Biblical marriages held today in our contemporary society in Christendom had failed to maintain longevity because couple who entered into this institution of marriage failed to understand that marriage is a long life project building that never ends until the couple departs to be with the Lord. In an effort to respond to this crisis, this document outlines some helpful steps that are used to prepare couple who want to enter into this institution to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives; meanwhile, the issues outlined in this document propose five meetings encapsulated in the criteria for marriage, the Christian marriage (I & II), the pre-marriage, and the pre and post wedding.
II. THE CRITERIA FOR MARRIAGE (Meeting One)
It is advisable as a married counselor to have a book designated for the potential couples to read while the counseling takes place. The book chosen to be read by the couples via the counseling sessions will help the counselor to get most of the things across during the sessions. Since this is a premarital counseling, I will assign the couple to read the book entitled, “Preparing for Your Marriage” written by William J. McRae. I will ask the couple to read chapters 3-11 in “Preparing for Your Marriage” during my first encounter with them.
One of the questions that I will ask the couples during session I will be if they have scheduled the wedding date. If they have already scheduled the wedding date, the counseling should take place within five months period prior to the wedding date. As the result of the time period, I will be able to outline what I want to achieve during the period. The outline should comprise of the following:
- To get to know the couple so that they can feel comfortable and know my spouse and my counseling process.
- To discern the spiritual condition of the counselees and be familiar with their spiritual history and commitment.
- To make them understand the importance of sexual purity prior to the wedding.
- To outline the counseling process and what will be required of the couple.
- To clarify that no announcement be made to be sent out until the couple is approved and communicated to the church office. I will tell the couple that final approval will not be given until after the third meeting.
I will ask the following questions during the preliminary session:
- How did they come to know each other?
- How long have they known each other?
- How long have they been dating? Are they formally engaged?
- How and why they did decide to get married?
- When do they plan to get married? Where? By Whom?
- Why do they want to get married?
- Why do they want to get premarital counseling?
- Are their desire to have Christian ceremony and Christian wedding? What is Christian marriage? How is Christian marriage different from other marriages?
- How do their friends and family (including children) feel about their engagement?
- Do they have any expressed concerns? If so, what are they?
- Has either of them been married before?
- Has either of them been “in love” before? How many times? How long ago was the last time?
- Could they describe the spiritual condition of their relationship up to this time? How could they want their spiritual relationship to improve?
- Could they describe the strengths and weakness of their mate? What is about their mate that attracted him or her to him or her?
- Have they been involved in pornography in the past or in the presence?
Primarily, after having asked these questions, I will find out if both potential couple professes faith in the Lord. I will let them know that the church will not be involved in the wedding if this question is not answered affirmatively. It is good that the couple come unprepared before asking this question so that you can get an insight of their standing religiously. Another way to know this is to ask the groom to tell the bride’s testimony of her faith and likewise the groom should do the same. From this approach, I might be able to glean the following:
- Does the couple talk about their faith with each other?
- Are they confident about the other’s conversion?
- Does the couple seem to have an interest in spiritual things?
- How well do they know each other?
- How well do they communicate about spiritual things?
These open ended questions can open up meaningful discussion during the counseling sessions.
Second, is the couple dedicated to a Christian marriage as defined in the Bible? If the couple is not committed in this way, it will be impossible to get along with each other in the time of crisis. Christian marriage is a lifelong building project which begins on the foundation of God’s word. To accomplish this, the following must be accorded to:
- Husbands must love their wives (Ephesians 5:25).
- Wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-26)
- Husbands and wives must spend time in God’s word (Heb. 4:12, II Tim. 2:15).
Third, does the couple have parental approval? If the couple does not have parental approval, I will meet with both parents of the potential couple to inquire the reason while at the same time pray and seek consultation from the elders and deacons of the church.
Fourth, I will ask the couple about their sexual purity. Are they involved in physical intimacy? If they are involved, I will ask them to refrain from such beginning from the day I meet them. I will make them understand that during the next meeting, I am going to ask them about their commitment from refraining from sexual activities. I will have the couple read the following scriptures regarding sexual purity:
- No sexual intercourse among believers (Ephesians 5:3)
- We are to live to please God (I Thessalonians 4:1-8).
- Marriage should be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4).
I will ask the couple how well they stand in relations to these verses before proceeding.
III. CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE I (Meeting Two)
During the second meeting, I expect the couple to have read the chapters assigned them. Their failure to read the chapters will make me reschedule the meeting. If they have gone through the chapters, I expect them to be familiar with the chapters. During this session, I will want to hear what God has been teaching them through the study. I and my spouse will facilitate the discovery process what God has been teaching them. The study of this session will make me and the couple one month. The outline for the meeting will include the following:
- The basics of marriage (Genesis 2:18-24).
