Ministry Best Practices

Working with 400 churches over a three-year experiment, Communio ran the nation’s largest privately funded effort to develop proven strategies that help churches strengthen marriages, relationships, and faith.

This section of the Church Platform includes helpful best practices drawn from Communio’s practical experience in working with churches, leading practitioners in the field of couples’ relationship education (CRE), and from pastors who built their own successful relationship ministries.

Introduction to Ministry Best Practices

This video provides a short overview of the content included here in the Ministry Best Practices section of the Church Platform. Altogether, these videos can be a helpful supplement to your training with your Communio representative.

Welcome to Communio’s Church Platform! 

Thank you so much for your commitment to strengthening marriages and families in your community. 

Communio is here to serve you as you develop and run your very own data-informed, full-circle relationship ministry. 

This is a proven and holistic ministry game plan that equips your church to provide vision, skills, and community for people at each stage of a relationship. 

In doing so, Communio helps you implement best practices in singles ministry, in marriage preparation, for marriage enrichment, and for marriages in crisis. 

Over the coming months, your Communio representative will walk with you to assess your ministry gaps and the relationship needs of your members. 

We’ll help you build out each of the four elements of a full-circle ministry – one layer at a time – and help you enhance your outreach with the use of data insights and microtargeting. 

As you work with the Communio team, consider watching the short videos in this section of the platform. They include useful information and some helpful best practices you can easily implement as you build out your comprehensive ministry.

They may also spark questions in your mind that you can ask your Communio representative during your training sessions.

Videos here draw from Communio’s practical experience in working with churches and with leading practitioners in the field of relationship education.

Leaders like Dennis Stoica – the founder of Healthy Relationships California. Dennis directed Communio’s experimental efforts in Jacksonville from 2016 to 2018. That work helped over 50 churches produce an historic 28 percent divorce rate decline between 2016 and 2017. This was a big achievement for a city that was once ranked the 6th worst for marriage in the country. 

Because of these efforts, Jacksonville went from having the HIGHEST divorce rate among all large Florida counties to having the LOWEST. 

The videos also include insights from leading academics in the field of couples’ relationship education, including Dr. Scott Stanley – author and research professor at the University of Denver – and Dr. Ryan Carlson — associate professor at the University of South Carolina.

Please take a moment to watch these videos. And thank you again! We’re excited to be on this journey with you to heal America’s families.

Choose a Programmatic Approach to Fit Your Church

With so many marriage and relationship-strengthening programs available on the market, it can be challenging to find the right approaches for your unique church setting. This video compartmentalizes programs into helpful categories that help you better determine which product is best for addressing the unique needs of your members. It also offers a three-part strategy template you can implement to launch a new relationship ministry.

There are dozens of programs and curricula available designed to help individuals and couples to strengthen their relationships.

They’re all available online or in-store for purchase today. The challenge is identifying which ones are right for your unique community. Each have different costs, teaching methods, and objectives.

This is arguably the most nuanced piece of the relationship ministry puzzle. 

Your decision depends on the staff and volunteers you have at your disposal, on your budget, and on the unique cultural and behavioral preferences of your members.

Communio’s Content Catalog includes over 50 pieces of content for you to review and choose from.

Your Communio representative will help you use data insights and first-party assessments to identify your church’s relational needs – and help you pick the right set of programs for your context. 

In general, programs fall into two main buckets:

  1. “Plug-and-Play” programs that can be purchased online or in-store. They include a pre-packaged, systematic process you can implement on your own in a small or large group setting. It does not require any training and typically relies on video content (DVDs, web videos, etc.) to provide the instruction. This option allows couples to gather together in a team-led ministry or provides self-motivated couples with the capacity to strengthen their relationship on their own. 
  2. “Facilitator-led” programs are usually run by trained instructors who are already knowledgeable and experienced in the material. Instructors are frequently church staff or volunteers who have become certified on a specific programmatic approach. Instructors can also be used more for their facilitation skills and ability to deliver material to learners. The goal is not only to provide a place for learning, but also to build a place of connection with others and team leaders for the purpose of strengthening and encouraging people in their relationships. And while facilitator-led programs involve higher set up costs and more intense staff training, they tend to deliver the best results for couples in need of practical skills to improve their relationships.

