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3 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage Ministry

3 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage Ministry

When I first got hired at my church to help married couples, I was a little overwhelmed. There are a lot smarter people than me, a lot more skilled individuals who could be occupying my office right now. The thing is, God brought me here. That means I’m responsible to do the best I can with the resources I have.

Here are the things I’ve learned that have helped me grow in my role:

1. Help Parents Become Their Kids’ Heroes

Whether it’s sending Parent Cues by email or having a hardcopy of GodTime Cards to hand out to parents as they leave on Sunday morning, I’ve bought into the idea that kids are going to spend the rest of their lives with their parents. Parents mostly want to do a good job with their kids.

They don’t need to hear “just trust God more,” they need to hear: “If you’ll take 5-10 minutes to talk through these questions with your kids, it’ll help you really connect with them.” If I’m not specific, I’m wasting my time.

2. Help Husbands & Wives Learn Communication Skills

It seems like everybody texts but nobody talks anymore. I need to give husbands and wives specific instructions on how to carry on conversations.

If physical proximity and emotional openness are the keys to intimacy, I may need to physically show them how to face each other, make good eye contact, hold hands, express themselves and ask for what they want with the right tone of voice.

3. Connect with Others Working with Married Couples

I’m not always going to have the best answers, so why not reach out to other churches, counselors, and non-profits who are focusing on the area of marriage? Read an article or book. Call somebody. Who knows? I might be able to help them!

What are you learning so far? What’s helping you build stronger marriages?

Kenn Mann is the Minister to Young Marrieds at First Baptist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The Myth of More

The Myth of More

Over the past twelve years, I’ve served on staff at three different churches. More times than I can count, I have said the words, “If I only had more ____________, I would be able to make a greater impact in my area of ministry.”

My fill in the blank has been:

  • more time
  • more money
  • more help
  • more staff
  • more support
  • more publicity
  • more experience
  • more people showing up
  • more room at the church

Every time I made that statement I really believed that was the answer to my struggles.

More Is an Excuse

It certainly couldn’t be my lack of knowledge, leadership or direction. It had to be something outside of my control (insert sarcastic eye roll). Are you with me so far? Have you found yourself in a similar position? Have you been telling yourself that same thing this week?

What I’ve learned is that my complaints were more revealing of my capacity issues as a leader than they were resource issues.

As my pastor said in a recent sermon, “if you’re complaining about your current position it usually means you’ve reached your capacity and need to grow in some area.” Now that we all feel bad about our leadership, let’s look at some solutions.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

The first two churches I served with averaged less than 500 attendees on the weekend. My current position is with a church that averages 7,500.

While at the smaller churches, I used to tell myself, “I could really do some serious ministry if I had the resources, space and staff help that those guys at the big churches have.” Let me report my findings now that I’m at a bigger church.

On paper, I currently lead our couples ministry and counseling ministry. I share a small portion of the weekend teaching responsibilities. I help oversee our staff accountability and development. Yet, I have zero paid staff assistance in any area of ministry. That means all the ministry that occurs in the areas I lead is accomplished through volunteers.

I’ve realized an important truth in my current role—God will give you all the resources you need to accomplish what He has given you to do. I know that we all agree with that statement intellectually. But do we really believe it at the heart level?

If I’m not dedicated to that belief, not much would get done in the ministries I serve. Right now, there are people in your church who would love to put their gifts and passions to work. They’re ready to help you accomplish the vision God has given you for your ministry area.

Invest In People

Whether you are at a large church of thousands or a church of fifty, you can begin moving towards the grander vision you have for ministry today. The philosophy is simple—grow people and they will turn into teams. Grow teams and they will turn into ministries.

Two years ago, I met a woman at church and invited her and her husband to our small group. After getting to know the two of them, I saw she had a passion for divorced couples. She had experienced divorce herself and had attended a class at a previous church for divorcees.

This began a discussion about beginning a Divorce/Separation Care class at our church. I spent some time dreaming with her about what that might look like and also added a couple other people to the discussion that had an interest. We developed a vision, pulled together an eight-week curriculum and launched a ministry six months later.

Did you see how that worked? By investing into one person, we were able to build a team and from that team came a thriving ministry.

