Tip #1: De-stigmatize Relationship Enrichment.
“Like it or not, marriage programs and marriage classes frequently and wrongly carry a stigma…The Church’s failure to fundamentally shift this mindset remains the biggest barrier to increasing participation in relationship enrichment of any kind.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
With the best intentions, pastors often invite people to participate in marriage enrichment based on negative motivation. Instead, when casting vision, create an entirely positive case for relationship enrichment.
Tip #2: Keep in Mind that Every Marriage Has Seasons.
“Every relationship needs re-balancing, because life comes at us fast. There is a natural deflating that occurs from good experiences of life, not just the challenges. That is to be expected in every relationship, and especially in marriage.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
When you communicate about marriage, help set the expectation that even the healthiest of marriages ebb and have periods of unhappiness. Doing so helps to normalize marriage enrichment and set the stage for increased marital satisfaction.
Tip #3: Develop a Game Plan for Singles.
“Great marriages begin long before the wedding day. However, adult singles are some of the most underserved populations within relationship ministry.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Study after study on the millennial generation reveals that their number one concern is relationships. Churches have a unique opportunity to invite singles into their communities to equip them to form healthy, Christ-centered relationships, regardless of whether or not they choose to marry. How might your church become a place where singles can belong and form deep, life-giving relationships?
Tip #4: Infuse Relationship Ministry and Content Within ALL Facets of Your Church.
“This is the starting point of honoring the theological centrality of relationships.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Don’t reinvent the wheel here. Take simple steps such as tasking ministry leaders with finding creative opportunities to engage their people with existing relationship content that fits the context of their ministry. Not only will this help more people throughout your church grow in their relationship health, it will also shift the paradigm of relationship ministry being one of many offerings, to relationship health being a shared mission of all ministries. How might your staff and leaders take up the cause of healthy relationships together?
Tip #5: Publicly Recognize Relationship Milestones and New Marriages.
“Even before the COVID pandemic, in 2019, the total rate of marriages hit an all-time low…The marriage rate has decreased 31 percent over the last 20 years, 48 percent over the last 40 years, and 61 percent over the last 50 years.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Celebrating engagements, recent weddings, and marriage milestones creates a healthy culture for marriage and casts vision for lifelong commitments among couples in your church. How could your church use public celebrations to foster a culture of healthy relationships?
Tip #6: Reduce or Eliminate Fees and Barriers Associated with Christian Weddings.
“Most Christian weddings no longer occur on a church’s campus. Some…churches won’t even hold a wedding on their campus because it is always being used by other forms of ministry. If your church doesn’t make its space available, consider changing that policy—and provide an inexpensive way for a couple to get married.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Wedding expectations and the costs associated with them form a barrier to encouraging marriage. Churches can step into a pivotal moment in the life of a young couple in a powerful way, creating value and meaning for the family being formed and the generations that will follow. How might you view weddings as a central component of your team’s ministry rather than a distraction to it?
Tip #7: Ritualize Relationship Ministry Throughout the Calendar Year.
“Healthy relationship messaging and content should be peppered throughout a church’s calendar. There should be ‘staple’ relationship content that is offered regularly throughout the year.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Most churches have regular content and experiences centered around many family milestones, such as births, the beginning of the school year, and graduations. But an emphasis on marriage and marital health is often left out. Consider this: What might a “liturgical” year of marriage content and experiences look like for your church?
Tip #8: Preach Regularly on Marriage and Relationship Health.
“Pastors have their own stories and their own testimony on marriage and relationships. Most have had their own struggles. Bearing authentic witness to those struggles is one of the very best ways for pastors to relate to other couples. There are always ways to take a message on marriage and relate it to those at any stage of relationship life.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Preaching can be catalytic when it comes to life change. But preaching on relationship health should be paired with clear next steps that can help individuals and couples move from information to transformation. What might that pathway look like for couples in your church?
Tip #9: Email, Call, or Write Personal Notes Celebrating Relationship Milestones.
“A personal note of encouragement from staff or clergy at your church celebrating specific relationships milestones is a great way to regularly reinforce a church’s vision on marriage and relationships.” (from Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America)
Your church’s database or CRM is a powerful tool for facilitating a shift in culture that celebrates healthy relationships. How might your team become champions for healthy relationships and marriages by sharing the opportunity to celebrate milestones and relationship wins, as well as pastor and care for those who have lost a spouse in the past or have experienced deep relationship pain?