Plug-and-play and facilitator-led programs are the most commonly used by churches that want to strengthen relationships. 

Other Resources to Enhance Your Ministry

But there are three other types of programs available that can be added to enhance your ministry as it becomes more established:

  • Personal/Group Resources – First, there are off-the-shelf resources available for personal or group settings. These are materials, workbooks, and self-assessments that can be purchased directly by the end-user – without certification – to assess THEMSELVES or those in a small group. You can easily recommend a couple or individual to purchase and use these products.
  • Large-Scale Events – These are scheduled on-site events designed specifically for large groups. In some cases, the organization you hire supplies the audio/visual, lighting, and other production-related set up ahead of time.
  • Marriage Intensives – These are usually multi-day retreats led by licensed professionals for couples with marriages in serious need. In this case, most churches recommend – and even offer to pay for – a couple to attend an intensive at a retreat center.

Bring It All Together – Launch Strategy Template

Now, let’s bring this all together. Working with your Communio representative, here is a preliminary course of action you can consider that draws from a variety of programs mentioned earlier.

By no means is there a one-size-fits-all approach for launching a new ministry, but this three-step scenario has proved successful in other churches:

Step 1: Start with a “Plug-and-Play” program. 

Here your church would purchase a program through Communio’s Content Catalog that fits your budget and needs.

We recommend starting with a program in the area of marriage enrichment. “Marriage enrichment” is a broad term that will attract a variety of people with varying levels of family struggles. Your first step is getting them in the door. 

So pick a date to host and invite a small group of your members to attend. At your early workshops, seek out your most passionate and engaged attendees.  

Ask them if they’d be interested in hosting a plug and play class on their own for more couples – either at the church or in their home. 

A good example of a plug-and-play program here would be The Marriage Course – from Alpha. This is perfect for a smaller-group setting. The kit includes DVDs with 7 video sessions with themes ranging from conflict resolution to effective communication. Couples’ workbooks are also included. Additional lessons for military families are also available.

The content is best delivered in the context of a “date night” over the course of seven weeks. Here, we recommend you set up 10 to 12 small tables in a larger room on your campus. Make sure there’s a slight degree of separation between tables for more intimate conversations.

It’s important to remember that your event is competing with free time in a couple’s schedule. So, we recommend you find a quality restaurant nearby by that caters. That way you can serve a nice dinner worth people’s time. A little more investment here goes a long way to making a quality experience – and one where couples will find value in coming back next week.

As couple’s arrive, welcome them and allow time for everyone to mingle and get to know each other. Then invite couples to sit, eat, and catch up with one another.

Toward the end of dinner, play one of the video sessions. Each session includes prepared talks and short breaks for couples to answer questions together related to the video topic.

Once your new leaders have conducted a few workshops and feel comfortable with the material, develop a broader schedule of events.

Step 2: Invite the rest of your community.

Here, we suggest marketing for and hosting a Large-Scale Event or Performance. It’s something we call a VISION EVENT.

This is usually a fun event you can host at your church to kick off your new relationship services. These events are often “more popcorn than spinach” – in that they rely on concerts, comedy shows, or date nights to infuse healthy relationship messaging rather than using traditional classroom-style. 

A good example would be The Date Night Comedy Tour. This product included in Communio’s Content Catalog. This is a set of videos featuring church appropriate stand-up routines from nationally-known comedians.

They also offer scheduled events where comedians perform live on your campus. 

Your Communio representative can help you build specific marketing to invite people within a few miles of your church doors.

The point here is to attract people – both religiously-affiliated and the “unchurched” – to attend a fun event on your campus. 

During the event, you now have an opportunity to advertise your new relationship ministry offerings — and register people on-site for your workshops.

Now, we’ve come to the final step.

Step 3: Develop a facilitator-led communication skills programs.

As participation in your plug-and-play workshops grows – you should ask your most engaged volunteers about getting trained to become facilitators of a more robust communications skills training program. 

Almost all of these programs offer all-day or multi-day training for your volunteers or staff to attend.