Teams Lead to Ministries

The next time you begin to believe the Myth of More, remind yourself to look around and ask God who He has placed in your life. Then, invite them to spend some time with you and see how you can help them grow personally and spiritually.

Do this with a few individuals and next thing you know, you will have a small team. If you intentionally and consistently meet with that team to grow and shape them, you’ll be off and running with that ministry idea that has been on your heart.

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” —Ephesians 4:11-12

Grow people. People become teams. Grow teams. Teams become ministries.

Eric Wooten is the Pastor of Family Ministries & Counseling at One Community Church in Plano, Texas.

11 Steps to Start a Marriage Ministry the Right Way

11 Steps to Start a Marriage Ministry the Right Way

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 ministry—it’s 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 ministry’s 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, you’ll 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 people’s 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.

4 Steps to Developing Volunteers into Leaders

4 Steps to Developing Volunteers into Leaders

“A noble leader answers not to the trumpet calls of self promotion, but to the hushed whispers of necessity.” —Mollie Marti

I remember way back when I thought I could do it all myself. Sure, there was a ton of work leading my first children’s’ ministry. We had about 75 kids and 20 volunteers. I was busy but it was manageable.

When we grew to 100 kids and still only had 20 volunteers I felt pretty stretched. It was then that I learned that if I wanted to lead a successful and growing ministry to children and their families, I had to have a strong volunteer team that was equipped and encouraged to lead.

God wants us to be noble leaders. Like the quote says above, the nobility of true leadership does not include self-promotion. As leaders in the church, we are to constantly be giving away the most basic thing that we possess: our leadership platform.

When a leader encourages and equips their volunteer team to lead in their place, amazing things can happen. How do you inspire passion and drive in your team so that they pick up the torch and lead the charge?

Lead From Vision

The biggest thing you can do to build leaders on your team is to give them the vision. Scripture says that where there is no vision the people perish. That means where there is vision the people will flourish.

Have Values The Team Remembers

If you have a million values and they are long and wordy I can guarantee you that your team won’t use them to grow in their volunteer role.

If your volunteers aren’’t using your values to grow, then they aren’’t developing into leaders. Make them simple and live by them!

The values in my ministry are Fun, Learning, Relationships, and Innovation.

Give Them The Good Stuff

If you don’’t give your volunteers the good opportunities they will never grow as leaders.

Give them the microphone. Let them lead the big event. Let them in on navigational discussions. When volunteers get good opportunities to lead they will lead!

Don’’t Micromanage, Ever

Micromanaging is never good. Leaders that micromanage lead from a place of weakness and insecurity. Let your volunteers soar. It is OK if your fingerprint isn’’t on it.

When your volunteers are encouraged and equipped to lead you will have opportunities to grow your ministry way farther than ever before. Take the plunge! Develop those volunteers!

Joe McAlpine has been in ministry for over a decade, serving in staff leadership at churches ranging in attendance from 500 to 7,000. In 2015, Joe joined the team at Slingshot Group and works toward helping great churches connect with great teams. Joe has been happily married to his wife Christy for longer than he can remember and has four children, Elijah, Selah, David, and Elisabeth. In his spare time, you can find him hanging with the family and playing his ukulele.

Reposted with permission from Orange Leaders.

3 Lessons in Marriage Ministry I Learned the Hard Way

3 Lessons in Marriage Ministry I Learned the Hard Way

I’ve served in full-time marriage ministry at a local church for over a decade. In my role, I have the privilege of helping to prepare couples for marriage, to help establish them as newlyweds and to enrich and help restore married couples.

No one grows up thinking they want to be a marriage pastor. Yet, most days I wake up believing I’’m living the dream.

However, let’’s be real. Like most jobs and ministry opportunities, some days the dream is more like a nightmare. I want to share three things about marriage ministry I learned the hard way, in hopes that you won’t have to learn these lessons in a similar fashion.

I Care Too Much About What People Think Of Me

When you work with couples, you quickly learn God’’s way is not always the popular way. I can choose to fear man and tell a couple they can live together or have sex before marriage. Or I can graciously share truth with them and challenge them to rethink their decisions and take some action.

Galatians 1:10 is a verse I have had to cling to over the years in marriage ministry: “

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”.

The easier choice is to let people do what they want to do and have them like me. But, it’’s become clear to me that pleasing man is not always compatible with pleasing God.

