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Pre-Marital Mentoring FAQs: Are there articles or books I need to be reading?

This post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.

We would recommend beginning with the reading the five seminar manuals in the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series. These will expose you to those materials that we believe are most consistent with the preaching and teaching of The Summit Church. In the process you will identity those books, subjects, or authors that would best enrich your marriage.

We would also recommend the marriage conferences presented by Family Life Today (www.familylife.com/events). These events are frequently hosted in or near RDU and are excellent.

Pre-Marital Mentoring FAQs: What should we know about pre-marital couples (just in case we forgot what this season of life was like)?

This post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.

The following seven points are taken from Preparing for Marriage: Leader’s Guide edited by Dennis Rainey (p. 24-25).

  • Many engaged couples are wearing blinders. An engaged person is often aware of negative characteristics in the one he or she loves, but figures, “It won’t be like than when we’re married.” In their excitement, they often fail to think rationally about potential problems that could sabotage the relationship believing instead that “love conquers all.” They are setting up themselves for disappointment when reality sets in.
  • Because of the hectic schedule leading up to the wedding and honeymoon, engaged couples are experiencing one of the most stressful times of their lives. Often couples will get less sleep during this time which naturally adds stress to the relationship.
  • This stress can cause couples to experience extremes in emotions as well. Be ready to talk through their sudden doubts about marriage if they arise. Those who begin to have doubts about whether this marriage is right will feel tremendous pressure to go ahead with the wedding anyway.
  • In this time, those who are not already having intercourse are struggling with keeping their desires in check. They are physically charged yet fatigued, making it hard to draw boundaries. Couple often sacrifice some biblical values for the sake of the relationship.
  • Often couples have had very little time to discuss normal financial habits and expenses. They may need to discuss the ever-growing expenses of a wedding as well.
  • Often couples will need to discuss differences of opinion in wedding plans (i.e., expenses, in-laws expectations, alcohol, etc…).
  • A significant number of couples have discussed only in part how their past has affected them. Many don’t know about serious relational baggage they are bringing in the marriage.

Pre-Marital Mentoring FAQs: What if we’re uncomfortable talking about [blank] or don’t feel like we do a good job with [blank]?

his post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.

Mentors are not expected to be excellent or expects at every area of marriage. That would be an unrealistic expectation to put on any couple. One of the greatest facets of the mentoring relationship will be for the engaged couple to learn how to talk about their strengths and weaknesses in a grace-based environment. You will teach this by modeling how to talk about your own strengths and weaknesses as a couple.

If there is a specific subject you prefer not to address, hopefully you can find a facet of the broader subject to address. For instance, if you are uncomfortable talking about debt, then within the “finances” section you could direct the conversation towards budgeting.

If you are uncomfortable with an entire subject, then you might enlist a couple from your small group to take that meeting. In that case you would want to explain to your couple that you want them to have someone more skilled or consistent in that area to discuss that subject with them.

More often than not (unless this is a point of active division between you and your spouse), then the seminar will cover the “how to” and provide the tools for each subject. The role of the mentor is to provide testimony to the content of each seminar and be a relational resource who gets to know the couple well enough to guide them through the trail-and-error process of implementation.

Pre-Marital Mentoring FAQs: What if we think they need to meet with a more experienced counselor?

This post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.

This is the minority experience for marriage mentors. So as we examine this question do not assume this will be something that you will wrestle with in most of your mentoring relationships.

First, you need to remember that you are an advisor. There are limits to this role. You can make wise, well-informed advisements with clear practical next steps. After that, there is not much control. That is often the hardest part for compassionate people want to be involved in a counseling-related ministry.

Second, as a church, we may decide that the issue is problematic enough that our one of our pastors cannot, in good conscience, perform the wedding ceremony. Even in this, we do not have the level of influence that can require a couple to delay or reconsider their decision to marry.