Those who receive training or certification will feel prepared when conducting a couple’s workshop or when a couple approaches them for advice. Over time, these trained leaders will become your church’s best marriage mentors.

At this stage, you should have a team of trained, passionate volunteers – your RELATIONSHIP CHAMPIONS – who are providing couples learned-skills and a strong community of support (See Assemble and Train Your Relationship Champions video in this section for more details here).

Adventures in Marriage is an excellent example of a facilitator-led program.

The content was developed by leading marriage expert and founder of Live the Life ministries, Richard Albertson. Here a trained moderator, working with the included workbooks, teaches couples practical and effective skills in a small-group format to improve their communication and problem-solving methods.

It has a demonstrated record of success healing and strengthening couples, which is why it’s the most widely-used program by our partner churches.

Work with your Communio representative to coordinate a training with an Adventures in Marriage facilitator. Consider also having your team register and attend a session as participants.

This is a great way to help them understand the best ways to deliver the content as well as appropriate pacing of the content.

 Some churches run this program over the course of a weekend. Others spread it out over a few weeks. Communio works with you to develop a plan that fits YOUR team.

In the end, the programs you choose and leaders you select will form the heart and soul of your new ministry – and ultimately be the source of healing in your community. 

Three Keys to an Effective Relationship Ministry

Any effort to strengthen relationships must provide couples with a shared vision for marriage, learned skills for improving communications and conflict resolution, and a set of clear expectations for spousal roles and behaviors. This video discusses these three critical outcomes in greater detail.

What makes a relationship education program effective? 

A broad consensus of researchers, practitioners, and content developers say it should help a couple in three key areas: 

  • It should improve a couples’ communication and conflict management skills.
  • It should help a couple develop a shared commitment to a life-long marriage.
  • And it should help a couple set clear and reasonable expectations of behavior.

After helping you understand the unique marital and relational needs in your community, Communio will work with you to design a full-circle relationship ministry that achieves these three outcomes. 

Let’s tackle these one by one:

Outcome 1: Improve Communication and Conflict Management Skills 

First, most fights are a result of poor or non-existent communication between spouses. Some couples enter marriage without REALLY knowing how the other best receives or conveys information. That breakdown often poses a greater challenge to the relationship long-term than the actual problem at hand. 

An effective education program should help people recognize their own preferred communication styles—and those of their spouses. That means couples walk away with learned skills to improve how they express emotions, feelings, and thoughts without making the other feel manipulated, inadequate, resentful, or defensive. 

Knowing HOW to talk to each other is vital for resolving conflicts big and small. 

Outcome 2: Develop a Shared Commitment for a Life-long Marriage

Second, the increased demands of work, raising kids, and running a household can often result in couples losing sight of what should be the top priority in their lives: love of God and love of their spouse. For it is by knowing and loving Jesus and inviting Him into their marriage that couples can both grow in love of one another – and embrace life’s challenges. 

An effective ministry should make clear that maintaining a loving, nurturing, and caring relationship with your spouse must take precedence over all other earthly responsibilities. 

In many ways, couples should view themselves as a team. When a team practices together, anticipates each others’ needs and wants, and strives toward a unified goal, they will achieve victory. The same is true for any couple. 

Spouses on a “winning” team not only focus on making themselves better, but strive to strengthen their partner in service of a higher goal.

Outcome 3: Set Clear and Reasonable Expectations of Norms and Behaviors

Finally, an effective ministry should help couples set clear ad reasonable expectations of norms and behaviors.

Oftentimes, our expectations in life don’t always meet the reality. Mis-aligned expectations can be particularly damaging in a marriage. So many couples today enter a relationship or marriage with preconceived notions and expectations for how a spouse should behave and what roles they should play. They’re usually formed in our family growing up and carry into adult relationships. “This is how my dad always did things.” “This is what my mother did growing up” are common examples of how this plays out in life.

As a result, many individuals are disappointed when their spouses don’t live up to those preconceived notions about what a “GOOD” husband or “GOOD” wife should be. Miscommunication and frequent arguments are the natural consequence. 

An effective ministry should foster candid conversations among couples on what their expectations are for each other. Are those expectations actually reasonable? And where do they NOT sync up with reality? 

