This post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.
- What if the couple comes into the program late (close to their wedding)?
- What if we think they need to meet with a more experienced counselor? What if we think they do not need to get married… at least not in the time frame they’ve set?
- What if we’re uncomfortable talking about [blank] or don’t feel like we do a good job with [blank]?
- What should we know about pre-marital couples (just in case we forgot what this season of life was like)?
- Are there articles or books I need to be reading?
- What if we learn the couple is living together?
This is the minority experience for marriage mentors. So as we examine this question do not assume this will be something that you will wrestle with in most of your mentoring relationships.
First, you need to remember that you are an advisor. There are limits to this role. You can make wise, well-informed advisements with clear practical next steps. After that, there is not much control. That is often the hardest part for compassionate people want to be involved in a counseling-related ministry.
Second, as a church, we may decide that the issue is problematic enough that our one of our pastors cannot, in good conscience, perform the wedding ceremony. Even in this, we do not have the level of influence that can require a couple to delay or reconsider their decision to marry.
The advisements below are detailed in an intentional order which we ask our mentors to follow when addressing these kinds of concerns:
- Listen. A great rule of thumb for all things counseling-related is, “If you don’t know what to say, ask more questions.” Rest in the reality you will not be making a decision for the couple, but only a recommendation.
- If the concern is minor, you may begin by recommending the couple study that seminar with their small group in their first year of marriage. If they are not in a small group, invite them to yours and ask your small group to study that seminar to allow the newlywed couple to benefit from the experience of many couples in that area.
- If the concern is moderate to severe, you should connect them with the formal counseling ministries of the Summit (www.summitrdu.com/counseling). The link provided will connect the couple with the various options for personal and marital counseling that we offer.
- If the couple does not adhere to your concern and is being married by a Summit pastor, then let the couple know that you feel the concern is significant enough that you should share it with the Summit pastor performing the ceremony so that he can help assess if your concerns warrant further attention.
- Unless your concerns involve something illegal or a safety consideration, continue to care for the couple as their mentor. Relationship is influence and, if the couple is engaging with the GCM materials, your concerns may begin to take on greater weight with the couple as they learn more of what God designed marriage to be.