I would like to do pre-marital counseling for the members of my flock, but I don't know what to do. Can you help me?

Certainly. It is impossible to set forth an entire program for premarital counseling here, but I can make some suggestions and point you to a program that I have outlined in my book Shepherding God's Flock. Since you will find the program you need there I need not duplicate it here. Instead, let me mention a few very important general matters.

First, tell your people that ordinarily you do not marry couples unless you have opportunity to counsel them first. I always include the word "ordinarily," because there are unexpected exceptions that may arise. You do, however, want to hold rather rigidly to the rule.

Next, urge them to see you for counseling before they set the date for the wedding. You must qualify them for marriage before you agree to tie the knot. Explain that the first session is a qualifying session. It is possible you may find that it will take more counseling than ordinary to reach a point where, in good conscience, you can marry a couple.* To postpone marriage is preferable to having to deal with problems later on. Never marry a believer and an unbeliever. Nor should you marry two unbelievers (they are not entitled to a Christian wedding, and cannot take Christian vows sincerely). And you should marry only two believers who are qualified.

Thirdly, plan on a specific number of sessions, but be flexible to the possible need for more. For instance, if parents are not happy about the marriage, you may need to include them in counseling. Only rarely marry a couple without first discovering how parents think about it.

Then, when discussing matters treated in Shepherding God's Flock, typically, couples will tend to pass off a number of your warnings with a smile that says, "Sure, that may be true for others, but not for us!" Often, they think that they are the Anthony and Cleopatra of modern times.** The stars in their eyes at the moment may soon rise to a place over their heads!

So, because they probably won't listen as carefully as you'd like, you need to schedule more counseling sessions following marriage. There may be nothing more important to do than set up those sessions. There are many ways to do this. Here's one: tell them that you will be available to help at any time after the honeymoon, if needed, but that especially, you expect to visit them at a set date one month after the wedding. It might be nice for them to invite you (and your wife) for dinner. Then the new bride can demonstrate her culinary arts!

On that visit, you might help them to set up family devotions around the table. But, of greater importance, you will want to turn the visit into a counseling session. Find out how things are going, what sorts of problems they have faced, how they handled them*** (if they did) and what questions they may have. A home session may lead to further sessions in the church study.

In accord with Titus 2, as the "more mature" woman, your wife may offer to be available to help the young woman to get over some of the initial bumps of marriage. While her mother may be quite adequate to do so, it is interesting that Paul did not say that mothers alone were to instruct, he said "women." Each woman has something additional she may offer.

By all means do pre-marital counseling; and do it well! Take premarital counseling seriously, counsel helpfully, and you will have far less marital counseling to do later on.


* Marriage is not a part of the minister's job description in the Bible. It is a service he performs in which he is able to help couples. But he cannot be required to perform a marriage.

** They forget that Cleopatra ended up killing herself by means of a deadly snake.

*** The most important thing to examine in detail. Usually, help in this regard is necessary.

Jay E Adams

Institute for Nouthetic Studies

100 White Meadow Ct
Simpsonville, SC 29681

(864) 399-9583

 

         

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