Setting clear and agreed upon expectations on norms, roles, and behaviors for each spouse are essential for a healthy marriage. 

Through this process, you’ll help husband and wife understand simple differences in how they give and receive love. 

Taken altogether, improvement in these three areas – Communication and Conflict Resolution, Shared Commitment to Life-Long Marriage, and Clear Expectations – create the foundation for a healthy marriage. 

Communio helps you build a full-circle ministry that achieves all three.

Marriage Enrichment is for Everyone

Most couples think marriage enrichment is only for “people with problems.” Nothing can be further from the truth. But this mindset will often be your greatest barrier for growing participation in your new ministry. This video covers some simple actions you can take right now to “destigmatize” relationship enrichment – and create a culture where healthy marriages are valued and fostered.

Marriage and relationship education are really only for “people with problems.” 

That is probably the greatest misconception out there among married couples – and a key reason for why they forgo participation in marriage enrichment workshops. 

But nothing can be further from the truth. 

Studies show at least eight hours of marriage enrichment each year has a positive impact on marriage wellness – regardless of the health or stage of the relationship.  

But a church’s failure to address this mindset is often the biggest barrier they face for driving participation in their new relationship ministry. 

As a leader, you’ll want to make a concerted effort through your marketing, public announcements, and sermons to “de-stigmatize” attending relationship enrichment. 

Here are two helpful analogies some practitioners use to make this point to couples:

  • Much like a car needs a yearly tune up to ensure the motor is running at peak efficiency and does not break down when you least expect it, so too should couples seek out at least eight hours of marriage “tune up” each year to strengthen their communication and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Also consider this: We know proper diet and exercise leads to a healthier life. So too does regular relationship strength training. These “exercises” help a couple uncover areas of weakness in their marriage. Regular relationship training ensures you can identify those areas of weakness or conflict and resolve them before permanent damage is done. 

Your Communio representative will help you design a comprehensive plan for addressing your church’s marriage mindset. But there are some common soft techniques you can start with to begin “de-stigmatizing” marriage enrichment right now at your church. 

Here are just three:

  1. Publicly recognize anniversaries, engagements, or newlyweds at Sunday services or in the bulletin.
  2. Make a point to call or write personal letters to congratulate recently engaged and newlywed couples and couples celebrating anniversaries. 
  3. Cast a vision for marriage through your sermons and public events. Demonstrate that your church is a place where EVERYONE can grow deeper in their personal relationships and that every couple should take time for some formal relationship maintenance each year.   

Altogether, these small but meaningful gestures help you create an environment where people see that happy, healthy relationships are valued – and worth recognizing. 

Furthermore, it sparks conversations among couples about resources you have available – and whether they are free to attend together as couples. This continues to build up a sense of community as many friendships are formed by groups of couples coordinating and attending your programs 

This can be particularly important for young couples with kids, many of whom would benefit greatly from friendships with people who share similar joys and challenges at this stage of life. A sense they are not alone can be a huge boost to overcoming the normal stresses of raising kids.   

These are some simple steps you can take to create a culture of marriage in your church. 

Communio is here to help you think through a comprehensive plan that both fosters a marriage culture and grows participation in your marriage enrichment programs.

Assemble and Train Your Relationship Champions

So, you’re ready to launch your new ministry? Now, it’s time to build your team of leaders to run it – your Relationship Champions. Here, we walk through some simple steps you can take to find members with a heart for marriage – and empower and train them to become your best marriage and relationship mentors.

The strength of your relationship ministry is directly tied to the strength of your leaders. 

In a previous video, we shared with you the importance of choosing the right programmatic approach to address the unique relational needs of your members. 

In this video, we dive a bit deeper into how you can identify, empower, and train leaders to ACTUALLY RUN your chosen programmatic approach.  These leaders will be your relationship champions.

Now, it’s tempting to simply task your most motivated or kind-hearted members to lead and facilitate your sessions. 

These are indispensable characteristics for anyone who wishes to serve others. But not everyone is comfortable with – or has the skills – to stand up in front of a group and facilitate an engaging workshop.

