Stable, strong families make stable, strong churches.
Healthy Christian marriages make strong families.
This means that as churches we should be doing everything we can to strengthen marriages in our congregation.
In the United States, 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. Marriage isn’t easy. God created marriage, but it’s hard bringing two selfish wills together to become one. It means a whole lot of dying to self and putting others first. In his book “Sacred Marriage,” Gary Thomas poses this question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”
This seems counterintuitive and most certainly counter-cultural! We’re sold the lie daily that our main goal in life is to be happy. That leads to heartache and emptiness. However, pressing through to realize the joy and fulfillment that can be found in pursuing holiness in marriage doesn’t come naturally.
The couples in our congregations need leading and discipling to discover this path. It is most certainly the narrow path in our current culture.
Many churches offer discipleship classes for married couples. Sometimes couples may not find a weekly time for a small group, so many churches choose to hold yearly marriage conferences.
This can be a large undertaking, but the investment in a weekend focused on building into and strengthening Christian marriages is worth the time and effort.
If your church decides to make this investment in the marriages in your congregation, here are a few things to remember as you plan:
- Consider what’s going on in your community as you set a date. You can do a one-day event or a Friday evening and Saturday weekend. Whatever you choose, just check to see what other large events are going on in your community that same weekend. Asking people to choose your event over another popular one in your city may be setting yourself up for low attendance.
- Prayerfully choose your main speaker. Some churches budget to invite a popular or well-known speaker, but that isn’t necessary for a successful event. You can also invite a seasoned, godly couple who communicate well and have a passion to share and be transparent. Couples need to hear real-life experiences, mistakes, and victories from couples who have successfully not just stayed married but flourished.
- If at all possible, offer childcare. This is the #1 obstacle to many couples attending. They may be able to set aside the weekend, but they can’t find childcare, even though they desperately need the conference. If you can get volunteers in your children’s ministry to commit to serve these families by caring for their children during the sessions, you will certainly increase your attendance. And possibly save Christian marriages.
- Make attending the conference affordable. Most churches would love to have the budget to hold the entire conference free of charge, but most just can’t. However, carefully planning and budgeting so you only ask for a minimal fee, would be wise. If it costs a lot, most families, especially if they are struggling, are going to use that as an excuse to not attend. So plan ahead, hold fundraisers if necessary, ask people to fund scholarships, and make sure it’s affordable.
- Make sure you have follow-up in place. Have some small groups for married couples scheduled and in place so couples who attend the conference can immediately join one. Have the names and information for Christian counselors available at the conference for couples who decide they want to continue to work on their marriage in this way. Plan to send out communication after the conference inviting the couples who attended back to your church for your next sermon series. And it would even be a good idea to plan an upcoming series on something that builds on what was presented at the conference.
Hosting a marriage conference at your church may sound like a daunting task, but if you look ahead at the life change that could potentially take place, it’s worth it. Couples need support, and they need to know they aren’t alone. There’s comfort and strength in knowing that their church family stands with them and is willing to invest in their marriage. They need to see that the church believes their marriage is worth fighting for!