Church leaders like you are busy. You’ve got a lot of things going on. You have too many responsibilities at your church. And you don’t want one more weighing you down.
This may be one of the reasons why you’ve been hesitant to pursue starting a marriage ministry at your church. You understand that helping married couples out is important, but you barely have time to pour into your own marriage.
What if there was a way your church could help marriages (including yours) without you having to do all of the work? There’s one key element which can make all the difference in a successful marriage ministry.
That key element to pulling this off is volunteer leadership. You can’t do it all yourself, so why not empower others within the church to lead this new ministry for you? Even if your church doesn’t have a staff member or budget to start a marriage ministry, you can still find a couple of volunteers.
Engaged volunteers are the sign of a healthy church community. Almost no church can (or should) run effectively on the staff alone. By handing this task off to volunteers, you’ve giving them the opportunity to serve and grow.
We’ve made our resources turnkey enough that they can be carried out by a volunteer. All you’ve got to do is give them the freedom to go.
But how do you find the right volunteers? How do you train them to lead the right way? How do you equip them to succeed at helping marriages?
How to Leverage Volunteers
These questions are the focus of our next quarterly leadership webinar. Married People founder Ted Lowe will be diving in to uncover how you can leverage volunteer to lead a marriage ministry. And as always, we’ll have time for Q&A, so have some questions ready to ask!
Topic: Leveraging Volunteers For Your Marriage Ministry
I can still remember Jim and Lori walking into my office. They had that “deer in the headlight look” on their faces—the one people get when they know you’re about to ask them to do something. And they weren’t wrong.
That was exactly why I’d asked them to come in. I admit that I was nervous myself. I was a new minister at the church, not to mention that I wasn’t even married at the time.
After saying amen to the customary prayer, I simply painted the picture that our young adult ministry needed small group leaders and what it be would like if they said yes. For some reason—call it a nudge from the Holy Spirit—I looked at Jim and simply stated that some of the men could use his help in being a good dad.
I have no clue at the time why I made that appeal, but it worked. I would later discover that this statement was what convinced them to lead the group. He could remember when his children were young and not having anyone to mentor him on how to be a new dad. He needed support. After all, surviving this life takes a village.
Recruiting people to help volunteer in your ministry is one of the toughest things that we do as leaders. I believe there are six ways that we can recruit well, and help others discover their God-given calling in leading a small groups.
I know that this sounds like common sense for those of us in ministry, however, I believe that asking God who we should recruit is important. Prayer should be the first thing we do when we recruit someone to volunteer to lead small groups in our marriage ministry.
In my twenty years of doing ministry and recruiting leaders, I noticed that people love stories, especially stories they can see themselves in.
For Jim, it was the story of how he could help young dads. He saw himself in this story, because he remembered his own experience of having no one to lean on when he was a young father.
Yes, it should be a given that people think that leading a small group is meaningful and important. However, for many of the people that we would like to recruit their time is valuable and they don’t have a lot of time to give.
Therefore, when we go in for the big ask we need to clear on what we’re asking of them. Time is more important than money for a lot of people so making sure that a leader understands that their sacrifice is meaningful in leading a small group is important.
When recruiting your small group leaders, make sure you provide the leader with the proper information that they will need in leading the group. Set these volunteers up to win from the start.
Answer important questions like, “What does a win look like?” and “How should I handle conflict?” Explain exactly how much time they’ll be committing. Let them know how you’ll support them along the way. By setting clear expectations, we prepare volunteer leaders for success.
Every leader wants to rise to their best self. As leaders, it is our job to prepare new recruits with the best training materials that we can find.
In recruiting new leaders, we should provide the recruit with a summary of what materials they will get if they decide to sign up to lead. This could mean in-person trainings, video lessons, or reading material that will equip them to do their job.
6. Walk Away
When a leader says no to volunteering, don’t take it personally. They likely have a good reason for not leading the small group. And we can’t say yes to everything—so don’t burn that relationship for the future.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8, God explains how to deal with rejection. Lean on this for patience and empathy as you continue to find the right person to lead small groups in your ministry.
