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Marriage Ministry in Layers – The Parfait of Relationship Levels

As a child, my grandmother made a dessert that was seven layers of the most mouth-watering delicious ingredients you can imagine: chocolate pudding, vanilla, fruit, ice cream, nuts, mouse, whipped cream, and who knows what else! It looked amazing and inviting in the crystal parfait glass. In the same way, a successful church based marriage/relationship ministry can best be described in layers. If you have all these layers functioning in your church, your body will be strengthened and your community outreach and impact effective. By layering relationship education, encouragement, and enrichment into the life of your church, healthy marriage and family decisions become the norm and as people enter your church, at whatever place they find themselves, they will have a doorway into further growth in their relationships skills as well as a doorway to deeper involvement in the life of your congregation.

Here is a simple outline of the Parfait of Relationship levels:

Layer one: Messages from the pulpit

Having a pastor who considers marriage/family/dating/relationship issues vital will be an asset to any church. Preaching on marriage, family and relationship issues keep relationships a priority in a congregation. In addition, a clergy staff that lives out the message is even more vital.

As a church, seek to build into the pastor and his marriage and the entire staff and their marriages and families. Send them to marriage conferences, clergy care conferences, give them generous vacation packages, give them magazine subscriptions like Just Between Us and Marriage Partnership. Give them a budget to buy and read new relationship books, CDs, and DVDs to bless them and to check out what might be of help in the congregation. Focus on the Family has a Clergy Care ministry run by HB London and many pastoral care resources, retreat centers and materials are referenced at:

The pastor has much persuasive power from the pulpit. Before a large conference or special event, you might want to bring the speaker in to preach prior to the event, or at least show a video clip of the speaker so audience gets a snapshot of their style/material.

In addition, if all the staff is required to attend the marriage enrichment event, the people will follow and register. We encourage the church to budget staff, elder, and spouses’ registrations info the event budget for any marriage event hosted at your church.

Layer 2: Weekly Bible Study

These can be in small groups, Sunday school, thru women’s and men’s ministries or co- ed studies, and the college/singles ministry. By offering something specific on relationships at all times, on going training is always available to a couple when they are ready to receive it.

Many DVD sets are available that make leading a small group a snap. One is our, Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti DVD by Lifeway. Lifeway also has many others available by other authors like Gary Smalley, John Tent, The Rossburgs, etc. Zondervan Publishers also has DVD’s by The Arps, and Parrots.

Farrel relationship building resources with small group discussion questions included in book (or on our website):

• Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti
• Single Men are like Waffles, Single Women are like Spaghetti
• Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper (email for free set)
• Red Hot Monogamy (email for set that is a study of Song of Solomon) • 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make (Mar 08)
• 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make
• Got Teens? (co authored with Jill Savage)

Layer 3 Marriage Mentors

Training and Discipling an army of marriage mentors is a great way to expand the influence of marriage minded ministry. One method is to equip mentors to do “Diner and Dialogue” a simple gesture of inviting a younger couple to a meal and discussing relationship topics and building a relationship so that there will be a safe place to ask questions and come to if the couple gets in a tough spot of crisis.

A DVD is available to train Marriage Mentors by Les and Leslie Parrot.
Our resources we have available are any of our marriage or relationship books plus we have Dinner Dialogue questions for 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make (due out March 08)
Relationship mentors can be trained for a variety of relationship equipping. Those that will help:

• High school and college students making relationship decisions
• Serious dating couples (pre-engagement and premarital counseling) • Marriage in Crisis
• Newlyweds
• Any married couple (new parents, parents of teens, empty nesters). • Marriages in crisis:

Crisis Marriage resources: See articles tab “Marriage on the Rocks” for a list of helpful resources and ministries to help a couple in crisis.

Layer 4 Special events

Often a couple’s budget or the lack of childcare hampers them from being able to attend a weekend getaway type marriage even, so a church can host an “on site” relationship events. Some ideas include:

• One night date nights with a speaker, meal on site (or desert)
• One evening date night with a video clip or couples 10 minute testimony and send

them out to dinner with discussion question (The Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti can work for this setting, as well as Dave and Claudia Arp’s 10 Great Dates)

  • Friday night/Sat on site conference
  • Full weekend conference
    Free or affordable on site childcare is a big plus for events to be affordable and workable for young married couples

Farrel Resource: Vital Relationships weekend: • Friday eve/Sat conference

  • Lunch of coffee with leadership team Saturday afternoon
  • Singles dinner or coffee Saturday afternoon or evening
  • Sunday speak in all worship services
  • If a Sunday am Sunday School hour, we can also speak to Parents of Teens on Teen Relationship contract and/or teens on relationships or college students.
  • We can also include a “Picnic with Pam”—women’s event and or “breakfast with Bill” men’s event if you want to bring us in a day early (Thursday eve) or have us stay through a Sunday evening and schedule can adjust accordingly. This way entire church gains meaningful relationship skills and outreach media/PR can market to all segments of the community. Having a Vital Relationships Weekend is a great way to make a splash in your community because the event is large enough to attract the media’s attention and you can market the pieces to every segment of your community so your church gains the reputation that it cares about everyone’s relationships: married or single.

