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Why Church Leaders Need to Date Their Spouse, Too

Why Church Leaders Need to Date Their Spouse, Too

When was the last time you and your spouse went on a date? How often did you go on dates before you got married? Do you view dating as something that is extra or essential in your marriage?

1. It helps us keep them a priority

Next to Jesus, my spouse is my top priority. The Apostle Paul reminds us that husbands are to love their wives just as Jesus loved us. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25

Even in the very beginning, we see a relational priority shift that happens when we get married. In Genesis we are told, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The word “leave” here means to loosen or relinquish. We see one relationship being left to unite with or join another relationship. There is a decision that has to be made when it comes to our priorities and our spouse.

There is not enough time to get it all done. Somebody or something is going to feel left out or neglected. We have to make sure that is never our spouse! It is essential to a healthy marriage that your time together is a priority.

For our marriages to thrive, our schedules must reflect the priority of our relationship.

For those with kids, let me just say that our kids do need us and should be a priority, but the most important thing we could ever do for or give them is a Godly marriage that reflects Jesus.

Ann Landers says, “Neglect the rest of the world if you have to, but never neglect each other.”

Ask yourself, is my spouse a priority? To who or what do you need to say no, so you can say yes to your spouse?

2. It helps us to continue pursuing them

In the Genesis account we also see a pursuing take place within this relationship called marriage. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The word united here means, to cling or adhere; to catch by pursuit, be joined (together), pursue hard. Why do we often stop pursuing our spouse after we get married?

One reason is there is often a familiarity that creeps in. There is excitement about your relationship when you’re dating or engaged. After we are married, the newness or shininess wears off and, as a result, the dating/courting is over.

Another reason is there’s an inevitable exhaustion that sets in. Life’s responsibilities, our careers, and kids demand a lot of time & energy. It takes energy to relate creatively, to date meaningfully, and to resolve conflict.

Many of us have given so much of ourselves to so many other things that we have nothing left over for our spouse.

Has your marriage lost some of that romance, passion, or fire? In order to get what you once had, you must do what you once did. Do you want your marriage to be better than it ever has? Remember, to get what you never had, you must do what you have never done.

Pursuing our spouse is one of the most Christ-like things we can do. We must remember that the love of Jesus never stops pursuing us! May we follow his example of love and never stop pursuing our spouse.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4

Ask yourself, am I pursuing my spouse?

Who knew a simple date could accomplish so much?

Meet Your OS: Misty Phillips

Meet Your OS: Misty Phillips

Perhaps the best part of being a Married People church partner is having access to an Orange Specialist. What’s an Orange Specialist? They’re real-life people who helps you to use the resources that you get as a part of your partnership.

An Orange Specialist (or OS for short) is more than just a customer service representative—they’re part leadership trainer, encourager, coach, community builder, and technical support. An OS is what makes Married People a partnership, and not just a product.

As a Married People church partner, your Orange Specialist is Misty Phillips. And since she does so much work behind the scenes, we thought we’d introduce you to Misty. Let’s get to know her and how she can help your church do marriage ministry better.

What’s your ministry background?

I served in preschool and elementary ministry for over 25 years. In that capacity, I oversaw birth through sixth grade, and led more than 150 volunteers.

What is your favorite part of being an Orange Specialist?

Connecting with leaders to help them WIN as they do strategic ministry to kids and families. And listening to stories of everything that God is doing in local churches of all sizes.

What do you wish churches knew about Married People?

Married People has developed a key strategy for your church to be intentional about supporting marriages. This is a year-long strategy, not just a one-time thing. We help leaders practically engage in creative experiences with major impact.

What is your role as the Married People OS?

You might have questions, or need assistance with your strategy of reaching marriages in your church. As the Married People OS, I’m here to help and answer all of your questions.

If you’d like to walk through all the great content in the Married People strategy, or have any questions before purchasing, please reach out!

Why do you think churches should pour into marriages?

