For several years, Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs has offered regular “respite” events for families of children with special needs. Katie Garvert has led this ministry with the mindset that special needs ministry is a part of a holistic family ministry.

As the special needs ministry grew, the church added the respite piece of programming. The purpose of the respite was not only to provide parents a break, but to provide spouses the opportunity to reconnect through time together alone.

Encouraging Couples to Date

About a year ago, Katie noticed that mothers who once showed up at respite check-in with their husbands were arriving without them. Instead of enjoying a date night, parents were doing their own thing, like running errands, while their children were in the church’s care.

As a mother herself, Katie recognized the value of a peaceful shopping trip, but was concerned parents weren’t taking the opportunity to refuel their marriage. Even some of those couples who did go on a date night were returning to pick up their kids more sad or tense than before.

Fresh off these observations, Katie felt burdened to work more proactively to help the marriage inside the family with special needs. Katie wanted to give these parents something that would keep them focused on each other—a tool that would facilitate constructive and encouraging conversation.

To that end, Woodmen Valley Chapel started using the Married People Date Nights.

Married People Date Nights

As parents dropped off their children, they received a 8.5 x 11 printed document with step-by-step date instructions. They were told to spend the evening following the instructions together.

Katie said the response was amazing. Couples were refreshed. Their enthusiasm rejuvenated the church’s approach to helping marriages. Parents were going on dates instead of just running independent errands. Spouses were arriving at pick-up obviously happy and refreshed.

Katie said, “We realized these parents had forgotten how to connect. They were too tired and overwhelmed to plan a date for themselves. They didn’t even know what to talk about aside from managing life details, usually related to the complex needs of their children. Many of these spouses had forgotten how to laugh.

Among many things, these date nights gave our couples fun conversation starters. For the first time, husbands and wives were focused on each other. We saw this in their eyes and attitude when they arrived to pick up their children. I honestly had no idea that adding this simple tool would have such a huge impact on the families and on our entire ministry.”

A Resource For Every Couple

It stands to reason that parents of children with special needs may carry a heavier burden than most parents. However, all married couples know what it’s like to be too busy and overly stressed.

Every couple—both inside and outside of your church—could benefit from connecting in new and creative ways. All marriages benefit from making memories that will enhance their relationship. Going out on a great date is just one way to do that.

Not only that, but providing these dates is something every church leader can do, too.

Every year, church leaders like you have taken these date night resources and packaged them in fun and creative ways. You can see some examples of how on this blog post or in our private Facebook group. This is the easiest step you can take to start improving marriages at your church.

This post was adapted from the book, Married People, How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last, by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields.