The following was authored by Growthtrac founder, Jim Mueller, a contribution to Les Parrotts’ book, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring.
One of the questions we (Les & leslie Parrott) often receive from an audience of potential marriage mentors relates to evangelism. For years we have said that an effective marriage ministry in the local church is one of the greatest portals for evangelism we have today. And of all the marriages mentors who we know personally, Jim Mueller, at Willow Creek Church in Illinois, and president of Growthtrac.com, is one of the most adept at identifying a couple’s spiritual condition and mentoring them toward a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Jim has a heart for pre-marriage mentoring and he can point to dozens of couples whom he and his wife, Sheri, have brought to Christ through marriage mentoring.
In fact, we asked Jim to succinctly pinpoint the key elements of this important aspect of marriage mentoring and one of the things he said was, “In real world evangelism, often months pass before you can have a direct spiritual conversation. Not so in marriage mentoring.” Jim has discovered the secrets to meaningful evangelism through marriage mentoring.
“Every couple we’ve mentored has been ready and open to discuss tough spiritual questions by the second session”, says Jim. “God somehow prepares couples relationally — and spiritually — to build this relationship fast. We’re still amazed at couples’ accelerated willingness to do spiritual business with high vulnerability. The timing is God-orchestrated.
Maybe you’re thinking, I’m not an evangelist. That’s not a problem, according to Jim. What does he recommend? We’ll let him tell you in his own words:
When couples inquire at your church for a ceremony date for their wedding, are you screening out spiritual seekers? Review your process. Church attendance, membership, divorce history, and spiritual condition may not be reasons to say “no” to pre-marriage mentoring. And building your church attendance or membership may not be a reason to say “yes”.
Build Spirituality into the Process
Building the spiritual piece into the pre-marriage process can be a challenge. It affects everything including wedding inquiries, marriage preparation programs, church policy, and mentoring methodology. Even if you are the “mentoring team”, it will take time and effort to get it right. But it’s not that hard.
Often it’s a strategy shift from assigning and planning a wedding date to a longer term “preparing for marriage” approach. You’ll discover that couples are interested in marriage success — and their spirituality. We just need to be sensitive and intentional, delivering the correct message.
Believe me, before long you’ll see a “pattern” of success. You will become a safety net, often initiating a couple’s first spiritual conversation where you mentor and love them toward a decision for Jesus. Imagine marrying these new believers in your church! There’s nothing like it.
Remember: Relationship First
As Mark Mittelberg said in his book Becoming a Contagious Christian, “You need to barbecue first!” Don’t start your sessions with an agenda. Be open to where the Spirit steering you, meet the couple where they are, and build trust first/ Mentoring is not counseling. It’s about guiding and doing life with your couple.
Define Biblical Marriage Standards
What are your standards on remarriage? What if a couple is sexually active or living together? Will you marry non-Christians or unequally yoked couples? Does your church have a marriage elder’s statement? Are staff, elders, and volunteers fully behind these standards? Revisit these areas to know where you stand.
With a purposeful mentoring program, passion, and prayer you can do this. It will change your couples — and your church.
Adapted from The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring. Jim Mueller is the President of Growthtrac Ministries.
Copyright © 2005 Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. Published by Zondervan. All rights reserved.