5 Ways Marriage Ministry Builds Healthy Churches and Marriages

A church group of four couples and a leader sit on a couch in discussion. A thriving marriage ministry is the key to healthy churches and healthy marriages.
By prioritizing marriage ministry, churches can build resilient and vibrant congregations that reflect the transformative power of faith, commitment, and community. As we invest in the well-being of marriages, we nurture families and cultivate a flourishing church community as a beacon of hope and love.

Our marital journey of 39+ years started with a blind date. The next day, Laura told her mom she had met the man she was going to marry, and ten days later, I “popped the question.” Five months later, on a sunny December day, complete with Poinsettias and a horse-drawn carriage, we were married at North Avenue Church in Atlanta, Georgia. We began focusing on marriage ministry in 1996, and since then, we have discovered a surprising link between healthy churches and healthy marriages.

In the tapestry of a thriving church community, the strength of marriages forms a crucial thread. The health of families often mirrors the health of the church, making marriage ministry an essential aspect of congregational life. This article explores five dynamic ways to build and strengthen your church through marriage ministry. We address premarital counseling, marriage coaching, group activities, marriage mentoring, and marriage curriculum. Each of these foundational pillars contributes to the overall well-being of couples, fostering a resilient and vibrant church community.

Throughout this article, we will share success stories and tools to help you understand and implement a vibrant, intentional, and effective marriage ministry in your church. Building on five foundational pillars, we will guide the reader to a deep understanding of how each pillar is essential to building marriages that last across the spectrum of your congregation.

Table of contents

Premarital Counseling: Nurturing Foundations for a Lifelong Journey

In 1984, our premarital counseling consisted of one question: “Are you sure you want to get married?” Beyond that, we met with the pastor only to confirm the order of service and the catering of the reception. Today, we realize there is so much more to prepare couples for the journey of marriage properly.

The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. For couples about to embark on the sacred journey of marriage, premarital counseling lays the groundwork for a strong, enduring union. In a church setting, premarital counseling involves intentional guidance, support, and education provided by seasoned marriage experts or pastors.

Thankfully, today, most churches and or pastors require couples to go through a premarital counseling course. For those pastors who have not settled on a course that fits their style, or are looking for fresh material, check out Ready to Wed by Focus on the Family.

Premarital counseling addresses both spiritual and practical aspects of marriage. It equips couples with the tools needed to navigate the challenges in any marriage. This counseling may cover communication skills, conflict resolution, financial stewardship, and spiritual intimacy. By investing time and resources in premarital counseling, the church ensures that couples enter marriage with realistic expectations and a solid foundation. This ultimately reduces the risk of marital discord down the road.

Marriage Coaching: Personalized Guidance for Lasting Change

A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be what you’ve always known you could be.”

Tom Landry, Coach of the Dallas Cowboys, 1960 – 1989.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • We never have time to TALK anymore.
  • SEX life… What sex life?
  • Disagree?…no we FIGHT a lot!
  • It’s like we’re ROOMMATES that feed and clothe little people.
  • Why is there so much month left at the end of the MONEY?
  • We need to spend more time with GOD!

If the answer is yes, then you need a coach!

Just as athletes benefit from coaches who guide them to peak performance, couples can benefit from marriage coaching to enhance their relationship skills. Marriage coaching involves one-on-one sessions with trained relationship professionals who provide personalized guidance and support for a season.

Churches can utilize established marriage coaching programs that pair experienced coaches with those seeking guidance. These coaches offer insight, wisdom, and accountability, helping couples identify and overcome specific challenges. Whether it’s communication breakdowns, parenting struggles, or intimacy issues, marriage coaching provides a safe space for couples to address concerns and grow together.

The beauty of marriage coaching lies in its adaptability to individual needs. Rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution, coaching allows for a tailored approach. It also acknowledges the unique dynamics of each relationship. This personalized guidance contributes to the overall well-being of the couples involved, fostering a sense of connection and community within the church.

Where to Find Marriage Coaches

You can find many great coaches online, providing one-on-one coaching or online coaching classes you take at your own pace. Here’s just one testimony from a couple who took an online coaching session.

“Our 10th year of marriage is upon us, and we are still learning, still growing, and continually striving to do God’s will for us. When we were given the opportunity to sign up for coaching, we never even hesitated. After our coaching time culminated, we had many new tools to use, we had a solid goal and a plan to achieve those goals. We look forward to whatever lies ahead for our marriage.”

Nate & Gail P. – Michigan

To find out more about the coaching process Nate and Gail used, click here.

Group Activities: Fostering Community and Connection

Acts 2:42 lists four essential characteristics of the early church:

  1. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
  2. And to fellowship
  3. To the breaking of bread
  4. And to prayer

For the early church, gathering for community and eating together was as important to the LIFE of the church as teaching and prayer!