I believe investing in marriages at your church is one of the best choices your team can make.  Sometimes, we forget that ministry to families includes investing in marriages. Churches who are intentional about helping pour into marriages are a smart bunch!

Are you married?

Yes! I’m in my fortieth year of learning how to do life with my husband. We’re both still learning in each phase of our lives. Together, we raised four amazing kids and now share in the joy of eight grandchildren.

Together, my husband and I have served in children’s and family ministry. Together, we’ve experienced gains and losses. We’ve been so grateful as a couple to have life experiences around other couples learning what marriage really means.

What are your three must read ministry books?

  1. Think Orange by Reggie Joiner
  2. Visioneering by Andy Stanley
  3. 7 Principles of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones

Do you have any skills that most people don’t know about?

I was a theatre major. And I can play piano by ear.

If you could be anywhere other than here, where would you be?

At a Caribbean beach with family, going paddle boarding.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?

Singer songwriter. Or a flight attendant. (Ha! Maybe it was a singing flight attendant.)

How do you want people to remember you?

Family and fun mattered. Serving others was the best. God shined.

What’s goal would you like to accomplish in the next year?

More adventure. Connect leaders together. Grow friends.

How can people get in touch with you?

10 Tips for Leading Marriage Small Groups

10 Tips for Leading Marriage Small Groups

Significant life change can happen in the context of small groups. In this setting, group members can feel safe to discuss issues and share experiences on a more personal level. One of the keys to small group effectiveness are the leaders and the preparations they make.

Here are 10 tips for leading small groups for married couples.

1. Choose materials wisely

Group leaders will find a plethora of resources available on marriage enrichment. Begin by asking your pastoral staff to preview and approve materials before choosing what you’ll use.

The optimal length of a small-group class is six weeks, with each session lasting 60 to 90 minutes. A six-week class keeps the material fresh and is short enough for people to make the commitment to attend. If you use digital media, make sure the delivery technology works well in your chosen location.

2. Enlist primary and secondary group facilitators

If you are the primary facilitators, then enlist another couple to serve as the secondary facilitators. Secondary facilitators assist in leading the class and helping with discussion. They can step in as the primary facilitators in your absence.

3. Choose the meeting time and location carefully

Sunday morning at church fits most church structures. Childcare and classroom space are usually available. If you decide to have a home study, consider how you will handle childcare, a very important issue for parents.

4. Personally prepare each week

Study the material early in the week and meditate on it throughout the week. Refresh your memory by looking through your notes, either the night before class or the morning of. Guard against letting up on your personal Bible study and prayer time because Satan will be eager to attack any good work.

5. Be punctual

Each week, arrive at least 20 minutes prior to class so that you can have everything ready and have time for personal prayer, yielding to God’s direction and wisdom.

Start and finish on time. Resist the urge to “wait until everyone is here” before starting, or to “keep going because everyone is engaged” when it is time to stop. People appreciate when you stick to your schedule; it shows you respect their time.

6. Promote through multiple channels

Different channels and methods catch different people’s attention. Facebook, email, Instagram, text, church bulletins, church foyer table, posters, word of mouth, pulpit announcements—use all channels available to you.

We recommend that you start promotion three weeks before your class begins. Visit the resource publisher’s website; sometimes you’ll find downloadable promotion files there.

Create an attractive flyer that gives the class details: location; time; subject; length; childcare; and contact name, email, and phone number, along with a call to action such as “Sign up today.”

7. Provide snacks and drinks

Food, even just something to drink, usually puts people at ease. During the first class, circulate a sign-up sheet for couples to volunteer.

8. Communicate with the group during the week

Create a class roster and communicate often with reminders of topics discussed, homework for couples to do, the snack schedule, or articles participants will find interesting. Send reminders of prayer requests and encourage members to pray for one another.

Keep up with members’ contact info for when you offer other marriage enrichment opportunities.

9. Consider the seating arrangement

If you are able, arrange the chairs in a circle. This facilitates good discussion. Circles are better than rows.