How do you recruit small group leaders in your marriage ministry?
Maina Mwaura is a graduate of Liberty University and New Orleans Theological Seminary. Maina contributes to a number of online publications, including Lifeway, The Gospel Coalition, and ChurchLeaders.com. Maina lives in Atlanta, Ga., with his wife, Tiffany.
Marriages do not fail alone. There’s research that shows that the divorce of a relative or close friend can increase your likelihood of divorce up to 75%. Even if it’s a friend of a friend who gets divorced, that increases the risk as much as 33%.
I don’t know about you, but that’s scary. It’s enough to make you to not want to have any close friends or relatives. Because we all know someone who is divorced, or might be in the future.
So what chance does our marriage have of making it? And what can church leaders do when we constantly witness separations and divorces happen in couples we know and care about?
The Importance of Community
The good news is that the flip side is true as well—no marriage succeeds alone, either. Isolating you and your spouse from everyone else and from culture isn’t going to help you. In fact, it may actually make things worse for your marriage.
You might call this context different things in your church—community groups, Sunday school, Bible studies, or life groups. We call them small groups, but they’re all the same thing. And they’re all equally as important.
That’s exactly the topic that we’re going to tackle in our latest quarterly leadership webinar—how to build a community within your marriage ministry. Here are all of the details:
Topic: Building a Community With Your Marriage Ministry
My church began our marriage ministry in 2014 after being introduced to the Married People strategy at the Orange Conference. Since then, it has been an amazing ride. We’ve tried new things, failed at some things, and have continued to tweak things along the way. I believe this is how good ministries become great—by constantly evolving!
Perhaps your marriage events have hit a stale patch on road. You feel like the events look identical to the one before it. You’re ready to change things up and take these events to the next level.
Since we’ve gone through the same experience at my church, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned along the way. Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes and not hit as many potholes and detours along your marriage ministry journey.
Small changes can make a big impact
I’m not sure why we believe that to “innovate” and “evolve” we have to do a complete 180°. As if spending more time and money will automatically lead to better results. That’s simply not true.
Small changes or upgrades to your event can make a huge difference—if done intentionally and effectively. Here are a few examples that you can try for yourself:
invite church members who own businesses to donate prizes
bring in live music if you’ve been using recorded music
have a local amateur comedian come in and do a 10-minute opening skit
have dessert made and handed out by the children or youth of the church as a special gift
make each centerpiece a unique prize that one couple at each table will win
Change up the games
We learned early on that games are one of the most critical pieces of these marriage events. Over time, we’ve allocated more resources and energy into quality games (and prizes!). And these efforts have paid off.
We found that playing a stage game and a table game is a must, because this accommodates the different personality types of people in attendance. “Minute to Win It” type games have been the most successful.
Thankfully, the games that come in the Married People events have all been very good. Put a little extra effort into personalizing the games and prizes at your event and you will reap the rewards. Couples want to have fun—so give them the fun!
Make it personal
Find a professional videographer and interview several of the couples attending the event ahead of time. Ask them to share a story in relation to your theme. For instance, for the “Have Serious Fun” segment ask them to share a story about a vacation they went on that was super fun.
Likewise, for “Practice Your Promise,” interview a couple in your church that’s been married over 50 years. Ask them what their secret is. Be sure to pick a lively couple for some great laughs!
Make these couples your special guests at the event dinner. After a while, couples will ask to be a part of your future videos. Remember to give them the video as a keepsake afterwards. And, if these are professional quality, you can use the videos to promote your ministry later.
It doesn’t always have to be what it’s always been
This was tough for my team. After a couple of years of successful marriage events, we felt comfortable in what we were doing. But, if we were to evolve, my team would need to feel safe trying new things and stepping away from what we’d always done.
It’s not always easy to implement change—especially in the church.
Last summer, we held a group wedding vow renewal ceremony instead of the traditional “Practice Your Promise” event. I officiated the ceremony in a robe. We decorated the event like a wedding reception. The couples dressed up and we had a professional photographer there to capture photos of each couple.