- Adam did not take a wife, but he received one from God.
- Marriage is permanent. I will ask the couple on their perspective regarding divorce. What do they believe scripture teaches about it? Before meeting them as counselor. I will look at these scriptures regarding what scriptures say about divorce: Leviticus 21:7, 14, Deut. 22:19, 24:1-3, Jeremiah 3:1, 8, Ezekiel 44:22, Malachi 2:16, Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-12, Mark.
- It is not good for a man to be along ( Gen. 2:18)
- The two will become one flesh (2:24).
- The test of love (I Corinthians 13:4-7).
- The discernment of their maturity, spirituality, and emotionality.
IV. CHRISTAIN MARRIAGE II (a Christian husband and a Christian wife)
This meeting will cover chapters 12-17 in “Preparing for Your Marriage.” At this meeting, I will ask the couple if they have gone through these chapters prior to today’s meeting. During this session, I will have developed a full relationship with the couple and learned about them in term of personality, spirituality, and emotional maturity. This insight is very valuable as I prepare and conduct the sessions. For most couples, this will be their first in-depth study of what it means to be a Godly husband and a Godly wife. There are misinformation regarding this topics and many couples find relief and while others find it difficult to accept. One should keep in mind Ephesians 4:14-16; “so we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.”
This meeting will be conducted differently as compared to other meetings held. I will ask the man to talk covering chapters 12-13 while the woman remains silent and the woman will talk covering chapters 15-17, while the man remains silent. The outline for the man will include the follow:
- Biblical headship and leadership from Ephesians 5.
- How husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church from Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3.
- Define what it means to live with your wife in understanding way from I Peter 3:7.
The outline for the woman will include the following:
- How is the wife to be helper to her husband?
- A submissive wife as defined by scripture from Chapter 16 of “Preparing for Your Marriage”.
- Home is where the heart is.
During this discussion about headship and submission, I will allow the couple to discuss personal convictions. The husband should be sensitive to his wife’s convictions and not seek to override those convictions in the name of headship. I will have the couple read I Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14. I will consider asking these questions:
- What if the husband disagrees with his wife’s convictions? Should the husband expect his wife to submit to him when it would cause her to violate her convictions?
- Should the husband or wife try to impose his or her personal convictions on his or her mate?
- What are some of your personal convictions regarding tithing, Christian service or ministry, children, birth control, sexual activities/practices?
By the end of this session, I will have determined if I will give final approval for the marriage. If I will give them green light regarding the wedding, I will inform the couple, the wedding Officiant, and the Pre-Marriage Coordinator to let them know about the potential decision.
V. THE PRE-MARRIAGE (Meeting Four)
This meeting will cover chapter 18-21 of “Preparing for Your Marriage.” At this time, I will ask the couple to read Proverbs as outlined in Chapter 19 from the start of the counseling so that they don’t rush to complete chapter 14. I will encourage the couple to read one chapter daily and meditate through Proverbs rather than complete it as an assignment. In completing chapter 23 from the book for the next meeting, I will have the couple study I Corinthians 7:1-7 and I Thessalonians 4:1-8 so that they will be prepared to discuss how a sexual relationship in a Christian marriage is different from a pagan one.
The gift of money management is sometimes lacking in a newly married couple. I will ask the couple to complete and bring a budget for the next meeting. The outline for the next meeting will include the following:
- Be familiar with scripture as it relates to solving problems and conflicts.
- Encourage the couple to review the book of Proverbs.
- Adding the study of I Thessalonians 4:1-8 as homework assignment.
- Adding the preparation for a budget to the homework assignment.
VI. THE PRE AND POST WEDDING (Meeting Five)
This meeting will cover chapters 22-26 of “Preparing for Your Marriage.” I will schedule this meeting prior to the wedding date in three weeks time. This session will include three parts.
- Key scriptures will be studied during this time.
- Goal will be set for the wedding and the marriage.
- Specific church attendance will be discussed.
- Split up men with men and women with women.
- I will not assume that the couple has talked about the “birds and the bees” with anyone.
- I will make myself available to talk with them like issues regarding birth control, the wedding night, sex after marriage etc.
- I will find out if they have selected their wedding vows.
- I will help them lead how the wows will be carried out during the wedding.
- I will have them considered the following scriptures: Numbers 30:2, Deut. 23:21-23; Judges 11:29-40; Psalm 15:2; 76:11; Proverbs 20:25; Eccl. 5:4-5.
- And I will review the budget with them if they have expectations to spend.