You and your partner want to make a difference in the world around you, but you don’t know where to start. Have you, as a married couple, ever considered ministering to other married couples?
Are you getting uncomfortable reading this? “No, I don’t think my partner and I are prepared for this. We fight about stupid things and I have not yet mastered the “being submissive”-thing …”
Are thoughts like these spinning around in your head? Know that you can make a difference in other couples’ lives, even if your own marriage isn’t perfect! If you already have a few anniversaries under the belt, you will know: A successful marriage requires work! You have to set goals and make sacrifices. If you know this, you are probably equipped enough to help other couples.
Also, serving together as a couple has benefits! By seizing opportunities to minister to others, your faith as a couple can grow and lead to wonderful spiritual intimacy! But ultimately it is about the privilege of being able to give – without receiving anything in return.
How do you do this?
1. Offer a monthly ‘solution’ to parents
We all know that date night can be a challenge, especially for parents who do not have a support system. When a couple finally makes a commitment to go on regular date nights, the last hurdle is: What to do with the kids? Initiate a babysitting service once a month for couples in your church. Get some single church members together, or couples without children who would be willing to look after children once a month and organise fun activities such as music, crafts or movies, so that parents have one less thing to worry about. Once the children get to know each other, they will start looking forward to that one evening a month, and the parents will have a couple of hours to spend quality time together, knowing that their children are safe.
2. Start a mentorship programme
If your church doesn’t already have something like this in place, talk to your church leader about establishing a mentorship programme. This entails that experienced couples can offer to take younger, inexperienced couples under their wings and share their experience and knowledge with them. This is usually done in couple format, but the spouses can also be coached separately (the younger woman by the older woman, or the younger man by the older man). It also doesn’t have to be determined by age at all. A young couple can also mentor an older newlywed couple. As leaders of the mentorship programme you can make a list of everyone in the church who are willing to act as mentors and everyone who would like to be mentored, and them play matchmaker to pair up couples according to personalities, occupation or address.
3. Create a library for married couples
Set up a space at your church where couples can borrow books, CDs, DVDs and all sorts of other resources they can use to strengthen their marriage. The books can cover themes such as strengthening marriage, overcoming infidelity, sex, communication, financial challenges and other issues that couples battle with. You don’t have to buy all the books yourself – ask church members to donate old books for this purpose. And is there someone in your church who does counselling? This person’s business cards can be placed inside the cover of each book. This is a project that requires little administration and it can work on an honesty system where every resource is signed out and in again by the borrower.
4. Organise date nights at the church
Couples know that date nights are non-negotiable, but sometimes the questions of how, where and when can bring them to a halt. Remove this headache by organising a date night at church once a quarter. This event can take several forms: Show a romantic movie under the stars, invite a motivational speaker or hire a musician to play romantic music. Break away from seminars or information sessions and make it fun, something for couples to look forward to. Also provide dinner and decorate the tables with beautiful linen and candle light. This will require hard work and perhaps you would only want to do it once a year to start off with. Of course, you won’t be able to handle everything yourself and you will have to get some volunteers to help you, but you will have to manage the overall planning.
5. Establish smaller focus groups in your church
A church consists of several people who have had to (and still have to) overcome certain challenges. Keep your ear to the ground, listen to people’s concerns and determine where there is a need amongst your fellow church goers. Is alcohol abuse a problem? Perhaps poverty? Are there many divorcees in your church? Then start a divorce ministry that can offer help to those who struggle with the consequences of divorce, or those that are find it hard to get over a past divorce. Of course you would need qualified people to facilitate groups like this.
6. Make a fuss about marriages!
Marriage is a wonderful, Godly convention and truly something to celebrate. It doesn’t only have an impact on the two people that are married, but it has a ripple effect to a wider community and leaves a legacy for the children that is born as a result of the relationship. Remind the people in your congregation of how wonderful this institution really is, by making a big deal of wedding anniversaries. Initiate a custom where couples who are celebrating milestone anniversaries are called to the front during a sermon and blessed with flowers, a gift voucher (that can be used to go out for dinner, for example) and a nice card. Have a gold plaque engraved for each couple that celebrates their golden anniversary and put it up somewhere on the church ground. Publish the anniversaries of church members in booklets, newsletters and on your website and post a photo of the couples on the social media pages. Also celebrate the INTIEM marriage week that takes place every year from September 1-7.
So, where and how can you kick off your initiative?
Ted Louw, author and director of MarriedPeople gives the following tips:
• Win the approval of your church leader. It is really an obvious place to start, but we do want to emphasise that it is important for your church leader to know what you are planning and for you to get his/her buy in.
• Identify your go-getters. Every church has a few of those people who would help you to get the job done. You and your partner may have a wonderful vision, but you might struggle to execute it. Aunty Anne is acquainted with everyone and knows exactly who to call when you need to hire a big tent for an event. Dear Beth knows exactly how to get the women’s ministry together to organise refreshments, while uncle Danny can sort out any technical problem within minutes.
• Put together a core team. If you want to organise a quarterly date night, for example, you will need a team. People who share in your vision and who are willing to support you in the practical realisation of your plans.
• Pray often. Surely you would never start anything like this without prayer. Don’t only ask the Lord to bless your plans. Also be quiet and listen to his voice through it all. Talk to Him before you start your ministry, during the establishment thereof and after each event.
• Have a meeting. But remember: No one likes a long, drawn-out meeting! Keep it short and simple and make the rest of the arrangements via a WhatsApp group. Ensure that everyone involved is aware of this strategy.
• Don’t be scared to ask for advice. We can sometimes become so focused on our own ideas, that we are not able to see the mistakes or weaknesses in our plans like others can. Ask for advice and carefully consider critique. Also bounce your ideas off a willing guinea pig and be open to suggestions and guidance.
• Create a calendar. When it comes to building an effective strategy for marriage, it is necessary to set dates early on. This way, couples can record the babysitting dates in advance and plan their date nights around those dates, for example.
• Marketing! It is very important for you to make sure that your message gets out there. Also remember that couples tend to put their marriages last – after children and work. If you want to get their attention, you will need to be creative and bring a message of urgency to them.
If God has placed it on your heart to make a difference in marriages, don’t ignore it. It is a wonderful privilege to inspire couples and perhaps even save a marriage, so grab the opportunity with both hands.
Additional sources: www.outreach.com; www.sharefaith.com; www.marriedpeoplechurches.org. www.focusonthefamily.com; www.oureverydaylife.com; www.marriedpeoplechurches.org
Article written by Annelize Steyn