This last week the Nilsens (my husband Matt and I, Emily) went to the Marriage Ministry Conference in Dallas, Texas to further learn and equip ourselves in marriage ministry and inspire our creativity as we continue to minister to couples. We had an excellent time and wanted to share some of the great takeaways from this conference.
1. Non-Christians are now very active in organizations and charities that were historically known for being Christian acts, such as feeding the hungry and helping the poor. One of the ways Christians can now stand out is to make sure they are serving and helping relationships. “The church should be the relational university, relational hospital and relational health club of their city.” –John McGee
2. From the Ted Lowe session: The church needs to reach out to couples long before couples reach out to the church. Ask yourself concerning marital enrichment, “are you having enough touch points during the year?”
3. “It is God’s design that a woman should feel DESIRED by her husband and a man should be VULNERABLE with his wife.” – Gary Thomas During this workshop, there were some great takeaways about how marital sex is important from the male and female perspective when developing intimacy.
4. From the Ted Cunningham sermon: When people grow up learning that sex is dirty and nasty, their deep-seeded beliefs don’t change instantly when they get married. In order to establish healthy marriages with healthy sex lives, we as the church need to portray marriage positively to the young singles.
5. From the Francis & Lisa Chan session: Marriage is an important message, but the answer is not to only focus on marriage. It is more important that we continue to teach couples to live missionally and focus on eternity. “You know how Francis loves me? By loving God more than me. He loves me so much to push me into doing things that are bigger than just us.” –Lisa Chan
6. 40% of US homes are blended. Step families done well display God’s redemption. Stepfamilies done poorly create more generational issues and are hazardous to children. Blended family ministry is necessary to break the patterns of more divorce and establish more first families in the future! (This was from the Ron Deal session. We are so excited to have Ron Deal with us at IMC 20 this year. We met with him, and he is going to bring some great tools to our conference in October!)
7. Millennials have trouble trusting older adults because authenticity is lacking. They crave authenticity. They need to be taught that marriage is hard and difficult, but that it is worth it. Millennials think if something is difficult it can’t be good unless there are immediate results. They need to be taught about the long-term pay off that marriage has and how beneficial it will ultimately be when they follow God’s design.
8. The truth is sex outside of marriage can definitely feel pleasurable, BUT “it never pays to pursue pleasure outside its purpose.” Pre-marital couples need to know that there are consequences. It may not be obvious or immediate like pregnancy or STDs, but may instead be thoughts that hurt future marital intimacy. This is an important message to convey in an authentic manner.
9. Cohabitation is an issue inside of the church; people are quietly secretly living together. We must start addressing this issue by speaking the truth in love. Teach young people that “cohabitation is a trial or performance based—if you do this I’ll marry you—while marriage is sacrificial.”
10. Biologically, no stimulation will work for a woman without her mind being opened to sexual thoughts rather than repression. Women need to stop feeling dirty about marital sex. In ministry, we should encourage women to feel the freedom in being a God-created sexual being.
We had a wonderful time. We have a lot more books. We have been inspired to minister in new, unique ways. Most of all, we are excited because NAME has a lot great vision for future projects. If you believe in marriage ministry, we would greatly appreciate your decision to partner with us to make these projects happen.
Matt Nilsen is the Director of Special Initiatives at NAME
Emily Nilsen is the Director of Communications at NAME