When Tonya and I were engaged, we had a couple’s wedding shower. We opened toasters, potholders and a vase. I was grateful, but none of that really captured my attention. Then, we were handed a heavy box. My memories of Christmas always told me that the best dude-gifts were heavy!

We opened the box with great anticipation. It was a tool set! I’’d never owned my own tools, so I was pretty amped up. Included in that tool set was a steel-shafted hammer.

Twenty-three years later we still use that hammer weekly. The toaster burned up. The potholders went out of style. But the hammer? It still works. It’’s hard to break a hammer. What about that vase we got at the shower, you ask? Let’’s just say one hammer plus one vase… you do the math.

As a church leader, staff member or volunteer leader, there are some essentials we can use to fill our pastoral tool boxes, tools that will last. The following are four great tools to keep handy when we talk with couples who are stuck or struggling.

1. Listen

Ask the simple question, ““What brought you here?”” Then sit back and listen.

2. Remind Them, “It’’s Not You It’’s Me”

Most marital issues are actually issues of the heart. James 4:1 reminds us that fights come because we many times we just want our own way. Point couples to Ephesians 5:33 and help them understand that our focus has to go off of what we want and on to what the other person needs.

3. Lead Them To Date Again

After helping a couple refocus, encourage them to rekindle their dating relationship. Have them alternate who plans the date.

When he plans, he sets up a date that would focus on her likes.— And vice-versa. The spouse that is recipient of the date must not complain if the planner doesn’’t get it quite right! It may take some trial-and-error, but trying is the key.

4. Offer Hope

They are there because they have lost hope of a great marriage. God wants the best for their marriage. That’s amazing hope!

Counseling can be intimidating sometimes. Remember that God has given you what you need to offer life and help. Let Him stretch you as you pour into couples.

You may find that sometimes the deeper you dig, the more you’ll realize this situation may take more experience or time than you currently have. If you begin to realize you need a tool that is not in your toolbox, seek help with a local licensed counselor who will dispense God’s Word along with psychological help.

Or seek an organization like Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. There is likely a counselor in your area or many of them provide Facetime or Skype counseling as well.

Kirk Stewart is the Discipleship Pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant, AR. He’s passionate about building spiritual depth in people, marriages and families and is a speaker and Biblical counselor. You can reach him on Twitter @kirklstewart.