At the time of the writing of this article I have been married almost thirty years and have functioned as a senior pastor for almost 26 years. Through all this I have come to the conclusion that an effective marriage ministry is absolutely essential for every church to succeed in its vision and purpose. The following are reasons why.

I. Since churches are families of families strong marriages are the foundation of the local church

a. Every local church is really a network of numerous families. Hence, the church is a macro expression of the micro nuclear family.

b. Consequently, the macro health of the church is significantly dependent upon the micro health of each married couple that comprises a local church.

c. The stronger the marriages are in a local church the more significant commitments you will get from the husbands, wives, and children when it comes to volunteering time for lay ministry because they will have less personal and emotional distractions.

d. The stronger the marriages the more finances will come forth because families give more to those who invest in their health. Also, strong marriages mitigate against the high cost and financial ruin that accompanies divorce.

II. Strong marriages produce emotionally stable youth that ensure the future health of the church

a. Statistics prove that the children of fathers and mothers committed together in traditional marriage have greater emotional, physical, financial and spiritual health.

b. It is much harder to disciple a young person from a fragmented family because they don’t have a model for spiritual authority which in turn negatively affects their social functionality and local church commitment.

c. Youth from divorced families are more prone to replicate the sins of their parents and experience divorce and fragmentation when they get married and have their own families, thus perpetuating the cycles of poverty and social dysfunction that accompany such familial trauma.

III. Strong marriages release the fullness of God’s image in the church

a. Genesis 1:27 teaches us that God made both male and female in His image.

b. Consequently, this passage implies that it takes both a male and female working together to demonstrate a more complete expression of who God is in a family and society.

c. The most powerful and significant expression of male-female unity is the one flesh relationship experienced in marriage.

d. Married couples in ministry properly utilized have the potential to express the image and character of God more completely than just a man or a woman heading up or serving in a ministry.

IV. Strong marriages model the gospel to our community

a. It is a great witness for the un-churched when they see a low divorce rate in a community church.

b. A church like this can then become a haven for troubled marriages in the community.

c. Ephesians 5:22-32 teaches that the covenant of marriage symbolizes the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to save humanity from our sins, so it can become a platform from which to preach the gospel.

V. Strong marriages teach biblical stewardship in every aspect of life

a. Marriage and raising children are both the greatest privilege and most demanding things most people will ever attempt to do.

b. People usually do not experience the full essence of self-sacrifice, agape love, and commitment until they get married.

c. If we fail to prioritize and provide for our families the Bible says we are worse than infidels (1 Timothy 5:8).

d. Consequently, marriage is the greatest training ground for nurturing mature, well-rounded Christians and even world-class leaders for generations to come!

Practical marriage enrichment strategies:

1. Plan at least one annual marriage enrichment event

a. It is amazing that most churches do not have even one annual event to edify married couples.

b. Just starting off by planning an annual seminar or marriage retreat will go a long way towards preventing divorce and strengthening marriages.

2. Have a continual program for engaged, troubled, and strong marriages

a. A leadership couple in our local church developed an eight-week curriculum for a ministry in our church called “Marriage Builders” that we utilize for engaged couples, marriages in trouble, or for couples who want to improve their relationship.

b. We are not aware of one divorce in over 25 years of our church’s existence among our members and committed attendees. (Of course, I am sure that a small handful have fallen away, left our church and divorced.)

c. Having a regular program or support group creates a culture of marriage enrichment and commitment in the local church context.

d. Not doing anything for marriages creates a culture that acquiesces to the cultural diminution of marriage.

e. Couples need a forum in which they hear what other couples are going through and also to keep open the lines of communication between themselves as husband and wife.

f. Couples need a forum in which sensitive and/or practical topics are unpacked objectively by an outsider who can speak truth to them without worrying about excessive baggage and issues that inhibit husbands and wives from speaking about such things.

3. Develop mentor couples to empower the laity and relieve the load of the pastoral staff

a. Merely having a support group or marriage counseling is not enough.

b. The ultimate goal of all marriage ministry should be to equip and produce competent (but not perfect) couples that can coach and/or mentor other couples dealing with the same issues they overcame in their marriages. (For example: step-family issues, interracial issues, special needs children issues, second marriage issues, financial issues, abuse issues, etc.)

c. Each mentor couple will specialize in ministering to another couple according to compatibility regarding the issues stated above.

d. Mentor couples drastically reduce the counseling workload of the pastoral staff which will release them to focus on other important issues.

e. Producing mentor couples fulfills the mandate in Ephesians 4:12 which teaches the church to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

4. Have parent empowerment sessions to aid the couples with children

a. The pressures related to raising children can be the most destabilizing factor for married couples.

b. Regular sessions that empower good parenting enable parents to learn from trained experts in this field and also to learn from one another. This can also result in parents supporting one another with child care, prayer, and encouragement.

c. Parent empowerment sessions take away another major stress factor that often divides instead of unites marred couples.

d. Our church partners with a professional group of Christian psychologists who produce videos that a church facilitator can show and utilize for open discussion. (Thus, we don’t need a parenting expert on site to run this program.)

e. We also do parenting solutions sessions once per month for people in our community that are not members of our church.

5. Have a focus survey given to all engaged couples

a. Marriage Savers utilizes a focus survey that is so effective that an average of 25% of all engaged couples cancel their wedding plans because they see their incompatibility based on salient questions the survey asks.

b. Doing this presents a grid that can prevent marriages that will end in divorce, thus lowering the divorce rate.

6. Require a marriage counseling process before the church agrees to marry anyone

a. In our local church we generally require all engaged couples to take our eight week marriage builders sessions before we agree to marry them.

b. Marriages without true preparation have less of a chance of lasting.

c. Community marriage covenants always include this point as part of lowering the divorce rate in their region.

7. Stand up for biblical marriage in your state

a. All pastors and leaders need to stand up for traditional marriage and oppose alternate forms of marriage because strong marriage commitments require cultural cooperation.

b. The erosion of the definition of marriage will also erode what is taught as the norm in public schools, universities, and health care. We need to avoid what happened when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of abortion with Roe vs. Wade, when most of the country was against abortion and the change in law resulted in more than one million abortions per year since 1973 to the present!

c. The redefinition of marriage will lower the cultural respect for traditional marriage resulting in the lowering of the marriage rate and the acceleration of the co-habitation rate among unmarried couples.

d. All of the above will significantly hurt the standard of marriage in all our local churches nationally.

8. Teach on courtship and dating in local church youth groups

a. This will help prevent unwanted pregnancies and unhealthy relationships which can stop the problem before it even arises.

b. Preparation for marriage really starts when people are children through observing their parents’ marriage model and by how they conduct themselves sexually when dating as teenagers.

c. Included in these teaching sessions should also be: the emotional and physical consequences of having sex outside of marriage including STDs, abortions, and experiencing rejection and emotional trauma; and choosing a marriage partner they are not compatible with which could wreak havoc on them for the rest of their lives!

Joseph Mattera