Hey, church leader: you’re busy, right? You’ve got a lot of things on your plate. You’ve got more responsibilities than you have time. You wear many different hats—that’s a metaphor, of course, although you may also like to actually wear hats, too.
Guess what? That’s a lot like married people. They’re also busy. They have full plates. They have too many responsibilities and wear too many metaphorical hats. So if you’re a church leader (even an unmarried one) you can related to the challenges of marriage.
So what’s the trick to having a successful marriage and a successful ministry? Being proactive.
The Importance of Proactivity
Juggling lots of responsibilities—either in marriage or in ministry—takes planning ahead. It takes having a proactive approach to issues, rather than just reacting as they happen. It takes creating a plan and sticking to that plan.
It takes being proactive.
We all know marriage is important. But we don’t always prioritize our marriage because we get busy and get distracted by other things.
The same thing is true for marriage ministry. Most churches know helping marriages is important. They just have too many other things going on to be proactive about helping out couples. So how can your church get proactive about helping married people be proactive?
Join the Webinar
That’s exactly the topic that we’re going to tackle in our latest quarterly leadership webinar—how your church can help couples be proactive in their marriage. We’ve got a new resource that we think will be a huge help in making that happen.
So join MarriedPeople founder Ted Lowe on Wednesday, March 13 from 2-3pm EST for an opportunity to learn and ask questions. Here are all of the details:
Topic: How to help couples be proactive in their marriage
Every year, I put a lot of time and energy into decorating our home for Christmas. Then December 26 rolls around. Christmas decor around the neighborhood quickly comes down and we move on with our lives.
Retail stores across the country have already replaced Christmas aisles with Valentines gifts, stuffed bears, and chocolates. There’s no time for a chocolate hangover from Christmas because Valentine’s chocolates are already out to help you keep your buzz.
Retail marketing experts know there will be an influx of people visiting their stores to return gifts. They ride the momentum of Christmas craziness to draw you into the rush of Valentine’s Day.
The church is close behind on following this trend. Most marriage ministries are wise to build up excitement about a marriage event for Valentine’s Day. The foolishness comes when we forget to plan for marriage ministry wins beyond Valentine’s.
So, in the midst of the crazy planning season for Valentine’s events, sermon series, and date nights. I want to give you suggestions on how to not miss out on opportunities beginning after February 14.
A wise man once said “sometimes it takes a party” and this is certainly true when it comes to gathering couples. Have a big Valentine’s celebration to get couples gathered around the idea of being intentional about their marriage. This gives you a critical mass to establish momentum.
Celebrations are vital to the process of having serious fun in your marriage. Celebrations are also the easiest way to gain a greater reach. Major holidays are easy times to have celebration because people budget their time, energy, and money to celebrate during these natural times of gathering.
Celebrations are the catalyst for momentum. Celebrations gather people to further point them into greater connections.
Celebrations naturally create connections because they put people together. When you get people together there are natural connections that could happen, but you can also be intentional about connecting people through the celebration.
Momentum grows faster when you’re intentional about facilitating connection.
Since Valentine’s season is primed for married couples to celebrate, we can facilitate the celebration and capitalize on the connection. The simple “in-the-moment” connections can be table discussion connections or a moment of grouping of people by demographic—marriage length, number of kids, etc.). Greater momentum happens by encouraging a connection beyond this specific celebration.
Connecting to an opportunity or practice beyond the specific event should bless marriages while also moving your marriage ministry forward. This could be giving them a take home discussion guide which ends with an invitation to a small group. Or this might look like connecting them with a monthly marriage email, like MarriedPeople monthly.
There are a variety of things to point them toward, but the goal is to give them a greater chance to connect with each other, connect with other couples, connect with your marriage ministry, and ultimately connect more deeply with Jesus.
Don’t waste another excellent opportunity to connect couples on all of these levels.
Momentum fizzles, but it can also be recreated. If we desire to see marriages continue to thrive, get saved, or recover, then we should continue to pursue an intentional plan to make those things happen through our churches.
Everything we do should point to this continual pursuit. This is a reflection of a healthy marriage, a reflection of our walk with Christ, and a reflection of a ministry that truly cares for the people. This turns into a continuum of having celebrations which lead to connections, which create opportunities for more celebrations.
Valentine’s Day isn’t the only time to reach couples, and that is too easily forgotten. While culture is setting the ball on the tee for marriage ministry to knock it out of the park, we need to ensure we don’t just rely on that one time of year. Marriage is worth our time and effort year round. Let’s approach this season with foresight for the seasons to come!
What’s your church’s plan to follow-up after Valentine’s Day?
If I were to ask you if marriage ministry is important, what would you say? Most people who work with and near families quickly answer this question with a resounding, yes!
If I were to ask you if marriage ministry is urgent, what would you say? Answering this question is a bit trickier than the first, especially church leaders.
Church leaders know that marriage is important. But what is urgent is the fact that Sunday is always coming. Pre-school, children’s and youth ministries are always seen as urgent and important, because they are.
But marriage ministry has no Sunday. It has a “one day.” One day, we are going to make the time, get strategic at helping married couples. When we pause for a moment and reflect on how marriage impacts the life of a child—especially their faith—marriage ministry becomes urgent and important.
