I absolutely love and admire Aaron. He’s a Hispanic guy who used to be the janitor at his church. Aaron and his wife asked the church leadership if they could start a Bible study for young married couples to help build strong marriages in their congregation.
Today, Aaron is a full-time marriage and family ministry pastor, serving that same church with literally hundreds of couples being reached by his ministry. All because he saw a need for a marriage ministry at his church and was bold enough to be the one to step in to help.
I have a phrase in my office that reads: “When you reach the family, you reach the world.” Aaron saw a need in his church and fulfilled it. Shortly thereafter, people from the community began to look at his church as a place to get help for their marriages and parenting.
How about your church? Is your church viewed as a place where people can receive the practical help they need for their marriages and families?
Whether you have a thriving marriage ministry or it’s just at the visualizing stage, setting realistic goals for the coming year will help you help others. Here are a couple of principles to consider:
1. Something is better than nothing
Don’t get so overwhelmed with the needs of marriages in your church that you become paralyzed and do nothing. One small group or one date night event in a year is better than nothing. Start small.
2. The essence of creativity is the ability to copy
I’m not talking about plagiarizing here but find what is working at other churches and copy it. Don’t create your own programing when you can use programs and ideas from MarriedPeople or others.
I shared the MarriedPeople blog with my church. And now there are many getting regularly inspired without us having to create our own blog!
3. Recruit marriage champions
I find lay people wherever I go whose passion is in marriage ministry. Who are the champions in your church? Sometimes they come in unexpected places.
My wife Cathy and I were speaking a marriage conference at a church whose leaders were doing a great job. I asked about their story. It was not the first marriage for either one of them, but they told us they finally got it right and they were now investing back into other marriages.
Make a list of possible leaders. Brainstorm with others and find those leaders to help you and eventually become the marriage mentors your church needs.
4. Become a marriage resource junkie
If you haven’t already done this, become a marriage ministry resource junkie. There are excellent resources in every aspect of marriage available at your fingertips. Look at everything from small group experiences to large group experiences to resources for individual couples.
When I first started doing marriage ministry, the resources were lacking. That is not the case today. They are out there, and they are good.
5. Don’t over program
People are already overcommitted and under-connected. Provide practical marriage ministry on a regular basis but don’t burden people with too many activities.
6. Follow the MarriedPeople model
My friend Aaron started with a small group marriage Bible study. Today his ministry reaches hundreds of people with the MarriedPeople model. As he plans and sets goals for each year, he writes down three phrases.
Underneath each phrase he writes a few goals and plans for each.
Large Group Experiences
- Quarterly date nights
- Marriage and family series in the weekend services
- Attend one large marriage event in the area
- Attend one marriage seminar and one parenting seminar each year
Small Group Experience
- Provide a five-week marriage small group twice a year
- Provide a Getting Ready for Marriage class for engaged couples three times a year
- Make available a resource library of other small group marriage curriculum for groups to use anytime
- Book, blog, newsletter and video resources
- Professional counseling referrals, pastoral counseling, lay ministry mentors from the church
- Youth group baby-sitting (for a fee) once a month at the church to enhance date nights
Whether your church is small or large, whether you have a marriage ministry or not, make this year the year to consider developing some healthy plans and goals to help marriages succeed.
Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has over 1.5 million resources in print in over 25 languages. Jim and his wife, Cathy and their three daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi live in Southern California.