Posted on 9/21/2012 by Eric Swanson in the Learnings Blog
In preparation for leading Leadership Network’s Marriage Ministry InnovationLab I spent several hours looking up Websites to discover what the 100 largest churches (according to Outreach Magazinze) are doing in ministry to married couples. Yes, I looked at all 100 of them. Here are a few observations.
Of the 100 largest churches in the U.S., 36 /100 had no visible…easy-to-identify ministry to married couples. What do I mean by that?
- When searching the staff page (some of these churches keep their staff well-hidden), there was no one identified with “marriage” or “marrieds.” We create structures for and staff every strategic path step to get to our mission. Some churches had in excess of 100 staff with very thin-sliced job responsibilities but there was no room for marriage
- Under MINISTRIES or HOW TO GET INVOLVED, even under ADULTS, there was nothing offered on relationships or marriage
- Most every church had a paragraph or page on “Getting Married at this Church” page telling who to contact to reserve the church with most offering the perfunctory pre-marriage counseling (these ARE churches after all)
- Around 80 of the churches had a SEARCH function so I could search for “Marriage” or “Date Night.” To the other 20 of you….”Really?”
- Of the churches that have marriage workshops, seminars, and conferences, most of them outsource these events. The most common materials were
- A Weekend to Remember--FamilyLife
- Love & Respect Marriage Conference--Emerson Eggerich
- Art of Marriage—FamilyLife
- For many churches, marriage ministry was part of their “Care” ministry…as if needing help in relationships was the exception rather than the rule. My advice: If you want a thriving marriage ministry, don’t make it look like you are checking into a hospital when you just want help for your marriage
- Of the 64 churches that had a ministry to couples, 27 sponsored couples “Date Nights” at least once during the year. This may seem insignificant, but if you think about it, unlike therapy or a weekend events, dating is something we are all familiar with and probably the “easiest on-ramp” for improving a couple’s relationship. It is the easiste activity that can become even better if we throw in a few good questions and / or activities. Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia, has discovered, through his research, that couples who spend two hours together at least once a week (a “date”) have expressed a ~3.5 times higher level of satisfaction than couples who do not have this regular date every week. Of these 27 churches that had Date Nights what Jana Guynn and her team at North Point Church have done for couples via Date Night, by far surpasses anything else I’ve seen. For a great date ideas, check out what they have done at http://marriedlifeonline.com/greatdate/. Way to go Jana!
Why don’t 36% of the largest churches in America have marriage ministries? I think it may have something to do with a recent blog post regarding the percentage of happily married couples. Most ministry leaders misinterpret the divorce statistic. Ringing in their ear is the statistic that “40-50% of marriages end in divorce.” That is true. So when those leaders see that only a handful of couples in their church ended their marriage this year, he or she concludes, “We are doing way better than the population at large…we only had 2% of our couples divorce. That’s way better than the 50% average…probably it’s because around here, we preach the Word.” What they don’t understand is that of the 60 million couples in the U.S. only 1.8% will divorce in any given year. That’s the stat to compare the church’s divorce rate to…not the 50% of marriages that end over the life of the marriage.
The Marriage Ministry InnovationLab is now full but my good friend, talented co-worker, author, and marriage ministry expert, Chris Willard is launching a Marriage Ministry Leadership Community in the near future. To get in the queue go to http://leadnet.org/site/page/3390 or write to Chris directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.