Reaching People Outside of the Church
When I was creating MarriedLife Live events at North Point Church, I knew whatever we created had to be relevant to all audiences.
I thought we would primarily reach the core of our church, aka committed Christians. And if they invited a few non-Christians, then we were certain they would have a great experience.
After all, the environment was always welcoming, guy-friendly, fun and had one go and doone takeaway item that everyone could go and do. While we hoped those outside our church would attend, we didn’t have a clue so many would.
Almost immediately, we received emails from people who brought their neighbors, friends and family to MarriedLife Live events. One person wrote: “Thank you for creating such a great night to invite our neighbors. It was much easier to invite them to a marriage thing on Saturday night, than Sunday morning church.”
Creating Ministry Evalgelists
I heard this same sort of thing over and over.
One of the pastors told me he almost invited his neighbor to MarriedLife Live. He changed his mind because this neighbor was too much of a man’s man. Another neighbor invited that man’s man. Not only did the neighbor attend, he became known in the neighborhood as the MarriedLife Live evangelist.
One night after the event, I talked to a pastor from a nearby church. He said, ”Every time you guys have an event, I bring a bus load of people. It’s the single greatest entry point into our church.”
Yes, this struck me as odd, but it added to the conclusion:
You Don’t Have to Love Jesus to Want Your Marriage to Work
All these non-Christians and non-church goers were showing up. Just like believers in Christ, when your marriage isn’t working, nothing is working. The attendees were teaching me that marriage is a great bridge from the world into the church.
Let’s be honest—the church needs some bridges. Those outside the church so often see Christians and churches as judgmental and different than real people.
If we can get them to the church, and ultimately to Jesus, by pouring into their marriages, then pour away.
How To Create Events That Attract People
While these one-night events are great for believers and non-Christians alike, they are often cost and labor intensive.
That’s why every year, as a part of our Strategy Pack, we create four new larger group experiences that are plug and play. Why? Because we know that one of the greatest ways to get non-Christians in your church is to pour into their marriages. There has to be an entry point that is a safe way to start that process.
Nothing is better at that, than one-night events. Go ahead and try it. If you do the first event right, chances are you just might reach a family you would not have reached otherwise.
When we at MarriedPeople share about the MarriedPeople strategy, we talk about three different environments:
- Large Group Experiences
- Small Groups Experiences
- Experiences for Individual Couples
Large Group Experiences Take Work
We get no push-backs on #2 and #3, but Larger Group Experiences seem to push negative buttons for some leaders. I totally understand why—Large Group Experiences can be time and labor intensive.
However, I know that Large Group Experiences produces a dynamic that make the time and effort worth it, especially if they are intentionally designed.
Whether your Larger Group Experiences for married couples happen as one-night events (1-2 hour program), weekend retreats or Sunday services, here are seven reasons we think make Larger Group Experiences worth it.
What Makes Large Group Experiences Worth It
- Help to elevate marriage
- Help normalize struggle and hope
- Provide an opportunity to promote laughter and fun
- Make it easier to be man-friendly
- Create a platform for a relevant message
- Give you opportunities to suggest next steps
- Are great for outreach
The Impact Large Group Experiences Have
At a marriage event at our church, the speaker encouraged couples to take divorce off the table as an option. A month after an event, a woman emailed us explaining she was in her second marriage. Until recently, she had decided not to change her last name just in case something happened.
She had also threatened her husband with divorce whenever they had a serious argument. To prove to her husband she was taking divorce off the table, she had her name legally changed. Do you think that meant something to her husband? Without question.
How We Can Help
We know you are busy, so we have created resources to help you create Larger Group Experiences. Because we are very passionate that Larger Group Experiences are really worth it! Need help creating Larger Group Experiences? Click the link!
When I started marriage ministry in the local church in 2001, I felt alone. As I looked across the country, I saw very few churches that had a holistic approach to marriage, or any approach for that matter.
I am encouraged with the number of churches leaders who are going after it. Some have a plan. Others ask: How do I get started? For the latter group, this post is for you.
1. Get Buy-In From Senior Leadership
Let’s start with the obvious. You need to recognize where the power for change (or at least powerful influence) lies: senior leadership. Depending on your church structure, this could be anyone from the senior pastor, the executive pastor, the person overseeing family ministry or the head of elders to the janitor.
The senior pastor may not supervise you directly. But we encourage you to make sure you’ve got buy-in from the ministry leader before beginning this ministry. If the senior pastor isn’t supportive of it, you will really struggle to implement a marriage strategy.
