We do very little within our culture to celebrate or honor the institution of marriage. Sure, when a couple celebrates their Golden Anniversary (50 years of marriage) there’s typically a big to-do, but up until then all we see is the annual Facebook post where each partner announces their love for the world to see.
As I look around at local churches, I typically see specific ministries for youth, teens, men and women. I see “care groups” for divorcees, widows, parents that have lost a child, recovering addicts and other people in serious need. All of these provide tremendous value, and I’m sure their attendees are well served.
But what about married couples? Census data shows that fewer Americans are getting married today than they did thirty years ago. But still, the majority of adults over twenty-five are either currently married or have been married. Where is the focus on this segment of our population?
Recovering addicts have sponsors. People involved with gender-specific ministries are often encouraged to find and regularly engage with an accountability partner. But unless a couple finds themselves in real trouble and seek the aid of a counselor, they’re pretty much on their own.
We live in a kid-centric culture. As parents, we find ourselves spending the bulk of our free time either driving to or attending our kids’ activities. Many of the couples that I know that have formed social circles first came together through their kids. As a result, when I see them together, their topic of conversation typically centers around their kids and their activities. Be it baseball, ballet or band, relationships often never develop beyond that which brought them together.
I’m in the process of starting a marriage ministry at our church. It’s interesting that most people that I tell this to assume that this will be crisis-counseling effort. I realize there will be some of that, but that is not the primary focus. I’ve created a core team with two other long-married couples that share my passion for shocking marriage. Our goal is to make good marriages great, and great marriages exceptional. As a member of our team stated, “We want to build up a given couple’s marriage, so that they in turn can build up someone else’s marriage.” In support of that, we anticipate sponsoring a variety of events throughout the year that bring married couples together to celebrate marriage. While there will be an educational element to this effort, the underlying focus will be to create meaningful relationships. The type where real questions and struggles can be shared and discussed.
Imagine an atmosphere of transparency where you no longer hide your marital challenges and work through every detail yourselves. Finding yourselves in relationships where you can share struggles before they become insurmountable. An environment where you can see and hear that other couples have successfully worked through similar issues and learn from their experience. A culture where long-term married couples walk alongside short-term married couples, not for the purpose of judging or directing, but merely for listening and advising upon request. Parenting issues become just one topic of conversation, not the primary.
Why is this approach so rare? I won’t say it’s non-existent. Jimmy Evans, Mark Gungor, and others have built global ministries around this area. But we don’t see much of it at the local level. We need to learn to celebrate marriage again, and focus on building up each others’ marriages. I am fascinated to see where God is going to take this ministry and how He will bless it. I am honored to be a part of His plan in this area.