Premarital Counseling Overview

Believing on Jesus Christ alone for eternal salvation is the most significant decision you will ever make and choosing to marry is second. This union of one man and one woman in marriage is an indescribable blessing from God (Proverbs 5:18; 18:22). In fact, God himself calls it “very good” (Genesis 1:31; 2:18-25) Not only does marriage provide the most meaningful human relationship, but it also provides the most meaningful example of the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33). In this way, God intends for your marriage to be a daily illustration of the gospel message, the good news of salvation and transformation through Jesus.

Introductory Perspective

A prospective couple should therefore approach marriage with prayerful seriousness, laying a firm foundation for a lifelong, joyful, God-dependent relationship that is blessed by God. To this end, before a pastor of Faith Baptist Church may agree to marry a couple, they must participate in premarital counseling designed to provide crucial, transformational guidance from the Word of God. Both applicants must attend each session, complete all homework, and demonstrate agreement and alignment with the teaching that each session provides.

The pastor may adjust the number of required sessions based upon the preparedness and understanding of the couple. If the couple exhibits a vibrant Christian testimony and a biblical perspective, then the pastor may elect to combine sessions. And if one or both applicants live a long distance away, sessions may occur online through a video conferencing service.

In any case, no agreement to perform a wedding and no dates for wedding events should be confirmed until the counseling has progressed in a way that both the pastor and couple consider satisfactory. This provides the couple with freedom to seek God’s will without the additional pressure of fixed wedding plans.

Preliminary Considerations

A pastor may only consent to perform weddings consisting of one man and one woman (Gen 2:22-23; Matt 19:4; Mark 10:6). This excludes homosexual or polygamous marriages and marriages involving anyone living in an altered sexual identity that differs from his or her birth gender (Rom 1:26-27; 9:20). In most cases, a pastor will refrain from performing a wedding for anyone who has been previously divorced (Rom 7:3; 1 Cor 7:10-11, 39). A pastor of Faith Baptist Church reserves the right at any time to decline to perform any wedding. Furthermore, for a wedding to occur on church property or use church resources, the bride or groom must be a current member of the church in good standing.

A Premarital Inventory

Both applicants must complete a Premarital Inventory designed to evaluate their personal character and to provide helpful understanding about their backgrounds and perspectives. This ensures that necessary conversations will occur and enables the pastor to adapt counseling sessions to meet specific needs.

 

A Testimony of Regeneration

Applicants must provide a written, credible testimony of regeneration, which they should submit along with the Premarital Inventory at least one week prior to the first counseling session (2 Cor 6:14-15; 1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23). This testimony should also verify believer’s baptism by immersion and membership in good standing of a gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:41-42; Heb 10:23-25). If an applicant is the member of another church, the counseling pastor will contact the applicant’s pastor to confirm the authenticity of his or her Christian testimony.

If one or both applicants have been divorced but appear to have been the innocent party(s) (as the victim of abuse or abandonment), a pastor may still provide premarital counseling. But he will defer marriage proceedings to the justice of the peace, recognizing that though God intends for no divorce, legitimate Bible interpretation challenges do exist (Deut 24:1-4; Matt 5:31-32; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor 7:15).

Required Reading Assignment

Both applicants will be required to read the book entitled Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, by Emerson Eggerich (ISBN 978-1591451877). They may either read the book or listen to the audio book. They should complete this assignment before Session 5.

Physical Purity

Both applicants must agree to abstain from physical intimacy between themselves until after marriage (1 Cor 7:1). They must also refrain from any conduct that would be unfaithful to their future spouse (1 Thess 4:3-8).

Spiritual Maturity

Applicants should demonstrate general preparedness and maturity, giving witness to a daily walk with God through prayer and Bible study (Deut 6:4-8; Luke 18:1) and through regular church participation, on the Lord’s Day at a minimum (Heb 10:25). They should also demonstrate ability to meet the material and financial needs that marriage will require (Prov 24:27; 1 Tim 5:8).

Counseling Sessions

Both applicants should complete the assigned Bible study and reflection worksheet prior to each session. Doing this will prepare them for a meaningful discussion. The couple should plan to spend 60-75 minutes in each counseling session.

