I am now back in one of those areas where there are a lot of younger people just about to start their lives together. Right now I have three couples participating in a pastoral premarital training course I have used over the years. I consider it time well spent, though two of the three couples have little or no official contact with our church. They have been referred to me, instead, by other couples who have taken part in the eight to ten sessions of pre-marital training.
Ok, why do I do this course and why do I call it training and not counseling? You should also know I have never actually charged for it, though many kind couples have wanted to pay me for the effort.
I do these sessions because of these reasons:
- I consider it part of a pastor/preacher’s work to help families and marriages.
- Preventative help is much more pleasant than therapeutic or rehabilitative work.
- Empirical data indicate that couples who participate in 6 to 10 sessions of pre-marital training improve the possibilities for a happy, long term relationship from around 50% to as high as 67%. I know, you are right, anyone willing to put in that much effort is probably so committed they will do well anyway but your efforts give them a chance to express their commitment to one another.
I call what I do Pastoral Pre-Marital Training From a Christian Perspective, not counseling, because:
- I am not a counselor. I have not sought licensing as a counselor, or the pre-requisite education to be called a counselor or a psychologist or a medical doctor. I make this plain up front. I set out to be a local church pastor and sought the best education, mentoring and experience I could experience to become an effective local church pastor in a Christian setting. For this I make no apology, In fact, I am forthright in saying I do this work of family training from a Christian perspective.
- I get to know young (and not so young) families in this process. Some of them and some of their loved ones get interested in the things of God in the process. This fulfills the command of Christ to make disciples in all we do, wherever we go.
- I stay grounded in the real world as churched and unchurched people share their lives with me. I get to hear very real concerns, held in complete confidence, but there and real, no matter.
- I am encouraged to maintain a relationship with competent, licensed Christian mental health care professionals in our area for the occasions when a referal for counseling may be preferable. I am reminded I can do Christian pastoral family training. Counseling from a licensed, family history, family systems perspective is different. Both can be helpful.
So, I use some hours each week in this ministry. This week I have appointments with three lovely young couples, all in the bloom of love and coming marriage. I will consider it time well spent.