Here are a couple tips to help you involve the greatest number of people to serve in your ministry. 

Tip 1: Seek out your regular churchgoers with strong inter-personal skills 

Start with people you know best. This may seem obvious, but oftentimes we forget – people are very willing to help or donate their time in service of others. They’ve just never been asked to do so. Ask them – would they be interested in taking on a new leadership role in the church – and actually grow the Body of Christ by teaching others how to strengthen marriages.  

From there, seek out members who are regular participants in your other church ministries. 

You’ll be surprised at how many will jump at the opportunity to serve the church in a new capacity. 

Tip 2: Find people willing to offer logistical, administrative, and marketing support for your new ministry 

Yes, facilitators are an essential piece of your relationship ministry puzzle. But having a reliable cadre of people to help you with everything from event set up to event marketing is just as important.

Some within your church may have strong organizational skills and a knack for making sure things run smoothly. Others may have backgrounds in writing or graphic design. 

Whatever the case may be, consider the strengths AND weaknesses of all your members and allocate resources accordingly. 

Your Communio representative can ensure these individuals receive training on how to run an effective digital outreach strategy and execute your chosen program. 

Tip 3: Host a program yourself and ask your most engaged participants to get more involved 

In this case, purchase a simple plug and play program from Communio’s Content Catalog. Familiarize yourself with the materials and host a small group. 

After a few sessions, ask your most engaged individuals or couples if they would be interested in hosting the next round of workshops. You’re likely to find a volunteer or two here. 

So you have your relationship champions – now what?

Get them trained up on the programs you’ve selected.  

For Plug-and-Play content, this will mean familiarizing your champions with the included DVDs and workbooks, and when applicable, the website for streaming the program’s content and other online resources. Most of these Plug-and-Play programs provide step-by-step instructions and have a customer support line for additional help. 

For the facilitator-led content, there is often optional or required training provided with purchase. 

If training is provided, it’s WELL WORTH your investment to get your champions trained up. These sessions explain best practices specific to the curriculum. 

A few curriculum developers have both in-person and online training available, and while we at Communio highly recommend in-person training as a better-quality experience, online training can also be effective and at a much lower cost.

Communio’s team is certified as trainers for a variety of facilitator-led content. Contact your representative to schedule a training.  

Lastly, committing to excellence in training does not mean you have to have everyone involved trained by curriculum developers. 

Most who provide training will train one or two key people who, in turn, can lead the training and supervising your church team.

Communio is here to help you and your team develop the internal skillsets to run your relationship ministry.

Pastor Chad Moore: 3 Tips for Running Effective Relationship Ministries

Chad Moore is the lead pastor of one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing evangelical churches in America – Sun Valley Community Church in Phoenix, AZ. He’s a Communio partner and leader in leveraging data analytics and relationship ministry to strengthen families and advance the Kingdom of God. Chad sat down with Communio to share three best practices any pastor can implement to improve their preaching, teaching, and ministry to serve married couples and families.

A large body of research suggests that at least eight hours of relationship education services provide some consistent positive effects on marital and relational health. How you deliver that content depends largely on the cultural, economic, behavioral, and familial dynamics of your members. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Are people willing to meet once a week for an hour or two each session? 
  • Are weeknights or weekends preferable? 
  • Would a one-time weekend retreat that allows couples to get away and stay focused work be best – or is a recurring series of shorter sessions preferable? 
  • Will your workshops be set up in a traditional classroom-style format with an instructor presenting in front of the room or will you break the room into small groups to facilitate more intimate conversations among people?
  •  Will you deliver the program through a fun “Date Night” format with a nice meal and ambiance provided?

Simple Case Study

Consider a church located near a college or university. 

Its weekly membership is made up of a mix of mostly younger, unmarried individuals and couples from other states who will likely move out of town after graduation. In this case, launching your new full-circle relationship ministry with offerings in the area of “marital enrichment” would fall on deaf ears. 

Rather, the church should select an array fun events, skills-based workshops, small groups sessions from the “Singles & Healthy Dating” section of Communio’s Content Catalog that cater to the specific needs of young unmarried singles or “seriously dating.”  

