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Will You Marry Me? (Pre-Marriage Mentoring Part 1)

Orginally published on Thursday, March 08, 2007 at 6:01 AM
by Jim Mueller

An anxious bride, working through her to-do list, calls your church asking for a wedding date. "Is June 9th available? How do we get married at your church?" In the next few minutes, you have the chance to capture ó or lose ó a huge opportunity. An opportunity? Another wedding... an opportunity? The pre-marriage process begins with that first phone call. Consider this: That phone call may be a bride's first connection with a church. Of course all that's on her mind is that wedding date. But if you're strategic, you have a chance to influence and impact two lives.

If you or your receptionists are screening queries, with questions like, “Do you attend our church? Are you members? Are you Christians? Are you living together?ó If you are pre-qualifying those wedding calls and rejecting the callers, you’re missing the opportunity.

Remember, an un-churched couple won’t give you the right answers. Many brides are shopping churches looking for a friendly, accepting voice. Don’t intimidate; don’t judge. Give them some grace.

So, what is the opportunity?  It’s not about building your attendance numbers. Instead think:

Relationship: Through authenticity and honesty, you can mentor this couple to a stronger relationship and a brighter future.

Vision Casting: What might your future look like if God were involved? What if you both were on the same page spiritually? What if you trusted God with this...?

Evangelism: You have a captive audience. The mentoring environment is the optimal setting for spiritual discovery. Not only are couples ready for relational vulnerability; they are ready to do spiritual business as well.

Changed Lives: In a setting of acceptance, encouragement, and trust, you have an opportunity to model a God-driven marriage and help shape a new future.

Legacy: Your impact on this couple can inspire them, their children, and future generations.

Job Satisfaction: You’ll love this!

Next week we’ll explore the next step in the pre-marriage process: How to Introduce Biblical Marriage Principles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jim Mueller is co-founder and President of Growthtrac Ministries, an online marriage resource located at growthtrac.com Checkout Growthtrac’s Ministry Resources.

FOR DISCUSSION:  How do you handle the calls that ask “Will You Marry Me?”


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  There are 8 Comments:

  • Posted by

    I disagree a little I suppose.  I think anytime someone calls and wants you to conduct the wedding you should meet with them.  However my conducting a marriage I placing my blessing on the marriage and marrying them in the name of the Lord.  I won’t just conduct any wedding they find another pastor or judge to do that.  If they just want to get married a judge can do that.  If they want a pastor to conduct the wedding well, I wonder if we should be more careful about it.  Just my opinion.  Most I have met don’t agree with me including my family.

  • Posted by Brian La Croix

    I love doing weddings for non-believing couples.

    I ALWAYS require counseling, however.  It’s during those times that I share the gospel and the idea that since God invented marriage, He is the one we should get our cues from in having a good one.  This allows us to look at Scripture and discuss some of the real-life stuff they should expect.  This also lets us discuss the sacredness of marriage, not just the ceremony.

    The only time I won’t do a wedding is for marriages between believers and unbelievers (NOT racially mixed - I don’t have a problem with that.  (Note: I’m still working through my thoughts on doing weddings for divorced people...) However, I would refuse to do the wedding if I felt that the marriage would be unhealthy or otherwise bad.  I tell them during the first session that I don’t guarantee weddings and will pull out if I feel that it is a bad idea for them to marry.  Never had to do that, but would if necessary.

    Jade, my only concern with your response is that the judge won’t share the gospel with the couple, and depending on the pastor, they may not get the gospel there, either!

    Brian

  • Posted by Stewart

    I do weddings for pretty much anyone who asks. I do require counseling and I present the gospel in both the counseling and in the service. I make it clear that them accepting it is NOT required for me to perform the ceremony. My thinking is that they are going to marry anyway. For the non-Christians it may be their only contact with a Christian church.

    This has led to me performing some pretty wild weddings. I did one recently in a place called the Singha Beer Hall. It is what it sounds like! The couple had not booked a venue and this was the only place available on short notice. There was a mechanical bull behind the staging area and waiters literally served beer during the ceremony until the bride waved them off! smile Then right before the pronouncement of marriage, the bride’s father’s phone rings… AND HE TAKES THE CALL! smile

    Later, when I was about to leave, the bride leaned in and whispered in my ear, “That went a lot smoother than I thought.” smile

    If you are going to do non-Christian weddings, you’re going to have to think like a missionary, relax and just enjoy people. I used to struggle with these questions… should I do the wedding? should I marry people who arn’t ready? who don’t meet biblical standards? who are living together? or are unequally yoked? But I’ve come to the conclusion that as marriage counselor and wedding officiant i am a missionary. I don’t compromise who I am or water down the gospel in any of this.