2. Identify the Point Person
This person needs to be a self-starter who can take an idea and run with it. He or she needs to be comfortable working with other leaders and have the ability to recruit others for help.
There’s no one type of personality that fits for all situations. We’ve seen both extroverts and introverts win in this role. But the common characteristic of a good leader is one who has the ability to make things happen on his or her own.
If he or she has to wait for you before making decisions and moving forward, this process will stall out and drive you crazy.
3. Cast Vision with a Core Team of Leaders
Here’s a leadership truth you can bank on: Everyone wants to be invited to something. Invite people to join you in leadership. What’s better than helping marriages? Invite people onto this roller coaster called marriage ministryits guaranteed to be a wild ride.
One suggestion is to choose heart over skills, always. We’d rather teach a good-hearted person the needed skills, than try to teach a skilled person to have a heart.
4. Pause to Pray
We assume you’ve been praying during this entire process. We also know it’s easy for ambitious leaders to move too fast. We like ideas and movement and want to see both appear quickly.
We get it and appreciate your enthusiasm. But, slow down. Breathe. Take time to pray and talk to Jesus about your ambitious dreams and desires.
We suggest talking to God before, during, and after. Always seek the wisdom that He promises to provide. Jesus is God, and even He waited 30 years before starting His ministry. And what was one of His first leadership decisions? He went into the wilderness to fast and pray.
5. Gather For the All-In Planning Session
We suggest you plan some extended time to reconnect with the key leaders on your marriage team. Stack hands on moving forward.
Affirm those who return to this all-in meeting. Thank God for the team that is going to serve marriages in and outside of your church.
6. Determine Phase 1 Strategy
If you’re planning on using the MarriedPeople Strategy, you can check it out at www.marriedpeople.org. This will help you determine the environments you want to create and the pace at which you may wish to implement them.
If you are not using the MarriedPeople Strategy, you’ll have to determine your next steps. Whichever direction you choose, please know that we will be cheering you on. We’re happy to help you as well as to learn from you. Your approach may be just as good or better than ours.
7. Determine Core Content
What are the few, most important principles or teachings you want your church to embrace about marriage? There are many ways to say the same thing; our content, the Core 4 Habits, aren’t your only option.
Remember an important principle: if you teach less, people may actually learn more. Here are some questions that may serve as warning signs.
As you look at content, ask yourself:
- Does the material contain too much for people to absorb?
- Is it male friendly?
- Will it require a dictionary to get through it? Is it too clinical or complicated?
- Is it too churchy? Or filled with words and terms that non-church people won’t recognize?
8. Create the Calendar
Securing dates in advance is a must for an effective marriage strategy. People are so busy that if they haven’t blocked events on their calendars in advance, your efforts will result in an empty room. Be advised: there are no perfect days.
There is always going to be something that’s competing for your suggested event. Be wise. At the end of the day, make sure your leaders will all be there. Put it on the calendar.
9. Get the Word Out
Marketing and messaging are crucial to the ministrys attendance and success. Perhaps that is even truer for marriage ministry because most couples are so busy they have to be picky and selective about how they spend their time just for survival.
The church is a noisy place with many different ministries trying to make themselves heard.
10. Be on the Look Out For Leaders
From day one, youll need to be on the lookout for other leaders to come alongside you and develop your team. Remember: this ministry is bigger than you. Everything rises and falls on the health of leadership.
Surround yourself with the strengths of others. Look for people who will make your weaknesses seem irrelevant.
11. Get Feedback
Don’t take criticism too personally or praise too seriously. One person will say the music was awesome. Someone else will complain that it was too loud and secular. As a leader, you’re going to have to be discerning when it comes to peoples input. Seek Jesus for wisdom to make the right changes.
Gather feedback to inform and help guide you; don’t let it defeat you. Prepare feedback cards or use easy online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey. Good leaders debrief and evaluate to see what’s working and what’s not.
Our prayer is that these steps are helpful to you. You should have some ideas of how to begin doing some amazing things in the lives of the couples in and around your church.
One Sunday, my pastor, Andy Stanley, gave an amazing message on giving called, An Ounce of Prevention.
He said there are two types of giving:
- Intervention giving is emotional and the results are measurable.
- Prevention giving is neither. But it is far superior.
He makes the point that intervention giving is important. In fact, our raises millions to immediately help charities in the Atlanta area every December. They also pledged 15,000 hours of volunteer service to help these charities. What an amazing example of intervention giving.
