What is a good template for pre-marital counseling?

 I often receive questions about pre-marital counseling.  Yet, counseling those preparing for marriage can be very complex and involved to a level that makes it hard to address it through a format like this.  Nevertheless, the amount of questions that have come to me as of late has pushed me to write about it, in the form of a template.  That is all these 3 suggestions are…a template that I hope could be applied to the various contexts that are represented by those who read this blog. 

In light of the tendency to oversimply, or bog down your young engaged couple with too much to do, here are 3 areas I find very helpful and thorough, whether you have a few weeks or as “many weeks as needed” before the big day.

Read and study God’s Word.  Always start here.  Ignore all the materials that sell you the “10 steps to a happy marriage” study guides and show this couple preparing for marriage what God says marriage is and what He expects of them in it.  Use all the Bible, not just Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3.  Use Genesis 1-3, Proverbs 5, Song of Songs, Hosea, and other books and passages of the Old Testament that clearly speak to God’s design and purpose in Christian marriage.  I find it most helpful to give them passages to read together on their own, then to discuss as part of your counseling time.

Use a questionaire to evaluate the essential areas of married life.  There are a ton of options from personality tests to massive pages of evaluations to use.  Be wise in what you use to make sure this tool opens the right doors of conversation in the areas that need to be discussed:  spiritual growth, family life, finances, children, communication style, in-laws, and other areas that need to be discussed in a counseling setting prior to marriage.  Some kind of questionaire can act as a tool to accomplish this if used properly.

Read a marriage book.  Pick one great book to have the couple read together and come ready to discuss with you.  The book I like to use most is When Sinners Say I Do, written by Dave Harvey.  It gets to the sin issues of the heart that often make marriages struggle.  It also has a study guide you can buy with the book to help lead your time with them.  Check my Recommended Resource page for further suggestions.

Remember this is just a template with hopes it will help you think through what will be best for the couples in your church preparing for marriage.

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Weddings
3 comments on “What is a good template for pre-marital counseling?
  1. Brian,

    As a minister myself, this is an outstanding post. Thank you for sharing this concise but rich outline for helping to prepare couples for the reality of the spiritual journey of marriage.


  2. Matthew Burt says:

    I have used the materials from Prepare-Enrich for nearly 25 years. I find them to be very helpful and practical in opening conversations, giving techniques for communication, helping understand differences. I also recommend War of Words by Paul David Tripp as a template for communication. I have always insisted that if I am to do the wedding ceremony that there will be premarriage counseling. I spend roughly 12-15 hours with each couple in 90 minute sessions that also cover ceremony planning, budgeting and sexual issues. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my pastoral work. It is also an incredible opportunity to show the gospel and how it applies to marriage.

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