Then, think through the cadence of events and time frames that work best for the community. Most college students are not early risers, so attendance at morning workshops would likely be sparse. The same goes for Friday or Saturday night workshops (unless you are planning a fun night out infused with healthy relationship messaging and experiences). 

In the end, get a sense of the weekly schedule of audience you wish to serve and develop a cadence of programing to ensure they have ample opportunities to receive the recommended eight-hour minimum “dosage” of relationship education. 

Couples’ Homework – Good or Bad Idea?

Another aspect closely tied to format is whether you assign and expect couples to complete homework. There is little doubt that when participants complete homework and discuss it as a group, results are stronger. However, carefully consider the culture and the economic status of the community you serve. 

For instance, residents of poorer or more working-class communities may have certain job-related and financial constraints that middle or upper-middle-class populations do not face.

The fact is poorer communities face greater risk of family instability and arguably need your relationship ministry more than anyone. It would be a shame if your program format inadvertently put up unnecessary barriers to entry for couples who need the most help. No matter who you serve, consider if they will work on the things you ask them to try in between sessions. 

If you believe or find that most people just will not do homework, it may be better not to assign any. This way, it does not build small opportunities for failure or contention between spouses. If you plan time well, anything you think could be meaningfully done as homework can be meaningfully done in the sessions, especially in formats allowing more total time of contact.

Without question, fostering relationships that are physically and emotionally safe should be a pre-eminent goal of a relationship ministry. Keep a close eye on relationships that show signs of domestic abuse or victimization. If you are approached by either partner or made aware third hand of serious abuse taking place within a relationship, contact the local authorities immediately.

But, in our experience, serious instances of victimization are rare among those who are voluntarily interested and self-motivated to improve their relationship through your ministry.

However, you will be surprised to learn how many couples report some form of physical abuse or aggression in research surveys conducted on these issues. 

Extreme Victimization vs Arguments that Get Physical

Researchers on issues of domestic violence make a distinction between “extreme victimization” by one partner over another and “arguments that get physical.” The latter often stems from a couples’ inability to manage conflict, cope with anger, or control negative emotions well. These arguments often spill over into pushing, shoving, and throwing things and are most prevalent in younger or recently married couples.

All aggression in relationships is wrong. And, while a pattern of arguments that get physical can be quite dangerous, this pattern is distinct from relationships where one partner uses fear to dominate and control the other. 

Next Steps 

You may consider conducting some form of initial screening to identify abuse among your participants. 

Expert practitioners and researchers in the field of couples’ relationship education DO NOT recommend this practice for three key reasons:

  • First, even if you had the resources to conduct a screening process that perfectly identified people with any history of aggression, research indicates that you could screen out many participants who could be interested, and whom you could help.
  • Second, if you attempt to screen out couples with some history of aggression in their relationship, those who are interested in your services will know when you are asking questions that could potentially disqualify them from participation. As a result, they will likely deny any history of such behavior, increasing the likelihood important issues will not come to light during the course of your sessions. You will have inadvertently prevented an opportunity for a couple to learn coping skills that could help them to change.
  • Third, there is already a lack of services available for couples who struggle with arguments that get physical. You want to avoid any measures, no matter how well-intentioned, that make it harder for people to get the skills they need to improve their relationship. For many couples, your relationship education service will be the gateway to learning skills or even getting connected with other services that can more specifically address their problems. One leading expert in this field drives this point home well — “if a couple seeks your services, that ‘room’ may not be the perfect room for them, given any number of issues and relationship dynamics, but it was the room they could get themselves into.”

A common best practice is to simply provide everyone attending—either in a welcome packet or on each seat—a standard form listing common areas of need that fall outside your scope of work or knowledge. These could include substance abuse treatment, economic or financial instability, mental health problems, or serious aggression and/or domestic violence. 

National Resources

For starters, include the following national hotline numbers and resources on your handouts:

  • A national domestic violence hotline: SAFELINE 1-800-799-7233
  • A national website with links for help with substance abuse and mental health issues: 
  • A national hotline for referrals to substance abuse treatment: 1-800-662-HELP
  • A national hotline for suicide prevention: National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Also, we strongly recommend you find local counselors, community centers, family physicians, or clergy and other church leaders with specific knowledge in these fields. Clearly list their phone numbers, locations, and other contact information.