But then, in what I thought was an amazingly insightful and brave leadership move, he said, But prevention giving is far superior to intervention giving. He gave many examples of why this is true, but of course my favorite was his example of marriage ministry.
When a church has a preventive approach to marriage, the problem is that they never know what they have prevented, so they don’t have emotional stories to tell. When a church creates a tool or sets up a relationship to save a marriage, it often results in a measurable and sensational story; which is great. We will not know until heaven what good marriages were made great, what divorces were prevented, and everything in between. But there is no argument that preventing a couple from crisis is far superior to crisis intervention.
Many churches have an intervention approach to helping marriages. Why? I think the stories of divorce and pain have left many of them shell-shocked, fighting in triage mode. But we talk to church leaders every day who get that a prevention approach is far superior to an intervention approach. And while there may be very few church leaders paid to solely focus on marriage ministry, there are children, student, family and lay leaders who are coming out of the woodwork asking questions and giving answers for marriage that fall under the preventive category.
I think these questions and answers are leading to stories that aren’t as sensational, but they are far superior.
Perhaps a story of a stepfamily of five staying together instead of splitting once again.
Maybe a boy will have his dad at home until he goes to college instead of seeing him every other weekend.
Maybe a couple comes to Christ because a neighbor invited them to a marriage thing at church.
Maybe many marriages that would have been dull and lifeless are full of laughter and life.
Why? Because the church taught them how to connect.
As the new school year starts, what are some fresh, preventive, and strategic moves your church can make to create stories that may never be told?
by Ted Lowe
Beth stood at the kitchen window as she saw Blake drive away for the last time before their divorce was to be complete. Once his car was out of view, she hit her knees and sobbed. The kids would be home from school any minute, she had better get herself together.
Blake’s hands were shaking and he was out of breath so he pulled into the neighborhood clubhouse. He was surprised at his response. After all, this was the best thing for everyone, especially the kids, right?
Just then, the school bus turned into the neighborhood next to the clubhouse. Parents were waiting for their kids. But he wasn’t. His daughters got off the bus and headed to his car, despite the fact that they were confused to meet him there on a Thursday.
Beth looked out the window and saw Blake driving back up the driveway and was very confused to see the girls in his car.
Blake stopped the car, wondering if he should make a quick exit or allow the girls to get settled in first.
Paralyzed by the sight, Beth wondered why Blake had the girls. Is he saying goodbye? He had better not; they had decided that Saturday at lunch was the best time. What if he . . . . has he changed his mind? That’s not possible. They were both certain. Right?
The girls hopped out of Blake’s car. Jenny, the spitting image of Beth, turned and said, “Get out, Daddy!” Sara was already on her way inside the house. She had been distant for months. He and Beth both agreed she knew something was up.
”Hi baby, how was your day?” Beth asked Sara as she breezed by. ”Fine,” Sara said, continuing without pause to her room.
Then firecracker Jenny came barreling in. ”Mommy, why did Daddy meet us at the bus?” she asked. ”Jake’s mom always meets us on Thursdays.” Before getting an answer, she ran back outside to see what was keeping her dad.
Blake, still frozen and not knowing what to do, watched as Jenny runs toward the car, shouting: ”Daddy, what are you doing? Get out. Let’s play. Jump with me on the trampoline.”
“No, Jenny. I have to go,” he said.
“Go where?” she asked.
“Honey, I . . . have . . . I have to work and I need to . . .” his voice trailed off. Her face went from exuberant to flat in a millisecond. What had appeared to be a great surprise on a random Thursday was now just a big disappointment.
“Come on, Jenny,” Beth said, walking outside. ”Come inside. Dad needs to go.”
Seeing Beth and Jenny standing there together, looking just alike, killed him. ”Beth, can we talk for just a minute?” Blake asked before thinking.
“Blake, don’t you need to get back to work?” Beth said.
“Yes, but it will only take a minute,” he said. ”Jenny, can you give me and your mom just a few minutes?” Jenny kicked the ground and ran inside.
Then Blake said . . .
Attention anyone passionate about marriage: What do you want Blake to say?
What do you want Beth to say?
How does your heart long for this story to end, or at least re-begin?
I’m a dreamer. Every day, moms and dads are driving away for the last time, and families are dividing up permanently. I believe the Church’s role is to change those stories, restore those stories. I beg of you, start the ball rolling at your church. Start leveraging your church to help marriages.
I know you have a lot on your plate, but please make room for the Beths, Blakes, Saras and Jennys that surround your church.