Marriages thrive best in a community where couples affirm and strengthen each other.
As a champion for strong marriages, it saddens me to see how little many churches seem to be doing for the marriages in their midst. Most churches will have some form of premarital counseling, and some have divorce recovery support groups, but what about all those marriages in between infancy and death, the two ends of the marriage spectrum? What is being done for the vast majority of “average” couples? The answer is usually not much.
In the typical church you will always find a children’s ministry and usually a women’s and singles’ ministry, with men’s ministries growing in popularity. I have nothing against any of these. But where are the ministries specifically for married couples. I’ve seen a few shining examples, but the truth is there is a big lack in this critically important area.
Support Makes a Difference
According to a 2011 study by the National Marriage Project, husbands and wives with high levels of support from family and friends are almost 50% more likely to be very happy in their marriages. Such support is one of the top five predictors of marital quality and stability. Here is a chart from that study.
Bottom line: a supportive community matters for marriages.
What Can You Do?
Maybe you can’t solve all the marriage problems in your community, but you can make a difference in the lives of a few couples around you. Here are a few ideas for low-effort ways to start building a marriage-positive culture.
- Get together informally with some couples whose marriages you admire. Ask other couples to join in. Let it grow organically.
- Set up a date-night babysitting exchange for couples with young kids so you can take turns watching each others’ kids and give couples much-needed alone time.
- Ask your church to plan a marriage-building retreat into next year’s calendar and budget. (Not so low effort: offer to coordinate or assist with the event.)
- Set up a marriage-related Facebook page where you can post helpful blog posts and other resources on marriage. Invite all your married friends to join the group.
- Create a couples’ prayer partner network among friends so you can exchange prayer requests and check in on each other regularly.
- Start a marriage book-club group. Get together with a few other couples to discuss a marriage-related book. See the suggested materials list below.
- Talk to your pastor about starting a church sponsored marriage small group in your church. (Not so low effort: offer to facilitate the group. To lessen the stress, ask two or three other couples to co-lead with you.) We just launched a monthly group at our church and are loving it! The materials list below can help with this one as well.
Pray about what God might call you to do to help build a community of strong marriages. Don’t be afraid to start small and just see where it leads. Anything you do to encourage other couples is going to be a tremendous blessing to them.
I’d love to hear what is your church doing for marriages these days. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Leave a comment and let me know.
Marriage Group Resource List
For five years, Jenni and I have led a 13-week marriage small group based on a curriculum we wrote. I’m working on getting that ready to publish, so look for that announcement sometime this year. Meanwhile, I asked some of my CMBA (Christian Marriage Bloggers’ Association) friends to share with me the marriage resources they have used for small group discussion. Here they are, in no particular order (links are Amazon Affiliate links, and if you choose to purchase through these links, you’ll be supporting this ministry).
- His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, Jr. (Participants Guide, DVD, paperback book, Hardcover, Kindle book)
- What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp (DVD, Paperback, Kindle)
- Love and Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs (Book + Workbook, Workbook only, Hardcover book, Paperback, Kindle)
- Cherish by Gary Thomas (DVD, Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle)
- Grace Filled Marriage by Tim Kimmel (Kindle, Paperback)
- The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott (Paperback, Study Guide) and The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace (Paperback, Study Guide)
Note: I have read and can personally endorse 1, 3, and 5. The others have the endorsement of people I trust.