Pre-Marital Counseling: How and Why?
David Fuller – Mableton, Georgia
Most couples getting married have not answered the questions they need to answer. They’ve not talked about why they’re getting married or what their expectations are. Because of this, every pastor needs to offer some form of premarital counseling.
What should you cover in these counseling sessions? Consider that most couples have not discussed their life goals, the matter of children, or any of those kinds of things. Pre-marital counseling provides a forum for that. Also, people go into marriage with the expectation that the other person is going to provide a basis for happiness that he or she did not have prior to the marriage. In your counseling, you need to let them know that happiness is not the responsibility of another person; it’s the responsibility of the person within himself.
Beyond that, you have to provide an ongoing forum for the couple even after their marriage. As their relationship grows and develops, you must still provide instruction for them through seminars and classes. Premarital counseling only prepares the couple for marriage and the adjustment period of the first year or so. From there, you must provide ongoing training in those values that are appropriate to that time of their marriage.
Robert Trapani – Akron, Ohio
Pre-marital counseling is an extremely important role for a pastor. In fact, I won’t marry a couple without first counseling them. After all, you need instruction before getting a driver’s license; how much more do you need instruction before getting a marriage license? Furthermore, marriage is a covenant, not a contract. This means that there are three people involved: the man, the woman, and Jesus Christ. As a result, the ramifications are much higher than with a contract. A covenant is permanent.
My number one goal in pre-marital counseling is making the couple face reality. We need to communicate the six problem areas that any couple will face: finances, sex, children, in-laws, habits and religious differences. In fact, I’ve talked a number of people out of marriage, because when they faced reality, they realized they weren’t ready for such a life-changing commitment.
There’s an old line that says, “Love is blind.” I would go even farther: It’s also deaf, dumb and ignorant. It’s important that we help couples to face the realities of marriage and to understand that once they enter into the covenant of marriage, they are bound to one another. It’s not something that should be entered into lightly.
Irvin Baxter – Richmond, Indiana
I have a few key points that I try to get across to the couple. The number one thing I make them understand is that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition; it is a 100 percent giving proposition on both sides. Another thing I talk about is finances. I encourage young people to stay away from credit card debt and, if possible, to purchase a home.
David Reynolds – Gresham, Oregon
I offer pre-marital counseling, but I haven’t found many that are interested in it. They wait until they get in trouble in their marriage, and then come for advice. However, I think a couple ought to spend extensive time finding out what makes marriage work, the major causes of break-up, and how to work out problems.
Terry Black – Memphis, Tennessee
Pre-marital counseling is helpful as long as the couple is willing to receive this type of advice. We use a video series entitled “Before You Say I Do.” We go this route because it’s more flexible with every-one’s schedules.
David Showalter – San Antonio
Because of the world’s looseness in their approach to illicit sex, and to living together before marriage, I think it’s a good idea to forewarn young couples who are engaged to be careful to keep themselves pure until marriage.
Tracy Noel – Bloomington, Indiana
There are a few books J would recommend for use in pre-marital counseling, such as Bro. Larry Arrowood’s book, Building the Home, and Tim Lahaye’s book, The Act of Marriage. Most couples who have had prior reading and study materials, along with counseling, have had a solid foundation to fall back on in difficult times.
Joseph Forbush – Midlothian, Virginia
Many people don’t really know if they’re compatible or not. Plus, too many times, they’re just infatuated and not in love. So we’re right now in the middle of a course on marriage at our church. Also, I’m making up a questionnaire to use in pre-marital counseling. In addition to this, it’s important to assign marriage books to the couple.