4 Challenges Facing Church Leaders

As Church Leaders – How do We Help Marriages to Improve?

I want to help couples that are struggling. I want to equip the church. I think the church has a huge mission field. I think that the demand is great and the mentors are few. (My poor paraphrase of Luke 10:2.)

How do we equip people? I ask myself this all the time. I wrestle with this every day. What do we call this inside the church that will actually make this work?

I was recently talking about this with Luke Nelson. Luke is Market Development Director at PREPARE/ENRICH. He has been in the marriage “space” for a number of years, training and equipping mentors and pastors. I have to say that I love PREPARE/ENRICH and I love what they are doing.

He and I were talking about what is the best thing to call mentors. Marriage Mentors? Marriage Coaches? Marriage Champions? Marriage Educators? Something else?

Luke told me, “One time we trained 20 mentors at a church and then the church promoted it. Not many couples responded. Mentor seems to denote some type of perfect couple that knows everything. This is fairly common.”

I’ve seen that at our church. My wife and I teach a class at our church aimed at couples in distress. We regularly see 50-60 couples sign up for our class, but they don’t sign up for mentoring.

I scratch my head over that one. Why is that?

What are some of the challenges that we face as mentors and church leaders in helping couples?

These are the challenges that I’ve identified. I’d love to get your feedback.

Challenge 1: Mentors Don’t Feel Qualified

Potential mentor couples ask, “Can we really do this?”

Like Luke indicated, many people feel they need to have the perfect marriage to be a mentor. A big question is, “What are the qualifications to be a mentor?”

Does the word “mentor” denote some special extra wisdom? Perhaps.

If that is true, then I can understand why some couples wouldn’t want to mentor. Who has a perfect marriage?

From the mentee side, who would want to go to a perfect couple when you have problems? I would rather go to a couple that is honest about their struggles and how they handled it.

I have found the best mentors for distressed couples to be people that have had their own marriage struggles and got out the other side.

Just hearing their stories helps people to feel better about themselves. Hearing about other couple’s struggles and how they changed gives hope. If you can do it, maybe I can too!

That wisdom is incredibly valuable.

How can we convey that to mentors that we aren’t looking for perfect marriages? There are no perfect mentors here.

Challenge 2: Mentees Not Seeking Help

There have been studies done of help seeking behavior. Couples don’t seek help, often until they are in desperate condition.

There are a number of couples that are struggling and few ask for help. (See my report “Does My Church Have a Hidden Problem?”)

What can we do to make it easier for couples to seek help? I think we need to lower the stigma for couples seeking help.

Challenge 3: Stigma of Having a “Bad” Marriage

Couples are often reluctant to raise up their hand and say, “We have a bad marriage.”

I was talking to another pastor about this. His thought was it was better to refer to it more as marriage enrichment. Their church has had better success just saying this is a class to improve your marriage, without saying that it is focused on repair.

He has found this to work. There is no stigma to being in a “bad” marriage. Rather, saying, “We are looking for people that want to improve their marriage. We are willing to give you resources to help.”

This could work, even if it’s a private class.

Challenge 4: Fear of the Time Commitment

I suspect that an open ended “mentoring” is a little unnerving for people. People have a limited amount of time and they want to careful where they invest it.

Our church is finding more success in having a limited number of sessions, like a class. We promote it as x number of sessions, then we are done. It seems like we have a better turnout when we set an expectation of the limited number of sessions.

My Conclusion

Right now, I’m of the opinion that calling this marriage education works the best. You say that you have a limited number of sessions.

I would love to have more feedback on this. I’m curious what you’ve experienced? What has worked for you?

How do we, as marriage mentors and church leaders, reach marriages and help them to improve?