Marriage – part of the infrastructure of the church.

It sometimes seems that Martin Luther’s opening words to his work “The Estate of Marriage” where he said “How I dread preaching on the estate of marriage! I am reluctant to do it because I am afraid if I once get really involved in the subject it will make a lot of work for me and for others.” apply in the thinking of parts of the church today. Our reasons for this may be different to his, but we all have the same prime responsibility as St. Paul charged Timothy as we see in 2 Timothy 3.14-17. Within this marriage must be maintained as a high priority throughout the leadership of the church and it is suggested that marriages are part of the infrastructure of the church – as we have said previously healthy marriages make healthy families which make healthy churches, communities….

Turning for a moment to the ABS release, last November, of the Marriage and Divorce statistics for 2021, the number of marriages are still well below pre-pandemic levels at 89,164 (3.2% of which were ssm). The number of those married by a minister of religion was down to 19.3%. That is a plunge of 10.6% (29.9%) against 2011 and 27.6% (46.9%) against 2001. The number of divorces was up to 56,244, an increase of 13.6% on 2020 (49,510). (The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have advised that the high number of divorces finalised in 2021 is in part related to administrative changes to increase finalisations and reduce timeframes.) The number of children affected by the divorces in 2021 was 48,432 and amongst the trauma, potentially they are growing up with a distorted view of marriage.

The 2021 Census showed that 43.9% of the population identified as Christian and 38.9% as no religious affiliation.

Whilst these figures may not be surprising and could be passed off at least in part due to lock-downs etc. over the past two years, they do give us a base to build out from. That is looking for Kingdom growth within the church in Australia, a growth that has its foundations in the Lord’s plans rather than our own and the church rising up above the reputation that it may have been labelled with by the world an the last few years and becomes known for its love. Church ceasing to become a Sunday “drive through event” for people but a 24/7 life of discipled people.

A tagline of MW is “Investing in the critical infrastructure of our nation”. Marriages and families are just that, places where the next generation are nurtured and equipped.

Whilst it is great that within a church one or all of the following are in the program – Date nights, marriage retreats, small groups, and marriage seminars – all great ways of strengthening marriages, more needs to be done to fulfil a ministry to marriage. The following are some suggested foundational tools to be incorporated into that skeletal backbone and like much in life it starts with the example from the “top”.

The church leader and their spouse (if married) need to be authentic and vulnerable about their own marriage as they preach, teach, correct and lead. This also needs to be the case throughout the leadership/pastoral of the church. Being authentic and vulnerable maybe a challenge but it will negate gossip either outside and regrettably sometimes within the church. In being authentic it is good to share with the church the measures you have in place to protect and also strengthen your own marriage. It is also good to have testimonies from within the church from members who have overcome difficulties,large or small, in their marriage. This can be a powerful way to help others and encourage strong marriages.

Regularly encourage married couples to pray together each day for each other, their marriage, their family as well as for others within the church and also for the wider issues that impact our nation and beyond.

Seek the Lord’s leading when to include life application examples within sermons, messages, newsletters etc. that relate to marriage and family e.g. if the message relates to the importance of forgiveness connect this with forgiveness in marriage and family as well as life generally.

An area that helps to show the importance that the church attaches to marriage is to empower a lay-led team. The team should ideally consist of married couples who reflect the diversity of the church in age, race, and need. A good starting place for starting the ministry is to build the team through a marriage mentoring program – the training for this can be accomplished online and through personal study.

Regrettably, there is also a need to be prepared to deal with reconciliation – which could be within a marriage, a family, the church etc. There may even be the need to call on the services of others e.g. a nearby church that is known to have the appropriate expertise or failing this to be aware of the nearest registered Christian counsellor who is qualified in the appropriate area. These need to be in place when running marriage seminars, retreats, small groups etc.

Suggested Resources:

Download and make available our Book List

Focus on the Family Australia

The Complete Guide to Mentoring Marriages – Drs Les & Leslie Parrott online at Marriage Mentoring and their books are available through good Christian bookstores.

Mentoring Marriages – Harry Benson – available to order through good Christian bookstores and available online

Christian Counsellors Association of Australia (CAAA) –

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:14-17 NASB)

Marriage & family part of the church infrastructure