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Studies show that people think of marriage ministry as preachy, outdated, and overly feminine.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 children’s ministry to family ministry: We know that better marriages make for better families. One of the best things you can do for your kids is leave.
- 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
- Read Married People: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last
- Connect with other marriage ministry leaders at the MarriedPeople Leaders Facebook group
- Check out the MarriedPeople Annual Partnership
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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