How would you explain how to walk to someone?
 This is how Wikipedia describes walking.

“Walking (also known as ambulation) is accomplished with a strategy called the double pendulum. During forward motion, the leg that leaves the ground swings forward from the hip. This sweep is the first pendulum. Then the leg strikes the ground with the heel and rolls through to the toe in a motion described as an inverted pendulum. The motion of the two legs is coordinated so that one foot or the other is always in contact with the ground.”

Talk about over complicating a seemingly simple process. How about just “put one foot in front of the other?”

Overcomplicating Marriage Ministry

It’s not unusual for those of us in marriage ministry to sound like this. Sometimes it’s necessary to over explain—but usually not. Most marriages just need simplicity.

That’s why I always encouraged church leaders to be consistent, encouraging, and simple.

Encourage married couples to take one step, take that one step often, and to know that you’re cheering them on as they do. Simple as that.

Teach Less For More

Through the years, I’ve learned that if you teach people less, they will actually learn more.

This principle may seem counter-intuitive. It’s a principle that’s rarely applied, especially within ministry to married couples.

Many church leaders believe if we give people enough information, something is certain to work. But heaping more content on stressed couples can become the tipping point between “energized and encouraged” and “giving up.”

Churches schedule a weekend marriage retreat that requires thirsty couples to drink from a fire hose, or tired couples to hike to the highest mountain. Or they plan a five-week sermon series on marriage, giving couples enough content to last them for several years until they do a series again.

These well-intentioned church leaders offer couples everything they know about marriage all at once. Even if it’s great content, it’s too much to digest in one sitting.

When it comes to helping marriages, the church is content heavy and application light. What’s the solution to this dilemma? Teach less for more.

Give Couples Less Content More Often

Instead of covering a lot of ground at a retreat or through a sermon series, narrow your focus to only the most important topics and talk about them more often.

Whatever marriage-supportive experiences your church offers, give people the opportunity to take “just one step” weekly, biweekly, or monthly.

If you can’t do anything else, give couples a step-by-step date opportunity once a quarter and send them the MarriedPeople Monthly email resource. These simple, bite-size resources help couples succeed in practical ways.

Move from General to Focused

While there are many effective marriage principles and practices, giving couples a single, clear, focused message is powerful. Reduce the total number of topics you could cover to just a few essentials that you will cover.

The MarriedPeople strategy uses a clear, consistent terminology throughout. But just as important, it condenses a multitude of principles and practices into a few key values.

We call them the Core 4 Habits.

  • Have Serious Fun
  • Love God First
  • Respect and Love
  • Practice Your Promise

Everything we do is focused around one or more of these major topics. That’s not to say there aren’t other things that could be helpful to married couples. Just that we’re trying to stay focused to prevent couples from being overwhelmed.

Provide Action Steps

Would you rather married people spend an hour reading a chapter in a marriage book or have them spend 10 minutes filling in the following blanks for each other?

  • I am impressed with how much you know about ______ .
  • Something special about you that not many people see is ______ .
  • 
One of the nicest things you’ve ever done is ______ .

If you’re like us, then you chose the later option. Because it’s a practical application of the principles we teach. Reading marriage books is great, but actually taking action is even better.

When in doubt, give couples something you know they and will do. If I could go back and do one thing differently in my first years in ministry, I would have made our content more practical.

This post is an excerpt taken from, MarriedPeople: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last, by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields.

Ted Lowe is a speaker and the director of MarriedPeople, the marriage division at Orange. Ted is the author of two books—one for marriage ministry leaders (Married People: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last) and one for married couples (Your Best US: Marriage Is Easier Than You Think). He served for almost 10 years as the director of MarriedLife at North Point Community Church. He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children.

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