If You’’re Gonna Teach It, You Better Live It

 “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”. James 3:1

Sometimes I think I can be a great marriage pastor without being great at marriage. Yes, there are times when I will fail as a husband, dad, friend and pastor and none of us can be perfect.

But, if I am going to lead people with integrity in marriage ministry, then I better practice what I preach. This is often a whole lot easier said than done.

People’s’ Lives Are Messy

I sat down with a very close friend a few days ago as he confessed to one sin after another in his marriage. I had mentored this man. I’d watched him grow into a godly man. I officiated his wedding.

Yet, on this day, he sat on my couch and cried and confessed. I wasn’’t mad at him. I wasn’’t disappointed in him. I was just sad. I cried with him. The greatest blessing in marriage ministry is also the hardest thing about marriage ministry.

The number one thing I have learned the hard way in marriage ministry is how hard it is to watch people you love make destructive decisions.

In spite of the hard lessons, serving in marriage ministry has allowed me to better understand how to be a servant of Christ. It has also forced me to up my game at home as a husband and dad, and helped me to gain greater empathy for people.

Using Research to Structure Your Marriage Ministry

Using Research to Structure Your Marriage Ministry

by Matt Engel

Marriage Ministry can often be based on our best guess as church leaders. After all we understand the married people in our church and community, right? Maybe. But what if we don’’t?

While on staff at Mission Community Church in Gilbert, AZ, we decided to take a more calculated and targeted approach.

As we researched the community’’s desires and demographics, we gained data that drastically impacted our approach. One of the top things the data uncovered was that the average age was 39——and our ministry was not reaching our target group. Our research also unearthed that marriage was the top priority in the community and that marriage was the key topic that could draw unbelievers to our church. The unchurched didn’’t want to come to church to know God, but they did want to gain practical advice for their marriage. What a staggering statistic!

So the first task for our marriage ministry was to scale and sustain a ministry to meet this opportunity. The philosophy behind everything we created was offering the right couple the right information at the right time. Our previous approaches towards pre-marriage, enrichment, and crisis were only hitting a minority of our church and community.

As we continued to measure and improve couples’’ marriage health, we could cultivate continued buy-in and not worry about who was engaging because we were constantly adjusting our model to continually improve.

GETTING FEEDBACK

One of the easiest things we did was send out a survey to over 750 couples who attended our DateNightPhx event, and asked everyone for a ranking of environment, content, and current health of relationship. This was the quantitative side. Then we also asked for personal stories. The feedback we got off this began the cascade of changes we implemented in other areas of our ministry.

For example, we had people say that they didn’’t want to be separated from their spouses when going through courses, and they wanted to have more fun versus feeling beat up. They wanted a little content, but more fun. That is why we decided to go with a 51% fun, 49% content in our efforts.

Throughout all of our programming, we asked people who were both in and out of the church what they wanted or thought and delivered on that, instead of forcing something they didn’t want to happen. We tried to find out WHAT they wanted to happen and helped make THAT happen——and stopped assuming we knew it all.

LIVING IN THE UNKNOWNS

This means we had to be willing to live in unknown unknowns. Let me explain. Picture a pie chart with three basic categories: the smallest piece on the chart is the KNOWN KNOWNS——for example, I KNOW my eyes are green.

The next piece slightly larger is the KNOWN UNKNOWNS, for example, I KNOW I DO NOT KNOW how to perform brain surgery.

The largest piece of the pie and maybe the most important is the UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS. An example of this is our willingness to listen, learn, and adapt as we begin to fill this piece of pie.

When we live in the UNKNOWN of UNKNOWNS, it frees us up from locking into one pattern! This piece of pie is where true learners live, and the investigation and constant monitoring and tweaking for continued improvements happens.

Don’t force or expect everyone to be in the same boat nor have the same desire. Leverage an approach that includes constant feedback and room for adjustments. Understanding who our people are and providing vision and direction is the one constant. People want to be known and empowered.

 

 

Matt Engel formerly worked as a Senior Director at Arizona State University, and then as Marriage Pastor at Mission Community Church in Phoenix, AZ. Matt is currently the Executive Vice President of Operations and Data Intelligence at Relationship Enrichment Collaborative.