In the bustling life of a church, creating opportunities for couples to connect and build relationships is vital. Group activities offer a platform for couples to share experiences, learn from one another, and form lasting bonds. These activities can range from fun social events to more structured gatherings centered around specific topics or themes.

For example, a church may organize regular date nights, family picnics, or marriage retreats. These events provide couples with enjoyable moments and create a sense of community within the church. Building connections with other couples facing similar joys and challenges fosters a supportive network that extends beyond the church walls.

“FINALLY something in the middle!” 

These were Jacob’s words. His wife Monica stood by his side at our Healthy Marriage Healthy Church game night. It could not have been a simpler event with a profound impact. Everybody brings a favorite board game and a snack to pass.

Jacob and Monica explained that they didn’t grow up in the church. And while they had attended our church for two years now, they weren’t ready to trust being in a “small group.” Our game night was not, in his words, an “intense” small group. It also wasn’t a large event requiring huge capital both in money and people.

This “something in the middle” was the community and fellowship Jacob and Monica longed for in their church family.

Additionally, these fellowship-oriented activities can lead to structured group activities such as marriage seminars, workshops, or small group studies. This allows couples to delve deeper into important aspects of their relationships. By participating in these shared experiences, couples strengthen their marriages and contribute to the unity and vitality of the church community.

Find more activities to promote fellowship in your church here or here.

Marriage Mentoring: A Lifetime of Walking Alongside for Long-Term Growth

Our best friends are 15 years older than us! When we started doing marriage ministry in 1996, we knew someone had to hold us accountable in our marriage. So we gathered four other couples and began meeting regularly to hold each other accountable in our marriages and in honoring Christ.

We became particularly close with the oldest couple in the group, Russ and Joneen. They are 15 years older than us, and because they married young, had 19 years more marriage experience. The four of us began meeting weekly for “Therapy.” We’d share some finger foods and talk about life. Their wisdom and encouragement have molded us to this day.

Mentorship has long been recognized as a powerful tool for personal and professional development. The same principle applies to marriage. Marriage mentoring involves pairing seasoned couples with those in earlier stages of their marital journey. This intentional relationship allows for the transfer of wisdom, experience, and encouragement.

Churches can establish formalized mentoring programs that pair mentor couples with those seeking guidance. Couples build these mentoring relationships on trust, openness, and confidentiality, creating a safe space for couples to discuss challenges and celebrate victories. The mentor couples provide a real-life example of a thriving marriage, offering insights that can only come from years of experience.

Marriage mentoring is not a one-time event but a continuous, long-term, perhaps lifetime relationship. As couples navigate the different seasons of marriage, a mentor couple provides stability and guidance. This investment in mentoring contributes to the church’s overall health, as strong marriages serve as a testament to the transformative power of faith and commitment.

Let Focus on the Family help you develop a quality marriage mentoring program through its Marriage 911 and Marriage Champions programs.

Marriage Curriculum: Empowering Couples Through Education

For our 10th anniversary, we decided to do two things:

  1. Go to New York City for a long weekend
  2. Read the “hottest” book on the planet, Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages

The test convinced me that “Physical Touch” was my primary love language!

Fast forward ten years, and our marriage small group decided to go through the Love Languages book together. After much honest conversation and a couple of friends calling me out, I realized my real love languages were Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service. It just so happened I REALLY liked the intimate part of marriage.

Walking through that curriculum with trusted friends revolutionized our marriage as we were able to focus on and develop positive habits in our relationship.

Implementing a Marriage Curriculum

Knowledge is a powerful tool in any endeavor, and marriage is no exception. Implementing a marriage curriculum within the church provides couples with structured and intentional education on various aspects of married life. This can include communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, and spiritual growth.

Churches can offer marriage curriculum through classes, workshops, or study groups. You can develop these resources in-house or source them from reputable marriage education programs. The goal is to provide couples with practical tools and biblical principles that empower them to navigate the complexities of marriage with grace and resilience.

Marriage curriculum is not limited to couples in crisis; it is a proactive measure to strengthen all marriages within the church community. By offering ongoing educational opportunities, the church invests in the growth and flourishing of individual marriages, thereby contributing to the overall health of the congregation. Find out more here.

In the intricate tapestry of a thriving church community, the strength of marriages forms a foundational thread. By prioritizing marriage ministry, churches can build resilient and vibrant congregations that reflect the transformative power of faith, commitment, and community.

From premarital counseling to marriage coaching, group activities, marriage mentoring, and marriage curriculum, these foundational pillars contribute to the holistic development of couples and the church’s overall health. As we invest in the well-being of marriages, we nurture families and cultivate a flourishing church community as a beacon of hope and love.

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