Monday, October 22, 2012
How to Create Divorce Free Churches
The pastor looked stunned by my question. He'd expected affirmation for his efforts to defend marriage as one man and one woman at some city commission meetings. "That's great", I said, "But when are you going to do something proactive and effective to heal, strengthen and restore marriages in your church?"
Months later, after a few more broken marriages passed through his office he called me. "We've got to do something", he said. "It's really bad, and there's got to be more we can do to prevent the pain and brokenness."
It's a point that we've seen many pastors come to. Spend long enough in ministry and they get pretty frustrated that teaching about what husbands and wives should do to love and respect each other isn't enough. It's a point Jill and I came to in our counseling practice (2003) and eventually in our own marriage. "There's got to be more and better for marriage!" We ranted to no one in particular, and prayed for God to lead us to the more and better. Finally, He did. And now we can't help share this good news (not to be confused with THE Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although He is the foundation of the more and better).
Here it is, "Any couple, motivated to grow and change can benefit significantly by learning to use state of the art relationship skills to heal, strengthen and protect their relationship."
That's it! It's that simple. Skills to open and hold each other's hearts, to set goals for the relationship that both are motivated to accomplish, and relational support, encouragement and accountability to pursue those goals. Exercises to prevent misunderstandings and to build closeness, to have difficult and emotional conversations in a way that builds rather than hurts the relationship.
Pastors want to do well for marriages but many don't know how. The bad news is that the war on marriage continues. Forces from the outside and the inside of couple's lives work to divide us and to erode pleasure in our relationship. BUT Good News is that there are things every couple can do to heal, strengthen and protect their relationship, and it begins with life-giving conversations.
There is no reason that churches shouldn't set the audacious goal of being "Divorce Free Zones". "Fellowship with our congregation, learn to use state of the art skills with heart, and you will eliminate your chance of divorce, and what's more, you'll get what you need to make your marriage everything God wanted you to have; pleasure, purpose and potency for the lives of your children, grandchildren, friends, etc."
Curious about the solutions we're suggesting? Write a note, give us a call, arrange for a lunch and learn, or do what the frustrated pastor did. Arrange a conference to teach couples how to coach their own marriage and how to have difficult and emotional conversations.
It's good to preach about marriage, better to teach couples skills, and best to train couples in your congregation to train others.
Jeff and Jill Williams