In the end, relationship safety and issues of abuse are very delicate topics. You’ll want to tread carefully here so as not to stigmatize certain participants. A blanket approach for disseminating resources is effective. You will ensure people understand that everyone is receiving the same information. No one is being labeled or singled out and everyone ultimately leaves the workshop with information that they came in with.

If you are running a multi-week format, where couples are encouraged to attend a series of sessions, you should consider developing incentives and strategies that make it easier or motivate people to come back.

Here are a few examples: 

  • Offer a date night out with free childcare for those who attend all your sessions. 
  • Hold a couples’ experience for those who complete the entire course. These can be a church-sponsored formal or simply a nice dinner evening at the pastor’s home. 
  • Gift card to a local restaurant of their choice. Offer free childcare services on site or even babysitting services for participants with young kids already sleeping at home.
  • Gift cards for stores that are frequently used by your participants. For some lower-income couples, a gift card for gasoline or cab fare can make the difference between them getting there or not. Oftentimes, what then could be considered an incentive is merely helping reduce serious barriers to participation. 

However, we cannot stress enough that the best incentive of all is the quality of your ministry experience. Devote great care and time to making your events and programs relevant and valuable to the people who walk through your doors. If your program or event is built specifically to meet their needs and challenges, people will want to come back for more.  If the experience was enjoyable—perhaps running the program as a date night experience or social activity—it can encourage ongoing participation.  

Still, even in such a setting, it may be worth recognizing or rewarding exceptional attendance.

Here are a few examples: 

  • Offer a date night out with free childcare for those who attend all your sessions. 
  • Hold a couples’ experience for those who complete the entire course. These can be a church-sponsored formal or simply a nice dinner evening at the pastor’s home. 
  • Gift card to a local restaurant of their choice. Offer free childcare services on site or even babysitting services for participants with young kids already sleeping at home.
  • Gift cards for stores that are frequently used by your participants. For some lower-income couples, a gift card for gasoline or cab fare can make the difference between them getting there or not. Oftentimes, what then could be considered an incentive is merely helping reduce serious barriers to participation. 

However, we cannot stress enough that the best incentive of all is the quality of your ministry experience. Devote great care and time to making your events and programs relevant and valuable to the people who walk through your doors. If your program or event is built specifically to meet their needs and challenges, people will want to come back for more.  If the experience was enjoyable—perhaps running the program as a date night experience or social activity—it can encourage ongoing participation.  

Still, even in such a setting, it may be worth recognizing or rewarding exceptional attendance.

Start Slow and Iterate Over Time

Effective organizations iterate. That means trying something, learning from it, making improvements, and trying again. 

It is also important to consider what aspect of improving marriage and relationship dynamics you wish to start on first. You cannot launch a full-circle relationship ministry with offerings at every relationship stage all at once. Baby steps!

The Communio provided sample launch strategy on this platform and reviewed in your training gives one practical step-by-step method on how to get started. 

With consistent marketing (flyers, sermon series, notices in the bulletin, announcements before or after services, etc.), along with leveraging the Data Insights Tool to run both digital marketing for custom audiences and direct mail outreach in your church or community, you will have a strong turnout.

As you conduct your ministry, you may find people in attendance with a wide range of marital issues—some better or worse than others. This is a good problem to have. By taking the initiative to offer couples more access to services and resources (even if those services are not ideal for their present needs) you are helping couples take a first step towards a healthy marriage. More often than not, that initial experience and sense of connection generated within the group will give attendees hope that their marriage can be happy and healthy.

More importantly, once in the room, couples who experience significant distress can learn about other resources and services that may help them. Done well, your ministry will create opportunities to help people connect with additional resources. For this reason, it’s critical you have a list of resources and phone numbers available for people. Providing resources in a welcome packet or placing copies on every chair in the room will ensure no individual couple feels outed as “distressed” or “troubled.” Providing a list of other types of resources in this low-key manner lets everyone know of additional options while stigmatizing no one.