Rationale for Strengthening Marriage and Family Ministries in Your Annual Conference and/or Area
The church has long affirmed the primacy of both our relationship with God and our relationships with other persons, sometimes using the cross to symbolize the intersection of these “vertical” and “horizontal” connections. Jesus condensed all of the law into two commandments: love God and love your neighbor. Neighbor includes everyone with whom we relate, human to human, in our families, communities, and the world. As we grow in our relationship with God, we open ourselves to healthier relationships with other persons. Growing in our relationships with others can deepen our relationship with God.
Comprehensive marriage and family ministries provide relationship education, which nurtures deeper self-awareness and greater empathy for both self and others, while cultivating skills for communication and conflict management. "Comprehensive" means that everyone is included, regardless of age, marital status, or family configuration. Perhaps "relationship ministries" would more clearly communicate this inclusiveness; but we want to affirm the central role marriage and commitment play in family formation. Stable, healthy families strengthen communities and contribute to the well-being not only of their immediate members, but also the institutions, organizations, and social groups to which they belong. Not everyone will marry, of course, and we affirm the embracing love of God for all --whether married or single, in a committed relationship or not. Because all of us belong to families, however, families of origin and families of our own choosing, we believe ministries focused on healthy relationships benefit all.
Time and again, we who have been trained in marriage enrichment, parent education, recovery ministries, and/or other relationship-connected programs celebrate the excitement and growth of those who participate in the events and programs we lead. When we see how healthy relationships equip persons to cope with life’s challenges and help groups to function more smoothly, we want to do more. We also want to encourage others to participate in leadership training opportunities and use the excellent resources that abound. When we see how family dysfunction and relationship breakdown influence individuals and contribute to social problems, we want to do even more.
Many of us who feel called to marriage and family ministries are motivated by gratitude for experiences that have helped us overcome childhood and adult experiences of broken and hurtful relationships. By working together, we can bring relationship education into the spotlight and empower our churches to make these ministries a priority. Nurturing and healing relationships, strengthening families, and developing supportive communities that serve as extended families - all can effectively undergird our mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”*
Information and resources for a wide variety of topics related to marriage and family ministries, including communication skills, marriage preparation, marriage education and enrichment, parenting, domestic violence, addiction, pornography, etc., may be found at the website www.marriagelovepower.net; click on ”Best Practices Articles and Recommended Resources,” and scroll down through the various categories. Or search for these documents by topic or title at http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/leadership-resources/intergenerational-family-ministries.
Please contact me ([email protected]) with information about programs and resources you have found helpful and also to learn more about ways to encourage these vital ministries. In the words of Paul, “…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you” (1st Thessalonians 3:12 NRSV).
* The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2012, (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, page 91, ¶120
Jane P. Ives, United Methodist Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant, 10 Quaker Lane, Portland, ME 04103, 207-797-8930, [email protected]