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Thread: What do you do for premarital counseling?

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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I am wondering what you do in your church for premarital counseling?

    What would it take for you to do it better?

    Does someone other than the pastor provide that counseling?

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    Senior Member Greg Gates's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    There was a thread on here about that and several people suggested Enrich-Prepare. A couple months back I signed up for that and have used it about 3 times now and am super happy with it. Makes my preparation very easy since you deal specifically with how the couple tested on the issues and the workbook is custom printed/created according to their needs. They give you a suggested schedule with topics for the following 4-8 weeks. I've found it uncanny in how it identifies real issues that I never would have seen otherwise.

    So this isn't very helpful information in creating new content for pastors to buy. But, maybe NPH could make a deal with the publisher in referring business to them and take a 50% cut from the profits from the customers you refer. Since NPH has access to 5,000 churches, maybe that access could be a source of revenue. But then NPH already does that to some extent, right?
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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Gates View Post
    There was a thread on here about that and several people suggested Enrich-Prepare. A couple months back I signed up for that and have used it about 3 times now and am super happy with it. Makes my preparation very easy since you deal specifically with how the couple tested on the issues and the workbook is custom printed/created according to their needs. They give you a suggested schedule with topics for the following 4-8 weeks. I've found it uncanny in how it identifies real issues that I never would have seen otherwise.
    Nice. I hadn't seen this one before. (I hate it when I miss conversation topics!)

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    Host Book, Movie & GA forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I don't do many weddings - my general plan is to approach the couple pastorally - talking about what marriage means theologically and the ways in which the couple and the congregation needs to serve each other. I'd also plan to meet with the couple informally, hopefully with my wife, to just talk about fears and expectations.

    In addition I'd require them to meet with a trained and licensed counselor for at least four sessions - not only for the benefit that provides, but also hopefully to tackle some of the stigma that might come with counseling to begin with - as they'll likely need it at some point in their marriage.

    (I will say I've heard great things about Prepare/Enrich, I just haven't used it myself - I don't do enough weddings to make it seem worth it to me.)
    ...just my $.02.
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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I have been using the Prepare-Enrich material for about four years now and am very happy with it. Wish I had found it 20 years ago. Requires some training, but well worth the investment. I have a daughter who is a licensed counselor - therapist in Marriage and family and some other areas. She has looked at it and approved.
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    Senior Member John Reilly's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I like to do seven (seven being the number of completion) sessions of pre-marriage counseling, one session per month beginning a year out if the couple gives me enough notice. The seventh session is devoted to wedding plan details. I use a collection of materials from the years gone by shaping sessions around the uniqueness of the each couple. I like the books and workbooks by the Drs/ Les and Les Parrott, "Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts" and "Saving your Second Marriage Before It Starts."
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    Senior Member Mike Fraley's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I asked about this some while back, and then went on to do a fair bit of reading on the subject, and even had asked around at other ministry boards. (Which may have something to do with a book in progress on the subject of weddings.)

    By far the most popular among Nazarene and Wesleyan circles appears to be the Prepare/Enrich. There is some reference to a program by Les and Leslie Parrott. Their books Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts is a bit oversimplified, but so are most works on the subject written for those who are not in the realm of psychology.

    You may also want to ask the couple if they want to invest in some premarital counseling sessions run by a marriage and family therapist. Several are happy to do so, and you have the advantage of it being run by an actual counselor that has years of training and practice with the very subject. We once had a couple tell us that they would not have need for our services in that respect, because they too the initiative to contact a therapist. I thought that was fantastic. Though your couple may want to check with their insurance to see that the visits are covered.

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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Fraley View Post
    I asked about this some while back, and then went on to do a fair bit of reading on the subject, and even had asked around at other ministry boards. (Which may have something to do with a book in progress on the subject of weddings.)

    By far the most popular among Nazarene and Wesleyan circles appears to be the Prepare/Enrich. There is some reference to a program by Les and Leslie Parrott. Their books Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts is a bit oversimplified, but so are most works on the subject written for those who are not in the realm of psychology.

