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.