For the last twelve years, we’ve had the privilege of being part of the marriage mentoring ministry at Good Shepherd. We, and a dozen other trained mentors, come alongside couples who are preparing for marriage or partner with married couples who are seeking to improve the quality of their relationships. 

Typically, we connect with couples for eight sessions, working with a biblically-based program designed to help their marriages thrive. And as often is the case, friendships develop and supportive relationships continue. The program really is a double blessing–one blessing given to the couples we are serving and the other given to us.

Our experience has made us aware of how many marriages start with high hopes and dreams, but soon become disrupted by the challenges of complex issues in the terrain of marriage. As a result, many marriages end up full of hurt, disappointment, and disillusionment. The key for all couples is to learn how to invest in their marriages wisely. 

We are both teachers. And as educators, we realize how much training goes into having successful classrooms. Without that training, the default likely would be chaos and failure even. Regardless of if we had the best of intentions or not. 

Another way to think about it is that of the preparation of soldiers on a mission. The military goes to great lengths to equip and train each soldier for what lies ahead. Without that training, the risk of defeat and loss would be great. 

A different take–think of what happens in the purchase of an expensive car. One can care for, tune-up, polish, improve driving skills, and then enjoy the vehicle. Or, through neglect and ignorance, end up with an unreliable or broken means of transportation. 

You get the picture–great marriages don’t just happen by chance. 

Bottom line: ignore a marriage relationship and the relationship will move toward mediocrity, failure, pain, and discouragement. Pay attention and invest and the relationship will not only survive but thrive as God intended it. 

We would not describe our marriage as always in harmony. We still hurt each other with our words or actions, we don’t always communicate with clarity, and we bump into problems. However, we can still say that our marriage is thriving. Not because of any natural compatibility, but because of our commitment to one another and our investment into the practical areas of marriage.

For example, reading The 5 Love Languages helped us realize we need to love each other differently. One of us has the love language of “acts of service” and the other “words of affirmation.” This resource helped us fill what the author referred to as each other’s “love tank.” Which at times in marriage, can feel a bit empty. 

We also attended Financial Peace University together, which brought us to a healthy place financially and built strong compatibility in navigating our finances. 

When we watched the video series What Did You Expect? (Paul Tripp), we developed a richer understanding of how to truly put Christ in the center of our marriage and have a servant’s heart toward each other. 

We could list more examples here, but the point is clear. We have found that training in important areas such as communication, sex, parenting, finances, and spiritual focus has helped us develop a more satisfying and fulfilling relationship.

As mentors in the marriage ministry, we have several “thriving” advantages. One is the principle that in helping others, we often get helped in the process. Every time we embrace a topic with a couple, we elbow each other and say, “This is such a helpful reminder for us!” 

A second privilege is that we get exposed to many of the wonderful marriage resources available. Many of these tools can be used to help a conflicted marriage move into a thriving experience rather than face daily hurt and confusion.

In an effort to help marriages at Good Shepherd, we continue to work with Pastors Alan Hlavka and Bryant Strot to build the Marriage Resource Webpage. Our goal is to select some of the best resources on different marriage topics and bring them together in one place for our church family. 

These resources have been grouped into three common phases of marriage:

  • Preparing For Marriage
  • Strengthening Your Marriage
  • Repairing A Hurting Marriage

In addition, Good Shepherd plans to bring an annual marriage training focus to couples at our church. Last year, the program was Paul Tripp’s video series. This year, we will be using the Vertical Marriage series from Family Life. This is a fun and meaningful 5-session training.

Ultimately, thriving marriages don’t happen by chance. They are supported by God’s grace and power, not by mere human strength. They are also intentionally attended to. 

Finding ways to invest in a marriage relationship, perhaps by exploring a resource from the church webpage, walking alongside a seasoned mentor couple, or attending the Vertical Marriage program, will be an investment reaping many dividends. Like us, you will find yourselves elbowing each other and saying, “This is so helpful for us!”