  • Posted by Brian La Croix

    Stewart,

    I’ve also found that when I agree to do weddings for non-Christians, and particularly if the wedding is going to be a bit “different,” and I relax as you say, it opens the door to greater acceptance to consideration of the gospel because I don’t make a big deal out of things that aren’t sinful.

    I did one wedding for my next door neighbors.  We did it in their living room.  The bride’s ex-husband was the best man, and he and the maid of honor just sat in overstuffed chairs during the “ceremony.” That’s all that was there, and since that was all that is required, it worked.

    I’ve done other not-so-traditional weddings, and as long as the requests are not sinful, then I say, “why not?”

    I agree totally with your idea of being a missionary.  However, I can’t get past the Scriptural injunction against believers marrying non-believers.  So I don’t do them.  I’ve never had such a couple ask me, but I would have to decline.  However, it would only be after sharing the gospel and inviting the other person to take that step for themselves.

    Brian

  • Posted by Jan

    I’d like to hear what people are doing about couples living together.  This is where we are.

    Do you marry live in couples?  Make them move out?
    What if they have children?

  • Posted by Leonard

    I have a few standard rules for weddings.

    I will not marry anyone who has not gone through marriage preparation either with me or with a church or other qualified leader.
    I will not marry a believer to a non believer nor will I marry a committed believer to a non-committed believer.
    I will not marry anyone with addictions.  You must be in recovery and have a minimum 6-8 months of sobriety, preferably longer. 
    I will not marry people who are not biblically divorced after knowing Christ. 

    I will marry to non believers.
    I will marry people living together providing they do not violate the above standards. I encourage abstinence until marriage when couples are living together and most comply.  I will not marry Christians who do not comply to this standard. 

    I tell every couple I help prepare that I will not marry anyone I do not think can go the distance.  So if during the course of our preparation I think you will not last, I will still help you prepare but I will not marry you. 

    Some of these things might seem harsh or narrow, but when explained to people I am asked to marry, they thank me because they are really in their best interest.  I have done hundreds of wedding and to my knowledge none of them have divorced.  I attribute this to Godís grace and high standards.  I also have led dozens of people to Christ because of these standards.

  • Posted by Jim Mueller

    Jan-- you asked for opinion on couples that are living together. My basis for that discussion (encouraging them to move apart) is the perception of sin. Some couples say they are sleeping in separate rooms and committed to purity—but what are the neighbors, friends, and family thinking?

    The couple might say, “Who cares what others think. We’re not sleeping together!”

    The bible doesn’t say “Thou Shalt Not Live Together”, so I talk about the perception of sin and I talk about how they shouldn’t influence other people to mess up.

    -- 1Thessalonians 5:21-24
    -- Colossians 4:5-6
    -- Romans 14:13
    -- 2 Corinthians 6:3
    -- Romans 12:2

    I paint a picture of how trusting God with this very difficult decision can have huge benefits in their relationship-- and more importantly—how God can use them.

    We have many stories of how God impacted friends and family through a decision to move apart.

    We also do some vision casting: They will have a story to tell their children, about a time where they did something to honor God; something that was difficult and that they didn’t agree with-- but it was worth it and here’s why.

    And we talk about the wedding day: Walking down the aisle, eyes meet, and the knowledge that they honored God.  No regrets… “We did it right.”

    Believe me, our couples are well aware that living together is a sticky point. It’s no surprise. We don’t need to tell them it’s an issue.

    Often a couple will trust us enough to take the leap of faith. We’ll teach them how to pray, we assist with the challenges and strategy, we walk along side them to help make it happen. We even offer our spare bedroom!  And we sit back and watch what God does.

    Through the process we witness a stronger relationship-- and a bigger faith.

    Jim
    growthtrac.com

  • Posted by

    I have a fond memory of a Pastor talking to my wife and I about marriage and how God wants to strengthen our marriages.  He said God wants our marriages to last, our first marriages, and he illustrated his point with a piece of duct tape.  He stuck it to the desk and showed how it was hard to pull off, then stuck it to a table to show how the 2nd time it didnít stick as strongly, just as a personís commitment to their 2nd marriage is not as strong as the 1st time.

    I had to tell him I thought it was an interesting illustration but possibly not the right message to send to a young bride about to marry someone a bit older who had been previously married and divorced. I then had reassure my bride that I was more committed to her than I had been the first time when I was 17 and had just joined the Army, as I was older, hopefully wiser, and knew better what we were getting into.

    This just to say, know the situations and backgrounds (as much as possible) of couples you counsel.  Pre-marital counseling is not a cookie-cutter, one size fits all kind of thing.  It really can be an opportunity to touch people and change lives.  Or at least an opportunity to be a good example and model Jesusí love for us all.

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