We often hear from church leaders that their congregants don’t talk about their relationship until it’s already too late.
“I am shocked that the marriage is under more pressure than I thought. And therein lies a responsibility for the church! […] I find it very sad when people have only made a kind of peace with the fact that things are actually not going so well.”Gerard Grit
Investing in thriving relationships has a huge domino effect. Think of the exemplary role that has a stable relationship for the environment and the next generation. After all, children learn more from what they see and experience than from what you tell them. When children in the congregation see thriving examples of marriage, it increases their chances of entering into good relationships themselves in the long run. There is no need to preserve the “fairytale image” of marriage, there is a need for a church that stands up for reality and encourages people to take marriage seriously and invest in it.
Here are some practical ways to help you build a culture of flourishing relationships in your church:
1. Talk about the reality of relationships
Marriage is a wonderful gift from God. At the same time, marriage requires work, time, and attention. God did not invent marriage for nothing, and as Christians we are allowed to represent His design on earth. That means standing up for marriage and what it means to enter into a lasting relationship with another person.
2. Start the conversation from a positive perspective
For example, when you talk about marriage, you could use an anniversary to start a conversation. ‘Congratulations on your five-year anniversary! How do you look back on the past years of married life?’ This way you support the idea that a conversation about the state of the relationship does not have to be problem-oriented or have a problem as a reason.
3. Pray for church marriages and relationships
Make it clear to the whole congregation that marriage is something precious and that we can stand around the married couples in prayer.
4. Organize a Pre-Marriage Course and a Marriage Course
This allows you to give couples tools to strengthen their relationship. With these courses, couples are supported very practically and at the same time you normalize the idea that a relationship requires maintenance. You can find out more about the courses below.
Hopefully, with these practical tips, you can take some first steps toward culture change in your church. Nicky and Sila Lee (former pastor couple and authors of the Marriage and Pre-Marriage Courses as well as the Marriage Book) encouraged us with a comparison with the seat belt. When it was first introduced, no one thought it was cool to wear a seatbelt. After much campaigning and effort from the government, it is now completely normal to wear a seatbelt. Culture change requires patience and a targeted investment, but it can become normal. And when that happens, you see more and more strong relationships with an exemplary role in your church.
We interviewed Nicky & Sila Lee about the effects of pastoring on their marriage and how to build thriving relationships in the church. Read about it here