Friday, January 14, 2011

Showing Marriage Some Love

The women's and men's group at our church are getting together to plan a Valentine's Dinner.  We have sorted out a lot of details and are really excited about this event.  Along the way some have shared concerns about excluding single/divorced people.  Although it is important to be inclusive I felt it equally important to support marriages.

In the first five years of our marriage my husband and I were part of a group of three couples who met every Sunday night.  We prayed, had communion together, ate, and spent time together.  The other two couples had children.  We did not.  This did not matter to my husband and I.  We always commented on how much closer we felt after those evenings.  Although the purpose was to grow in our faith we ended up growing in our marriage.  I look back on those nights and they still fill me with some encouragement for the future.

The church we got married in was 100 years old.  I was hoping that would inspire a long marriage.

Those evenings are long gone and we are all spread apart.  I can tell you that one of the couples are on the way to divorce and my husband and I have been struggling for the past three and a half years.  I often wonder if things would have been different if we had stayed in this group?

You can't see the depth of joy and determination I felt on that day. 
I have also been thinking a lot lately about the programs/services etc... for married couples in churches.  It occurred to me that I have heard of almost every program under the sun i.e. MOPS, AWANA, Men's Small group, Family Small Group, Ladies Bible Study, mentorship programs, children's Sunday programs, Sports, I can go on and on.  I have never been to a church or heard of any churches that offer a couples/married group.  I am not sure why this is such an unpopular group.  The church is in the marriage business after all and nobody can ignore the blaring statistics on divorce.  So why is there so little in the way of creating opportunities for couples to get together and support each other on this journey?  

How does your church show marriage some love?


Mining for Diamonds said... raise some really good points in this post. Where do I begin? I'm about to open a can of worms with my response, goes! (No flames, please! :))Right now, we don't have a church home. But when we did, I have to be honest in saying that I do not feel there was a lot of support for marriages. I found it especially hard in my situation in that we were dealing with serious mental health issues in my marriage. (I find that in general, churches have no clue how to deal with that issue. It's sad, but it is very true.)

I have to be very honest in saying that the best support I found for my marriage during an especially difficult time came from outside of the church setting, but yet from other believers. The best support I found was in people who prayed for me and my hubby. God led me to specific people who became my "prayer team". There were a husband/wife pastor team (of a church that I did not attend) who stood by us in dedicated prayer and intercession. I went to conferences where I received ministry. I had other friends who were lifting us up in prayer. I had an amazing counselor...a trained, professional psychologist who also understood mental health issues, that happened to be a godly man. He was AWESOME. After having great success with him, I vowed I would never again go to "pastoral counseling", for deep issues, but a real, trained, professional counselor. I even found prayer and support online. People really open up online in ways that they feel they can't in their own not only have I been blessed by the ministry I've received, but I've been able to help others.

Overall I have to say that the best support I ever got for my marriage did not come from church, but it came from relationships in the Body of Christ "at large". The best support that I've ever gotten as a believer in my walk with the Lord has come through community...and ironically the best community I've ever experienced has been outside the 4 walls of any church, and mostly with people I didn't even attend church with! That has been not only my personal experience, but I come across more and more people who feel the same way. Often times pastors are going through their own stuff in their own marriages behind closed doors...they don't have support either. Too busy with "church stuff". Or other times people put on their "church face" and just don't get real, for whatever reason.

The question is, why is that? I think it has some to do with the quality of real, deep, meaningful relationships, which I find lacking in groups like the ones you've listed. However, based on your testimony, your best support came simply through getting together in an intimate setting regularly with close friends...I bet you prayed for one another, "shared life" together...there is strength in that. The church does very little to really provide that today, although there are all kinds of programs that give the impression that they do.

Ok, off my soapbox now. :)I know I sound like I'm downing church, but I do think there are real issues when it comes to authentic fellowship, relationship and community and that is where at least some of the breakdown is.

Mining for Diamonds said...

Oh, by the way! BEAUTIFUL wedding photos!!! What a lovely bride you were! I am intrigued by the cultural background of your husband! :) You are a beautiful couple! I will definitely be praying for you and your family and your marriage.