Pastoral ministry is a joy, but a special joy is walking out the details of pre-marriage counseling with a couple engaged to be married. My goals for pre-marriage counseling are modest: (1) teach and review the biblical view of marriage, (2) encourage and equip the engaged couple to prepare for the privileges, duties, and responsibilities of marriage, and (3) stir up their zeal for their soon-to-be marriage.
The first meeting is introduction/orientation to pre-marriage counseling: What is marriage? What’s the purpose of pre-marriage counseling? We look to Scripture, and discuss what marriage is, and what are God’s purposes for marriage, etc. I emphasize companionship. Throughout counseling I will return again and again to the centrality of companionship/fellowship in marriage. In addition to Scripture, I summarize and discuss a “Puritan” view of marriage and family life from Living for God’s Glory (Chapters 22-24); I emphasize the puritan’s biblical, positive view of marriage (stark contrast with contemporary and godless views, e.g., marriage as a “ball and chain” and/or “just a necessary evil”). Additionally, I also emphasize the unique privilege of engagement, i.e., it is a gift to have short season before marriage to concentrate on and prepare for marriage. So, I encourage and exhort them to use this time wisely, and to endeavor to prepare for marriage: their goal should be to start off their marriage on the right foot. A good marriage is hard work. So, I encourage them to put a hand to the plow and not look back.
In the course of the first session I also try to learn more about each of them (What’s your story? Family/Church upbringing? Education? Vocational experience? Your spiritual journey? Etc. ), as well as their story becoming an engaged couple (How did you meet? How did he propose? Etc.) In the course of starting and ending each session with prayer, I typically ask the couple for prayer requests regarding both how I can pray for each for each of them and for plans and logistics for the wedding.
In the next post (Part 2), I will discuss Session 2: mutual duties of a husband and a wife.