Layer 5 Specialized Training

  • Pre-engagement/premarital counseling • Lay counseling
  •  Marriage in crisis counseling
  • Divorce care
  • By offering specialized relationship counseling, you have the ability minister to people at all spectrums of relationship issues.

Copyright Bill and Pam Farrel, 2016

Some resources to review for these areas include:

Pre-engagement/premarital counseling

  • Before You Say I Do by Norm Wright
  • 101 Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do- Norm Wright
  • 10 Great Dates for Engaged Couples by Dave and Claudia Arp
  • Save Your Marriage Before it Starts by Les and Leslie Parrot
  • Before You Live Together and Before Your Get Engaged- Pastor Dave Gudgel

Lay counseling

  • Les and Leslie Parrot have a DVD program

Marriage in crisis counseling

  • We recommend churches connect to Christian MFCC (Marriage and Family Counselors) who are strong believers, and have a strong Biblical framework and create a relationship with professionals in your community:

§ Referrals: Give names out of recommended counselors
§ Offer free office space and hours in your church facility for a counselor to use in exchange for a discounted rate for couples who attend your church
§ Hire a counselor to handle the counseling load part or full time § Hire a pastor trained in counseling to handle the counseling load (A place to begin in finding Christian Counselors in your area or to gain specific training for counselors or lay counselors is American Association of Christian Counsleors: )

Divorce care

  • Tom Whiteman has a ministry, “Fresh Start”
  • Smart Step Families- Ron Deal
  • Books by Jim Smoke (Harvest House )
  • Books by Kari West : Dare to Hope, Dare to Trust,
  • Books by Jim Conway: When a Mate Wants Out, Moving On After He Moves Out

Layer 6 Optional Enrichment

Advertise and organize groups to attend parachurch training, an enrichment activity:

  • Marriage conferences at conference centers (Examples, Cannon Beach, Hume Lake, Catalina Island IVP, etc)
  • Marriage conference sponsored by parachurch: Examples: Family Life, Marriage Alive, Lifeway’s Festivals of Marriage, Christian Marriage Encounter, —and conferences by Farrel Communications/Masterful Living (the Farrel’s ministry)
  • Highlight resources to your congregation: have a bookstore, carry marriage and family magazines in your church lobby: Marriage Partnership, Homelife, etc.
  • Contact marriage ministries to see if they have bulletin inserts that equip couples with relationship skills
  • Inform your congregation about radio and TV programs that enhance relationship skills (Family Life Today, Focus on the Family, Homeword, etc)

Layer 7: Community Outreach events

Using relationship issues as a platform to preach the gospel is a wise way to reach out to your community. Jesus said “They will know us by our love” so equipping people to be lovely and loving will be one effective way to reach out.

Offer “Date Nights” with childcare; seminars on felt needs (money, romance, communication, conflict resolution, parenting, etc)
Offer family oriented events and help: counseling, poverty care, children’s activities, a school, etc.

Layer 8: Online Resources

Create a website with articles, blogs, ezine, book recommendations, video clips of couples in your church and their stories, etc.

Highlight online marriage and family websites in your weekly bulletin. (The Farrels will send you sample articles you can use of their writing in your bulletin upon request).

Layer 9 Relationship Training for children, tweens, teens, college, singles

If you help students and singles learn values like honesty, commitment, purity, and skills like communication, conflict resolution, etc, you are preparing them for a life of healthy relationships. Education for students and singles is like preventative medicine—it stops issues and problems before they even begin.

Farrels offer:

Layer 10: You!

Take care of your own marriage—as a leader in marriage ministry, Satan is on the attack so make time for your relationship with date nights weekly, attend conferences, take time off together, pray daily together, etc. Never risk the health of your own marriage to care for other marriages, your spouse is the first “sheep” in God’s flock. Bill and I are highly committed to helping marriages, but we have to maintain our own love and romantic life so we have the emotional strength to keep helping others. If you are a clergy couple, Focus on the Family has a website listing resources ESPECIALLY for ministry minded marriages. Your love is a priority.

Copyright Bill and Pam Farrel, 2016

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