At the pinnacle of scoring my first boyfriend, earning my driver’s permit, and obtaining a position as the varsity football team’s water girl, my parents told me that they were getting a divorce. Their timing was terrible.
Instead of planning my future as Mrs. Some Football Player, I was moving to another high school. I had to reestablish a new normal in a city 20 miles away that smelled like cows and had no Target.
Years later, I wonder if it would have been different had my parents been part of a marriage small group. What if they had connected with other married couples in a Bible study aimed at growing their understanding of what it means to have a Christ-centered marriage.
Perhaps their marriage could have survived. It couldn’t have hurt. I do know that.
Keeping couples married is paramount for a healthy home. And a marriage ministry has the privilege of providing a place for couples to invest in their marriage, so families are less likely to implode.
Many couples spend time together, yet they barely talk. They see each other at home, share the same bed, and busy themselves with their kids’ activities. But they invest little effort into cultivating conversations with each other.
Because of this reality for many couples, the church can be the catalyst for couples who need a space to connect—such as a date night where they can have fun, remember why they fell in love, and eat a meal that someone else cooked.
Whether it is a comedy night, date nights with childcare provided, or marriage small groups, marriage ministry has a unique opportunity to provide the space for couples to connect and converse, away from laundry and Netflix.
Foster Faith Foundation
Most church leaders would agree that spiritual maturity is essential to a relationship with Jesus. While individuals have a personal responsibility to grow their faith, marriages benefit when couples are developing spiritually together.
When couples are spending time in God’s word, praying, attending church regularly, and learning about what it takes to have a godly marriage, the benefit is monumental. Marriages built on this foundation of faith are more likely to last.
Transparency, authenticity, accountability, and lasting friendships are all created in community. Marriage ministry can build opportunities for couples to experience community. This can be done through life-stage specific small groups and Bible study classes, and by using round tables during events in order to encourage conversation and connection.
When couples are regularly placed in groups with other couples who are on the same journey, comfort begins to occur and a lasting bond is developed over time. This accountable and like-mindedness contributes to the health of marriages.
Since the rate of divorce is high among Baby Boomers, it’s likely that couples married less than 10 years have at least one set of parents who have divorced. Consequently, there are a host of couples today who have been left with flimsy impressions of marriage, along with uncharacteristic expectations.
Premarital counseling is not a new concept, but was not widely considered for those outside of a faith. Many marriages start off well intended, but ill prepared. A healthy marriage ministry uses seasoned couples, to mentor, encourage, and provide support for couples during those first few years of marriage. We can allow older couples to share their experiences and to be a tether for couples who are just stepping into marriage for the first time.
While marriage ministry can’t eliminate divorce, it does help to provide a place for couples to strengthen their faith, spend time together, and build a community. These are all important elements in helping these couples stay married.
Linda Vujnov is the Family Ministry Director at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA. She is a speaker, and author of Spilt Milk-Devotions for Moms, and writes for several for magazines, blogs, and devotionals. She and her husband Greg have been married 27 years and have four children.