How does a pastor approach pre-marital counseling?

I begin pre-marital counseling with a young couple in our church this evening.  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 know how to address it through a format.  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 questionnaire 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 should be discussed in a counseling setting prior to marriage.  Different kinds of questionnaires 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.  I try to schedule six sessions with the couple.

Pastors, what resources have you found helpful?

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Weddings
7 comments on “How does a pastor approach pre-marital counseling?
  1. Les Hughes says:

    I really appreciate this post. As a young pastor (28) and still a newly wed myself (2 years and some change) it can be difficult to feel I have much to offer. I loved When Sinners Say I Do when my wife and I read through it together before getting married. One other one that I would add would be Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. Lots of good in there for me dealing with some of the lies the world tells us about marriage.

  2. John Luhmann says:

    Which questionnaires have you used that you have found beneficial? Which ones have you used which did not accomplish what you are hoping for?

  3. Jeff Lash says:

    Hey Brian…thanks for the suggestions and guidance. Do you have any specific recommendations for the questionnaire? What do you or others you know use?

  4. John Luhmann says:

    Is the resource from Capitol Hill the 8 F’s or 10 F’s list of questions?

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