Session One – Compatibility in Marriage

This session will focus on the need for compatibility between marriage partners. Although every Christian marriage will require both spouses to navigate a variety of differences and difficulties for years to come, it is wise to explore any significant difficulties beforehand. Doing this follows biblical wisdom and avoids shocking disclosures after marriage. This provides a basis for upcoming sessions, encouraging both participants to be honest and candid in sharing experiences and perspectives and in responding to feedback from their partner. If any disclosure seems prohibitive to a harmonious marriage, then prayerful discussion will follow. This session will refer to feedback from the Premarital Inventory.

Session Two – Gender Roles in Marriage

This session will focus on God’s design for gender roles within marriage. Men and women display the image of God equally and share the mandate of spreading his influence in the world. In harmony with this mutual significance, a husband and wife enjoy distinct and important roles. A husband should provide unwavering, nurturing love to his wife, understanding and meeting her needs, just as Jesus sacrificially loves and leads the church. A wife should provide unwavering respect and affection to her husband, just as the church should follow the leadership of Christ. This session will establish biblical expectations for the roles of husband and wife in marriage. It will also explore practical, specific expectations that each spouse will have of the other, emphasizing a mutual commitment to follow Christ and to meet the needs of one another.

Session Three – Oneness in Marriage

This session will focus on the exclusive nature of marriage. A husband and wife must separate from their families of origin to join with one another in a complete, wholehearted way. This requires both spouses to relegate all other relationships and obligations to a lower level of importance. In doing so, a husband and wife should focus on cultivating oneness by living together, praying together, serving one another, and sharing physical intimacy together. This session will explore expectations regarding in-laws and the ways that each spouse should transition away from dependency upon his or her extended family (and other relationships). This will be a good time to discuss strengths and weaknesses in marriage modeled by their parents. It will also provide an opportunity to preview the marriage vows.

Session Four – Money and Children in Marriage

This session will introduce basic expectations for entering a shared financial arrangement.  This is important, because money is a primary cause of marital discord. Therefore, a couple must agree on basic expectations for their shared financial arrangement. Scripture presents the husband as the source of primary income for a household. A wife may also generate income, though raising children in the home should be her foremost priority when the need arises. Together, the couple must agree to careful financial planning, generous giving, avoidance of frivolous debt, and a contented lifestyle. They should also agree with one another in their perspective on having and raising children in a biblical manner. This session will explore making a budget, what (if any) debt is appropriate, and what changes to make when a child is born.

Session Five – Communication and Forgiveness in Marriage

This session will establish basic communication principles that teach the couple how to strengthen their marriage by their words and how to reconcile when conflict occurs. Communication breakdowns are a major cause of marriage dysfunction. Therefore, each spouse should commit to open listening and talking and should abstain from hurtful words. They should learn to practice quick and complete forgiveness whenever the other speaks hurtfully and should respond to other failures in a similar way, averting bitterness and resentment. Each partner must agree to take responsibility for his or her personal faults, to resolve heart issues that produce errant words, and to provide a safe and trusting relationship for personal growth together. This session will identify points of potential conflict and should establish basic guidelines for applying principles of repentance and forgiveness if conflict occurs.

Session Six – Preparations

This session is designed to complete the counseling cycle and will transition towards procedural preparations. The pastor will review important topics, address remaining concerns, and answer remaining questions. He will then open a discussion and answer questions about the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception guidelines, referring to the Wedding Planner guide. This discussion will establish the preeminence of Christ in all wedding proceedings and encourage the couple to make plans that glorify a holy, loving, and faithful God (1 Cor 10:31; Col 1:18). Attention will be given to: (1) prioritizing excellence and simplicity over extravagance, (2) presenting the gospel, (3) abstaining from alcohol and dancing, (4) ensuring modest attire, (5) establishing guidelines for musical selections, and (6) setting dates, times, and locations. This session will conclude by asking if the couple has any further questions, celebrating their upcoming marriage as a wonderful gift from God and offering a dedicatory prayer.

 

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