By far, this was one of the most popular events we’ve ever held. And, it took us stepping away from what we “always” did to make it happen.
Whatever you choose to start with, just start with one thing that changes for each event. Remember—small changes are good! Before you know it, your event will be a fun surprise for participants and something all couples enjoy attending. The anticipation and excitement of what you’ll do next will entice more couples to come check it out!
How do you plan on taking your next event to the next level?
59% of Christians disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15. —Barna Research
Millennials top two priorities. (Pew Research)
To be a great parent
To have a great marriage
Because marriage matters to millennials the church can matter to millennials.
Because marriage matters to everyone the church can matter to everyone.
Millennials need a bridge into the church.
Stats about church events
Special events have significant appeal to those ages 18-45 years old. —Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today
49% agree special events make evangelizing easier. —Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today
57% of churchless Americans would prefer a different introduction to church vs. Sunday Service. —Reach Right Studios
74% of those who participate in special events feel more connected with their faith community.
70% believe special events allow them to meet others of their faith.
69% agree special event attendance strengthens their faith.
56% affirm these events help them overcome life’s difficulties.
49% agree special events make evangelizing easier.
Ways to use the Larger Group Experiences
Closer Annual Marriage Ministry Bundle
Two larger group events: Fall Marriage Kickoff & Valentine’s Event
Small group study: Closer Connection, the 4 Ways We Communicate
Four date nights: Take Out Date, Play Date, Picnic Date, & Pizza Date
One-year of Married People Monthly, a customizable email template
One month free of the MP Monthly for all the couples at your church
All of the
“I consistently hear the same thread: ‘We never had intentional marriage modeled for us, and it always seemed like hard work and survival. But Married People has helped us have fun and given us practical steps to take in marriage.’ At least three couples per event have the same story.” Josh Fortney
“We had a young couple in our community that had only been married three or four months and found themselves struggling and desperate. They had no church affiliation. They randomly googled “marriage help group” and our marriage small group came up. Since joining, they would tell you that their marriage is getting better each week. In addition, they have begun a journey towards faith in Christ as well!” Kyle Plew
“I would talk about the couple who decided to try again after our community event. I would also talk about having just a night to be around other couples who are focusing on their marriage makes it easier to commit to focusing on yours—you are not alone.” Heather Matarazzo
“I’ve heard from several couples that they now focus on the little things more since attending our events. Another thing I’ve heard is that couples see the value in being proactive in caring for their marriage as opposed to ignoring things and hoping the bad stuff fixes itself.” Monica Humpal
One of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the people who had survived the exile, and also about the city, Jerusalem. They said to me, “The people who survived the exile and are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of the city is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.” —Nehemiah 1:1-4
80 % of churches plateaued or declining
23% of Americans are “nones”
3 million people leave the organized church each year
59% of millennials raised in church have dropped out
To understand the change that is happening we need to understand three big ideas
Big Data: extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions
Where does Big Data come from? In the next 60 seconds:
70,017 hours watched on Netflix
$752,522 spent on Amazon
3.5 million search queries on Google
16 million text messages sent
1.8 million Snapchats created
452,000 Tweets sent
46,200 photos uploaded to Instagram
4.1 million videos viewed on YouTube
900,000 logins to Facebook
156 million emails sent
Big data can show us what we have never been able to see before.
With big data: correlation does not equal causation (but it doesn’t really matter).
Big Data shows us “what” not necessarily “why”
Big Data and Zacchaeus
First party data: he was short, climbed a tree, athletic and fit
Second party data: Male, Jewish, Tax Collector, Chief Tax Collector, Income 1%, Homeowner
Big Data: he wanted to see Jesus
Predictive Analytics help churches use data to inform their mission
People who are doing “A” have done “B”, “F”, “Z” in the past.
People who are currently doing “B”, “F”, “Z” are most likely to do “A” in the future.
Motivations give insight into the why behind the actions, behaviors, and decision making of your selected audience.
The right message to the right person at the right time…on the right device
Relationship is key to growth; Engagement is key to Relationship!
Know your city and people from Big Data and engagement