    You may also want to ask the couple if they want to invest in some premarital counseling sessions run by a marriage and family therapist. Several are happy to do so, and you have the advantage of it being run by an actual counselor that has years of training and practice with the very subject. We once had a couple tell us that they would not have need for our services in that respect, because they too the initiative to contact a therapist. I thought that was fantastic. Though your couple may want to check with their insurance to see that the visits are covered.
    This is what actually got me started thinking about it. The Parrott's have developed an amazing assessment tool--just launched this year--and a training program based on it (sounds like what little i know about the Prepare/Enrich material). I was looking at one of the sample reports that a couple receives after completing their testing. Once I really learned the details behind the report, I was pretty impressed (which unfortunately isn't easy to do to me anymore). Knowing that Les is one of the premier clinical psychologists specializing in premarriage counseling, and just happens to be an ordained Nazarene elder, I was thinking NPH ought to consider bringing this material into the fold.
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    Senior Member Meghan Schoonover's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Years ago our (Lutheran) pastor used the "Saving Your Marriage" books with us. Once I started attending our church I was interested to find out he was Nazarene and also that his dad is quite well-known. I went to one of their conferences years ago and enjoyed it. I always keep an eye out for their stuff.
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    Senior Member Hans Deventer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Bruce, we just finished a series of talks. Hannie and I do them together, we find it works quite well to have both the male and the female perspective. Our key point: talk! So we give the couple a list of rather serious questions that they have to work through. The point is both to avoid skeletons in the closet and to have them talk about issues that matter. When they return, we'll discuss how it went, what they learned, how we deal with these issues etc. This was the 4th couple we're doing this with, and we're slowly getting better at it.

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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans Deventer View Post
    Bruce, we just finished a series of talks. Hannie and I do them together, we find it works quite well to have both the male and the female perspective. Our key point: talk! So we give the couple a list of rather serious questions that they have to work through. The point is both to avoid skeletons in the closet and to have them talk about issues that matter. When they return, we'll discuss how it went, what they learned, how we deal with these issues etc. This was the 4th couple we're doing this with, and we're slowly getting better at it.
    Thanks for the feedback Hans!

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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Meghan Schoonover View Post
    Years ago our (Lutheran) pastor used the "Saving Your Marriage" books with us. Once I started attending our church I was interested to find out he was Nazarene and also that his dad is quite well-known. I went to one of their conferences years ago and enjoyed it. I always keep an eye out for their stuff.
    This is the one I am particularly interested in, especially now that they have an assessment and training tool for marriage mentors.
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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Nuffer View Post
    I am wondering what you do in your church for premarital counseling?

    What would it take for you to do it better?

    Does someone other than the pastor provide that counseling?
    So after all the helpful input from everyone on this subject, I found what looks to be a really nice tool for premarital counseling. I would be interested in getting some opinions on what you think of this tool?

    The idea is that after some training on the details underlying this report, marriage mentors can provide a wonderfully-specific counseling experience. I was pretty impressed after I heard the details. The report looks like a template, but it turns out that is mostly not true. For instance, on page 2 (page 10 of the PDF form the link) the little dial in the upper left corner is based on a 100 point scale. In other words it's pretty finely tuned, not just generally applicable. One of the pages (page 8? I can't remember) is created from something like 3000 data points.

    If NPH gets behind this tool and begins to promote it, do you have any recommendations for what we should say to connect with your areas of greatest need?

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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    A friend of mine who pastors in Pittsburg requires:

    1) Premarital counseling from a licensed professional counsellor
    2) Financial Peace University
    3) Pastoral/theological counseling from him. And he won't sit down with the couple until they have completed #1 and #2.

    I love this model, but #2 would be difficult in my setting as I am not sure of any churches offering it.

    I think my bigger question regards the effectiveness of clergy premarital counseling. If most pastors do it, and if the divorce rates are similar within the church and outside the church, then is clergy counseling effective? And first, I think, we would have to talk about what we mean by effective. What are the intended outcomes of premarital counseling?

