendage or servant of her husband.
- There must be a “team” feel to every ministry couple.
The latter point is especially important. In churches where women are seen more as servants of their husbands, the divorce rate is far higher than in churches where marriage is seen as more teamwork. Researchers have concluded that this is because women don’t feel entitled to speak up about marriage problems when they first occur, because they believe that to identify issues would be seen as unsubmissive. After years of dysfunctional behaviour, the wives often throw in the towel.
If leaders demonstrate grace and care for one another in a team framework, then church members are more likely to feel free to raise issues when they crop up, rather than letting them fester.
A Church That Supports Marriage Does Not Overburden Those Who are Married
Frankly, those who are involved in church as leaders are often burned out with no time for their families. If the leaders don’t have strong marriages, then they can’t support other people’s marriages. Too many ministries in churches require too much of people in their 30s and 40s.
A church that values marriage will:
- Ensure that no one is expected to be at church activities more than one night a week
- Examine their ministries to make sure that they aren’t “make work” or “make busy” events. Choose only events that feed the community and that reach those outside the church. Lower the scope and expectations of some of those events
- Encourage those in their 50s and 60s to do more of the child care, Sunday school, and nursery ministry to give parents a break
- Host more adult mixer activities, like board game nights or movie nights, rather than always dividing by gender so that couples can do more things together
A Strong Marriage Ministry Supports Couples
Sometimes churches shy away from offering couples’ events because we don’t want single people to feel left out. Yet marriage is the bedrock of families and the community. It is not taking away from single people to sometimes offer something for couples.
A Strong Marriage Ministry Addresses the Tough Topics
What is it that tends to rip apart marriages? Money and sex. Yet few churches address either very well from the pulpit.
Before we blame pastors for this, let me say that I don’t think much of this should be addressed from the pulpit. There are children and teens in church; single people; divorced people.
While sex can be addressed in general ways, you can’t get nitty gritty on a Sunday morning. There is a time and place, and that is neither the time, nor the place, for anything that explicit.
With the money issue, too, what people really need is practical help on managing debt and using credit cards. Those sorts of things aren’t handled well from the pulpit, either. You need a workshop. What I would suggest is that the church go out of its way to make resources available on tough topics, remembering that if the church doesn’t address them, the world will fill the void.
- Encourage Bible study groups to do a study on a tough topic
- Encourage membership to sites like Covenant Eyes, which allows accountability and filtering for computers, phones and tablets to help prevent porn addictions
- Download Covenant Eyes’ book Fight Porn in Your Church, and have all leaders read it
- Share through social media, Pinterest boards, men’s and women’s Facebook pages, or newsletter lists great articles about sex, marriage, money, and other issues
- Host financial planning seminars and good financial management seminars. Have debt counsellors available for couples who need help
A Strong Marriage Ministry Is Focused on Wholeness, Not Marriage
Finally, a strong marriage ministry is focused on God’s heart for us—that we all be transformed into the likeness of His Son. A strong marriage ministry is not focused on making sure that all marriages stay intact.
That may seem like a loaded statement. But where I see churches err most often is that they are so scared that a marriage will fall apart that they fail to call people to wholeness.
Churches must be able to identify toxic things that will destroy a marriage—porn use, addictions, emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. When these issues pop up, the emphasis must be on healing these issues, not healing the marriage. True relational healing can only happen once the underlying toxic things have been properly dealt with. But we’re often too scared to deal with toxic issues because they’re so huge and they threaten the marriage. Instead we try to paper over them.
Churches must be better at supporting those in difficult marriages and calling sinners to repentance. Not every marriage problem is a communication problem. Yet we often treat them as such—telling people to learn each other’s love language or to learn to talk more. Some problems are caused by a huge sin, and those problems are often one-sided. Not every marriage issue has two parties at blame.
Until churches can start calling a spade a spade and calling people to something more, while supporting the hurting spouse, no marriage ministry will ever be effective because you will be undermining the authenticity of your witness.
How Strong is Your Marriage Ministry?
If you’re talking about this article as a leadership community, here are some questions to ask. Rate each question on a scale of 1-5, which will give your church a score out of 75. This may provide some insight on where your efforts should first focus as you grow a strong marriage ministry.
- Does our church have “marriage mentors”?
- Do the couples that we believe have strong marriages all fit that “ideal Christian” mold? Could we be missing some strong marriages because we have preconceived notions of what a strong marriage will look like?
- Is the weight of marriage ministry resting primarily on our pastor?
- Do those struggling with pornography in our church have an obvious, well-advertised place to get help?
- If a couple needed marriage help, or a person wanted an accountability partner, is there an easy way to access that help?
- Looking at our church leadership, including the board(s), paid staff, and ministry coordinators, how overburdened are they? How are their marriages?
- Is teamwork a hallmark of the marriages among our church leadership?
- Do leaders in our church regularly speak well of their spouses and encourage their spouses’ spiritual giftings?
- Looking at those aged 25-45 in our church, how much of the practical, hands on responsibility for ministries falls on their shoulders? How much falls on those aged 45-65? Is this a healthy balance?
- Do we have a culture where people can safely admit that they are struggling without judgment?
- Does our church handle sex in a healthy way? Do our small groups, couples’ ministries, or single-sex study groups feel comfortable talking about it?
- If couples are having major debt issues, do they know where to go for help?
- Have we had low-cost, affordable marriage events (either couple events or single-sex teaching events) at our church in the last year?
- Do we have a network of trained Christian counsellors to whom we can refer couples in trouble?
- Do we regularly refer couples who are dealing with toxic issues, rather than trying to deal with issues of that magnitude when we may not be trained for it?
What works at your church with marriage ministry? What doesn’t? Let’s help each other!
For a downloadable guide of these criteria, along with an assessment tool to see how your church ranks on marriage ministry, head over to Sheila’s original post.
Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 25 years and happily married for 20! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature “Girl Talk” about sex and marriage. She’s written eight books about sex and marriage.