10. Encourage participation

During discussion, become comfortable with silence. You may find it uncomfortable to ask a question and sit in silence for a few seconds, but doing so often encourages a group member to interact who normally might not. Resist the temptation to answer your own question.

Start each class with an “ice breaker” question. Possible questions are “Where was your first date?” or “What is your favorite restaurant?”

Participants aren’t the only ones who will benefit

Leading a marriage class can be very rewarding to you and your spouse in addition to those who attend. As you prepare for each class, you will find God strengthening your own marriage and giving you a heart to minister to others.

Reposted with permission. Read the original post here.

How You Can Model Healthy Marriages For the Next Generation

How You Can Model Healthy Marriages For the Next Generation

It’s no secret that kids and students are always watching us. That’s true whether or not you have kids of your own. Because as church leaders, we are role models for the next generation in our church.

We also know that kids and students model what they see. It’s the whole monkey see monkey do, right? The idea of ‘watch and learn’ is useful when you’re intentionally trying to teach a baby how to stack blocks or a teach a sixteen year old how to drive.

But this isn’t so convenient when a kid or student learns something they shouldn’t learn. Or worse, when they don’t learn something important because they haven’t seen it.

Growing Up Without a Model

My parents split when I was really young. While they’re great friends now, it was an awful, messy thing. Even a decade later, the effects of everything that I saw and heard when I was younger reared its ugly head when I began dating. They were there when I got engaged. And they were still there when I got married.

I had never witnessed first hand what a healthy relationship looked like. So I wandered through my relationships a bit like a person stumbling through a dark room. Incidentally, my then boyfriend/now husband also came from a badly broken family.

So at least I wasn’t stumbling alone—although I’ve since learned what ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ means. When we hit relationship bumps or had questions that desperately needed answers, we didn’t have anyone to go to.

Giving Others a Healthy Model

Then, my husband, Jamie, and I became the youth pastors (and small group leaders) at our local church. We were handed a group of students who all came from broken homes. And we immediately knew what we wanted to do.

We wanted to model a Godly marriage.

We wanted to do that because we knew how we suffered in the beginning from the lack of exactly that. We knew the boys in our group were watching Jamie. We knew our girls were watching me.

We knew because we had watched the adults in our lives, and we had either mimicked their mistakes or tried to correct them ourselves without knowing how.

Healthy Doesn’t Mean Perfect

We didn’t have a perfect marriage when we started leading students. Ten years later, I can confidently say that we still don’t. But we were aiming for better than what we had seen, and I think we did a pretty good job for a couple of kids whose parents made a mess of love.

While my heart was often broken for our students because they were experiencing so much of the hurts that we had when we were their age, we were also empowered to do something about it.

When we sat with our students during worship, my husband and I worshipped together because we hadn’t seen that growing up. When the pastor started the altar call, we would go up to pray together, because no one had ever showed us how.

When we had seniors in our small groups that started dating, we went on double dates with them. That way, Jamie could nudge the guy and remind him to open the door for his date. Or I could encourage the girl to settle for only the best because she was worth it.

Who Is Watching Your Marriage?

Those you are leading are always watching—no matter how young or old they are. They are watching you for tips and tricks on how to be a grown up and on how to be a better person.

You may have kids or students in your group who come from broken homes or who have seen things that kids their age shouldn’t have to see. While you can’t erase their pasts, you can impact their futures.

Relationships, whether romantic or between friends, are tricky things to navigate. So model healthy relationships for your few. Show them what a godly marriage can look like. Show them what godly friendships can look like.

Inspire them to aim for good relationships. And encourage them to believe themselves worthy of healthy love. You may be the only place they get to see it!

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

What’s the Purpose of Marriage Ministry?

What’s the Purpose of Marriage Ministry?

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.

Cultivate Connection

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.

Create Community

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.

Guide Newlyweds

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.

Setting Goals For Your Marriage Ministry in the New Year

Setting Goals For Your Marriage Ministry in the New Year

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

Individual Couples

  • 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.

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