Starting a Marriage Ministry Part 1: Setting the Direction

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I haven't written much in a while about marriage ministry and the process we went through at Saddleback Church in getting our marriage ministry off the ground so I thought I would do that in a series of articles on my blog. Hopefully it will help you if you are looking to get something started in your own church.
When it comes to starting any ministry there are a few questions you need to answer:

Is this ministry something our church needs and can do right now?
This is a very important question. Just because a ministry is valid and seems to be a big need does not mean it needs to happen now. You need to make sure your church is ready to do something like this and is on board to make it happen. There are so many things that happen in a church, you want to make sure it is a support not a distraction.

Does your ministry support and help fulfill the vision and mission of your church?
There has been a lot written on vision and mission in business and ministry circles. There was a time where every ministry in the church needed to have a vision and mission statement to be valid. Now having a vision and mission is a good thing but if that vision and mission does not roll up to the overall vision and mission of the church, the ministry can become a distraction instead of a help to the church.
When you look to start a marriage ministry at your church, your vision and mission statement should be the vision and mission of the church. If your ministry doesn't fulfill the vision and mission of your local church, then you shouldn't do it. This will force you to think long and hard about why marriage ministry is important and how it fits in your church. When we set out to do marriage ministry here at Saddleback, we had to consider how it fit the overall vision and mission of Saddleback Church. This thinking also guided how we put the ministry together so it was integrated well with our church (and I'll talk about how we did that and how that works in another post).
Now when I say it needs to line up with your churches vision and mission I am NOT saying you should try to get the church to re-write it's vision and mission statement to include marriage ministry. You don't need that for your ministry to be a success. If your ministry aligns with the vision, mission and strategy of your church people will see it as a value.

What Do Our Married Couples Need?
Don't proceed without first getting a gauge on what the married couples in your church need and are struggling with. So many of us start ministries thinking we know what people need. So we put in a lot of time and energy to develop something that no one needs or wants. Instead of doing that, take some time to talk with people in your church, survey them, and find out what their needs are. I'll give you some ideas of how to make this work in a future blog post. Know your married couples well enough that you know what you are developing is what they need.
If you spend the time up front thinking through the three things, making sure your church is ready for this ministry, that it fulfills the vision and mission of your church, and you have a good idea of the needs of the people you are trying to reach you will have a good base on which to build a solid marriage ministry. In the next article I will talk about how to get this information and get started with the process.
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