We have amazing MarriedPeople partner churches. These marriage champions are taking the MarriedPeople resources and doing things that are above and beyond anything we dreamed about.

We want you to meet them. So once a month, we’ll spotlight a different church that is impacting not only the marriages in their church, but in their community. We want you to meet people from churches of all sizes, large and small, in various types of communities, whether urban, rural or suburban, with budgets big and small and volunteers plenty or scarce. Regardless of how different these churches may be from yours, we think you’ll find some relevancy to where you are.

We gave them a list of questions to find out more about their church, their team and their ministry. This month, we would like to introduce you to Heather Matarazzo at Rolling Plains UMC in Zanesville, Ohio.

Church: Rolling Plains UMC (Zanesville, OH)
MarriedPeople champion: Heather Matarazzo

Size of church: 650-700

Describe the area you are in: Rural. We are the largest city in our area, surrounded by little town and farms. In general, we are a very poor community.

What are the biggest challenges your particular community faces? Culture of poverty, working poor, drug abuse

Tell Us About . . . You and Your Team

I am full-time on staff as the Director of Children and Family Ministries.

How did you get involved in marriage ministry? I truly felt that we couldn’t be saying we are partnering with parents and then leave them hanging when it comes to their marriages. We send take home activities to our families and expect them to teach their children while hanging onto marriages and sanity with both hands.

We have a culture of divorce in our area and families with absent fathers.

Rolling Plains is in a unique position, we have many young married people without children yet and active present young fathers willing to invest in marriages. This seemed a great way to encourage and reinforce this group and show case another way at the same time lending support to those struggling in a non-threatening way.

How many people are on your marriage ministry team (including you)? Four, but we are in the process of growing this team.

How did you recruit your team? Direct ask! With clear vision and commitment of time

What are the demographics of the couples in your church? We have young marrieds, retirees, parents with kids and couples without kids. We actually have them all in fairly even amounts, but with slightly higher numbers of parents with children due to the 22 babies born in 14 months last year.

Tell Us About . . . How You Use the MarriedPeople Resources and Strategy

What resources do you use from MarriedPeople? Larger Group Experiences, Small Group Resources (just beginning this), Date Nights and the monthly MarriedPeople E-ZINEs

How do you use them? In what settings? Events, small groups (just starting)

How do you communicate with your couples? Handouts, bulletin, verbal announcements, emails, church website, social media. Social Media is our biggest asset.

Does your marriage ministry have a social media presence? Facebook

Do you encourage/invite couples from the community to your marriage events? Yes

How do you reach couples outside your church? Social media and word of mouth. Our church also sponsors a Community Center in our community and we promote date night there. Also, our local MOPS group actively promotes our events.

What has been on really great thing that has come from using MarriedPeople? We have had the opportunity to put together multigenerational events which have included a couple married a 8 months in their early 20’s and couple married over 50 years in their 70’s and both couples marked the same answer on their feedback card- “How great to laugh together with our friends.”

Charlie_and_Beaulah_1What has been your biggest success so far? Our first date night we were able to take pictures of our couples together (My husband taught himself on YouTube for the event) and give many of them their only portrait together. I included the pictures with an invitation to our next event.  Chris_and_Amanda_jarvis

We also used the portraits on postcards and posters and web to promote the next event.

Give us an example of how you took a MarriedPeople resource and “made it your own.” We just last week had 30 couples participate in “Date Night is in the Bag” a drive thru date night. Couples drove under the awning of the church I ran out and handed them a bag with one of 6 dates in it (I didn’t even know who received which date).RollingPlains_DateNight1

Date_night_is_in_the_bagThe date were silly things they would never do together, tie dye a t-shirt for each other and talk about the silly time you have spent together, paint your spouses portrait and talk about your happiest time together so they are smiling in the portrait are a couple of the date. We gave them silly names like Rembrandt Rendezvous and asked couple to post pictures of the date on our Facebook page to encourage others to laugh together. In the bag we included everything they needed for the activity, a snack, an invitation for them to our next night out event plus an invitation to give another couple. We also included a “Bonus date” (from Married People curriculum) with instructions to go on this date before our night out next event. The response was amazing. RollingPlainsDateNight2

What has been your biggest challenge? Honestly the same challenges with any event—childcare and finances.

What’s your dream to happen next? We are planning on fully expanding into small groups next year and hoping for a sermon series kick off.

If MarriedPeople could equip you with one resource, what would it be? I would love to hear some of the out of the box ideas being used—unconventional really works well in our area.

Anything else? One more thing that I think has really helped our events take off and be embraced by our church. I targeted specific couple of influence in our church met with them and explained married people really well and cast vision for how it would impact our church and asked them to be involved not as volunteers but as ambassadors- show up at the events, talk about them before and after with other couples and on social media. This gave us by in and made it legitimate much faster than if these specific couple had just attended the events.

Thanks, Heather, and the awesome group of volunteers impacting marriages in Zanesville, Ohio!