24 Jul, 2023 Marriage Week – what and why?
Marriage week (What and why?)
James Muir has headed up the need for this week in the NZ calendar. NZCN support. But it doesn’t really have very much momentum. Getting it to do so isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t something our Government or public media are big on.
I suggest the goal, however, isn’t only that Marriage Week have more momentum – but that what we do as churches to support marriage and parenting gain MORE momentum!
- It’s plausibly at a low point!
- In our travels, connecting with pastors groups, we get a feel for what is and isn’t happening across the body of Christ. Our sensing isn’t necessarily accurate (it’s not a perfect measure by any means) – but it is still a measure of sorts. For half a dozen years now I’ve lamented the seeming silence from our churches re marriage / family / parenting. I feel that there used to be a lot more ‘voice’ to this area. This space feels to have fallen noticeably silent.
Re the below:
- A strategic view – states what is in our hands
- A national view – skip this if you interest is at the local church level. This is about the need for national leadership in God’s Church to strengthen our engagement (as churches nationally) around family, marriage and parenting.
- A local view – this is about Marriage Week, and a simple idea re HOW a local church could get something valuable happening (potentially quite easily)!
Identifying ‘gaps’ in the outreaching efforts of the NZ Church as a whole
I write this short article because I see a specific gap. The question is how it could be filled.
A STRATEGIC VIEW: Family – A gateway for the gospel
People come to see their need for Jesus in different ways. To make a point – a recognition of sin isn’t always where this starts (even though the gospel is fundamentally about God’s love, giving grace to cover our sin)!
Our divorce statistics are as high as ever.
Half of all NZ children don’t have a mother and father in the home. As one example of implications, the chance of abuse if the male in the house isn’t the biological father are 9x greater. This represents broad trends – in which there is a LOT of human pain.
They suggest at least 1/4 NZ women are sexually abused in some way by about age 20 – though I suspect the reality could be nearer twice this, depending how it is measured. (I’ve heard worst statistics for this singularly during tertiary education years).
Family challenges are a known major area of need!
Strategic conclusion: This is a gateway for us as churches that we’re not engaging with as we could.
- We also have a unique help – or strength – that secular counsellors and help cannot provide. God can change the human heart!
- (E.g. You have a 50% less chance of getting divorced if you go to church, and an 87% less chance of suicide.)
A NATIONAL VIEW: Who could be a voice for this, to feed a change?
Firstly, who is working in this space?
There is a small handful of ministries doing good things in this space in NZ.
Here are four key ministries I’m aware of.
- Focus on the Family does amazing work – and has unique resources (tools / magazines / books / strategies) from the strong international work they are a part of. In NZ their focus is significantly strategic, in initiatives many will not see. (If investigated, what they are doing is impressive – though much of it isn’t under the ‘Focus on the Family’ banner)…
- E.g. For something current, check out the new ‘Brio’ girls magazine. It will be marketed widely – it’s distinctly ‘Christian’ in values. What a blessing to the NZ media-scape!
- Note that some excellent parenting and marriage courses and resources for local churches are in the mix of what they can offer.
- The Parenting Place in Auckland have innovated well. They seem to have shifted in the present time to focus on connecting with non-church families. The content might not therefore be as strong in terms of the Christian dynamic – while being superb material.
- Alpha has courses related to pre-marriage, marriage, parenting younger kids -and older kids. These courses are easy to use, and quality content!
- Family Life are a ministry under ‘Tandem’ (Aka CCC / Cru / Campus Crusade for Christ). They run the ‘Weekend to Remember’.
A strategic note:
Who can be ‘a voice to our churches’ to encourage us all to strengthen our connections within community around needs in relationships, marriages and parenting?
This is needed!
I suggest that that Family Life is the best positioned within this list to become a voice to all churches, raising the profile of marriages and parenting, for this area of need to be better leveraged to serve others in our communities, and to make connections.
- I suggest this a matter for prayer and encouragement.
- (For the comparisons – Alpha need to promote the Alpha course as their primary message. This is right and good – with marriage and parenting in ‘second place’. The Parenting Place is making connections in the wider community themselves – rather than positioning themselves as a voice to the wider Church. Their work is right and good and valuable. Focus on the Family are doing important strategic things, with remarkable innovation. In the mix of this they are not therefore seeking to position themselves as ‘that voice’ to the wider body of Christ.
My strategic note is that we need A VOICE for this to NZ churches!
- This area lacks momentum right across the NZ Church, and this won’t change without a voice.
Plenty of great resources can be found via the above ministries websites – or give them a phone call to ask what resources and programme options they might have that you could utilise.
A LOCAL VIEW: Marriage Week
Held annually in September, it is an opportunity in the calendar to review what you are – or are not – doing to support marriages and parenting.
KEY STATEMENT: Every church will likely have someone within it for whom healthy marriages is a primary area of passion and interest. Finding those people – to release them to run marriage and parenting courses for your church and wider community is the most-obvious strategy.
- This is a very simple strategy.
- All that is needed is the initiative to seek out, find, release and support that person – to do it well
- FOLLOWED BY…the nouse/wisdom to then PROMOTE what you do wide enough, to gain connections.
Re the local paper
Below are some graphics. One is a newspaper page James Muir placed in our Bay of Plenty local newspaper. The information within it is superb – as also is the tone, affirming all people – while also affirming the institution of marriage.
This could be plagiarised (copied).
View a clearer image of the full page as a jpg image here.
Conclusion (a simple strategic questions for each local church)
Who is in your church (or in your church community if 3 or 4 churches work together in a rural town) is most upset at family breakdown and the importance of marriage and parenting?
- We need to find these people in every town – and a few of them in every city – to release them with a vision, and support, to engage on our behalf!
- These people could play a Kingdom role – running courses for local churches and the wider community, that engage with real needs, that provide real help, that connect people relationally so there is mutual support, and which keep Christ within the picture at all times (rather than pushing him out).
As an philosophy/approach: We show love – we help in material ways including both general and godly wisdom and the creation of relational connections (creating community) – and we point people to Christ.
Marriages and parenting are a clear need and connection point that we – the Christian churches of NZ – are not engaging well with at this time.
It’s an opportunity we could engage with more.
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.