    Anyway, just some thoughts.
    “Martyrs rather than the pastors of megachurches might now become our evangelistic exemplars, and the ‘excellence’ of evangelistic practice’ will be measurable not by numbers but rather by obedience to a crucified God”

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    Host Book, Movie & GA forums Ryan Scott's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Those divorce numbers are for professing Christians and those who don't. I imagine you'd find some more accurate divorce numbers based on, say, frequency of worship attendance. I can't believe the numbers are equal for those who are active and engaged regularly in a congregation as they are for the general public.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Scott View Post
    Those divorce numbers are for professing Christians and those who don't. I imagine you'd find some more accurate divorce numbers based on, say, frequency of worship attendance. I can't believe the numbers are equal for those who are active and engaged regularly in a congregation as they are for the general public.
    I saw this once and meant to write down the source. But when you look at Evangelical Christians who are regular attenders and actively involved in their local church the divorce rates plummets.
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    Senior Member Mike Schutz's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I thought I would resurrect this thread, just to say that I recently completed the Symbis facilitator training put together by Les and Leslie Parrott. I've used other instruments, referred to earlier in this thread, and this is the best I've seen. I have used Les and Leslie books in the past, as one aspect of what I do, and I wholeheartedly recommend this process, and the training that goes with it. It is based on research involving 3,600 couples.
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    Senior Member Bruce Nuffer's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Schutz View Post
    I thought I would resurrect this thread, just to say that I recently completed the Symbis facilitator training put together by Les and Leslie Parrott. I've used other instruments, referred to earlier in this thread, and this is the best I've seen. I have used Les and Leslie books in the past, as one aspect of what I do, and I wholeheartedly recommend this process, and the training that goes with it. It is based on research involving 3,600 couples.
    Well did you at least tell them that NPH sent you so you got the discount? Glad you were happy with it. It's really impressive!

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    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Nuffer View Post
    Well did you at least tell them that NPH sent you so you got the discount? Glad you were happy with it. It's really impressive!
    is this available at NPH?

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I use Prepare-Enrich. It's good - it's easy to use. It provides me with a good snapshot of the couple relationship and then it provides me with free tools and exercises to use with the couple to help them work on their growth areas.
    God is really good.

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    Senior Member Billy Cox's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Schutz View Post
    I thought I would resurrect this thread, just to say that I recently completed the Symbis facilitator training put together by Les and Leslie Parrott. I've used other instruments, referred to earlier in this thread, and this is the best I've seen. I have used Les and Leslie books in the past, as one aspect of what I do, and I wholeheartedly recommend this process, and the training that goes with it. It is based on research involving 3,600 couples.
    Mike, would you describe this process primarily as support or challenge?
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us wthout end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
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    Senior Member John Reilly's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    I use Dr. Parrotts' material "Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts" and "Saving Your Second Marriage Before it Starts"!
    Also I use Tony Evans series "Kingdom Marriage" video series with book offered by Focus on the Family.

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    Senior Member Mike Schutz's Avatar

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    Re: What do you do for premarital counseling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Cox View Post
    Mike, would you describe this process primarily as support or challenge?
    Billy,
    It really varies from couple to couple, and with each dynamic being addressed.

    The essential dynamic for effective premarital counseling is not so much a balance of challenge and support as it is a tension between the two. When couples come for pre-marital, their goal is almost always to get to the ceremony with as few hassles as possible, so they really don't want to hear bad news. Anything other than "You guys are great, and your marriage is going to be nothing but sunshine and lollipops" is not good news. At the same time, most know they have issues. The SYMBIS instrument does the best job I have seen of pointing out those issues, and giving them an essential tool for working on them - naming what they are in a way that is dispassionate and helpful.

    For example, I am working with two couples right now. Both are in their mid 20s, and have been together for 8 years. Both couples have marital and family dysfunction in their families of origin. So, both couples know there are issues related to their background, but tend to think their romantic love can overcome all problems. You can see how both challenge and support are necessary in my counseling with them.

    (I appreciate Billy using the language of "challenge and support," as it is the language I would use in helping parents understand the dynamic of Christian higher education for their children. By definition, higher education should be about the business of optimum challenge, with the support necessary to succeed through it. In other words, to prepare more we must protect less. If during the challenge issues are raised which leads to a sense of existential or spiritual crisis - that is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as enough support is present.)

    Of course, such tools are only as good as a couple who is willing to learn how to use them and a counselor who knows how to come alongside the couple and teach them.
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