Why Marriage Ministry is Urgent
According to the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 60% of children who come from divorce will walk away from their faith. But we don’t need a scientific study to know marriage impacts kids.
We know it. We live it in our churches our communities, and our own families. But as church leaders, we keep this information to ourselves.
After all, we wouldn’t state the facts and stats on a Sunday morning because much of our audience would feel defeated, and visitors might not return. So we just don’t talk about it. But make no mistake about it, the kids we love, who we want to know Jesus, need to grow up with healthy marriages around them at home and at church.
With that passion in mind, let’s set some marriage ministry goals, if not for the married people, for the little people. Here’s five steps to get your marriage ministry in the important and urgent column and make some real progress in the new year.
1. Get your passionate people in the same room.
Start or restart or energize your marriage ministry by getting together people who are passionate about helping marriages.
I find that all too often, those passionate about marriage ministry feel isolated and understaffed. Volunteers and couples who have found hope in their marriage are sitting in your church every week.
Lure them to a meeting with snacks and the knowledge that they don’t have to have a perfect meeting.
2. Identify the top needs of the marriages in your church and community.
Be careful not just to focus on couples in crisis. The biggest needs of every church is to help couples from getting into crisis in the first place.
3. Determine what you need to create a holistic strategy.
The days of one-off retreats and one-time marriage studies need to behind those of us who are attempting to create a marriage strategy to reach the current and next generation. What environments, tools, and people will you need to make your marriage ministry last?
4. Dream with the end in mind.
Determine what you want your marriage ministry to look like five years from now. Yes, this will change and evolve over time, but as you lead your team you will need a north to travel towards.
5. Take the first steps toward what you want to create.
One idea is to take a step toward building one proactive piece for the many and one reactive piece for those in crisis.
The kids running through the halls and scuffing the walls of our churches need champions to fight for the marriages impacting their faith.
They don’t know it, but they do. You know, too. You can do it. And you’re not alone.
It’s November. Thanksgiving is almost here and Christmas is coming soon. But Valentine’s Day is only three months away. Which means you’ve still got time to plan something amazing for the married couples at your church.
Valentine’s Day is a big deal because it’s the one time every year that every couple is thinking about romance. It’s your opportunity to help marriages, and create momentum to sustain them through the rest of the year.
To help you pull this off, we’re hosting a free webinar on how to make this upcoming Valentine’s Day a memorable one at your church.
On Wednesday, November 15, 2018. Ted Lowe will be sharing some of what he’s learned after working in marriage ministry for over a decade.
Sound good? Want to join us for the webinar? Here’s how:
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.
I’ve been working in marriage ministry for a few years now. Actually, it’s over fifteen. And I’ve been married for over twenty years. In that time, I’ve learned a few things about how churches can help couples improve their marriage.
Studies show that people think of marriage ministry as preachy, outdated, and overly feminine. We’ve lost our relevance in people’s lives. But there are some shifts happening in some ministries that are changing how they approach marriage ministry.
3 Approaches that Fall Short
Before we get into the ways to improve how your church approaches marriage, let’s take a quick look at the trends that do not work.
The Hands Off Approach: Many churches do little to help marriages because of the pace of ministry or because they don’t feel a need.
The Topical Approach: Some churches view marriage as a topic to be covered, so they address it through various “one-offs”—a sermon series, a study, an event or a book. They treat marriage ministry like a task on a to-do list.
The Reactionary Approach: Other churches spend time and resources on marriage, but they focus solely on couples in crisis—in essence, waiting until marriages are in trouble before offering help, rather than taking a proactive approach that could help couples avoid crises in the first place.
A Proactive, Strategic Approach
A proactive approach—a strategy—is more effective than a topical or reactionary approach. Changing from one of these historical marriage ministry approaches to a proactive approach requires some paradigm shifts.
From an intervention to intervention and prevention : Intervention is emotional and the results are measurable. Prevention is neither—but is far superior.
From isolation to relationship : Technology makes people feel more isolated than ever before. A strategy ministry places a priority on building community and authentic relationships. Not just between couples, but with others that we can learn and grow from.
From information to experience : As a society, we’re suffering from information overload. As a result, people value experience more than another content dump. That’s why it’s important to give people less content, more often.
From feminine to feminine and masculine: Too many marriage ministries are geared almost exclusively at women. They’re overly harsh on men, who stop listening as a result. We can improve more marriages if we appeal to both men and women.
From general to focused: Sharing an overly general message doesn’t resonate with people. Getting specific with examples and practical applications makes a message relevant to couples. They want to hear authentic stories they can understand and use in their marriage.
From programs to process: Marriage retreats are great—but they give couples a year’s worth of resources in a weekend. That’s a lot to process and they often forget what they learned after a week. Why not give them bite-sized pieces of advice spread out through an entire year? Help them process and progress gradually.
How Our Strategy is Proactive
Because marriage is a process, the MarriedPeople strategy is designed to encourage and empower couples on a consistent basis—no matter where they are in their marriages.
This shift is what makes MarriedPeople a proactive approach, not a topical or reactionary one. Our strategy leverages three environments to reach couples:
Individual Couple Experiences: date nights and monthly emails to help couples connect
Small Group Experiences: community, accountability, and faith building
Larger Group Experiences: vision casting, outreach, and inspiration