The advisements below are detailed in an intentional order which we ask our mentors to follow when addressing these kinds of concerns:

  1. Listen. A great rule of thumb for all things counseling-related is, “If you don’t know what to say, ask more questions.” Rest in the reality you will not be making a decision for the couple, but only a recommendation.
  2. If the concern is minor, you may begin by recommending the couple study that seminar with their small group in their first year of marriage. If they are not in a small group, invite them to yours and ask your small group to study that seminar to allow the newlywed couple to benefit from the experience of many couples in that area.
  3. If the concern is moderate to severe, you should connect them with the formal counseling ministries of the Summit (www.summitrdu.com/counseling). The link provided will connect the couple with the various options for personal and marital counseling that we offer.
  4. If the couple does not adhere to your concern and is being married by a Summit pastor, then let the couple know that you feel the concern is significant enough that you should share it with the Summit pastor performing the ceremony so that he can help assess if your concerns warrant further attention.
  5. Unless your concerns involve something illegal or a safety consideration, continue to care for the couple as their mentor. Relationship is influence and, if the couple is engaging with the GCM materials, your concerns may begin to take on greater weight with the couple as they learn more of what God designed marriage to be.

Pre-Marital Mentoring FAQs: What if the couple comes into the program late (close to their wedding)?

This post is one in a series of frequently asked questions by those who use the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series as part of their church’s pre-marital program. The responses are written as we use them at the Summit Church. Your church may need to tweak the responses in order to better fit your ministry context.

Honestly, this is unfortunately common. This is why we put the “red flag” screening in the evaluation discussed at the end of the first session (more will be said about this in the next question). We cannot be a social engineer; forcing couples to do things in an ideal fashion. We can provide excellent comprehensive (both in term of content and relationship) pre-marital preparation. We can make this resource known throughout our church and community so that more couples enter our pre-marital program early in their engagement. Our advisement to you with couples who enter the mentoring relationship late in their engagement is:

  1. Remain positive and upbeat about being a part of this season in their life.
  2. Screen for red flags in the first meeting (if significant problems are found, see the next question).
  3. If no red flags are found, stay on the normal schedule (meeting on somewhere between a 2-5 week interval).
  4. Allow the post-wedding meetings to cover the subjects that were not addressed before the wedding.

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Nine)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Living Free to Enjoy the Life God Intended”
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 9 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: I Corinthians 6:12, 19-20 (ESV), “’All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything… Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “All things are lawful” – You shouldn’t need a “rule” that says don’t drink any longer.
  • “I will not be dominated” – Those things that dominate you should be voluntarily avoided.
  • “Your body is a temple” – Your motivation is not shame, because God has given you the highest honor, his presence.
  • “You are not your own” – When you declare Christ “Lord” you surrender the right to make destructive choices.
  • “Glorify God in your body” – Bringing glory to God is now the ultimate replacement for the pleasure or escape of AoD.

Teaching Notes

“The absence of the addictive behavior is not sufficient to successfully maintain the change and become andex-addict. In order to sustain recovery, new behaviors and reinforcing experiences must become part of a new way of living in the world (p. 190)… Taking away an addiction leaves a void that must be filled by alternative satisfying reinforcers for the economics of recovery to work (p. 193).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“At the outset, most of us tackle an addiction simply because it is giving us trouble, and our only conscious desire is to be rid of it…If my primary desire, as best I know it, is simply to change a troublesome addictive behavior, I will hardly be interested in giving my life to God in order to do so (p. 146).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“The exodus is the end of captivity, but it is only the beginning of freedom (p. 117).” Graeme Goldsworthy in According to Plan

“The world is full of two kinds of people – givers and takers. The takers eat well and the givers sleep well (p. 211).” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“We are not set free to serve ourselves (p. 238).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

6 New Church-Based Counseling Resources in 2016

One of the blessings of serving at a church that allows me to focus my attention on developing a robust counseling ministry is the opportunity to create resources that can be duplicated in our church plants and churches across the country/world.

This year we were able to create two programmatic seminars and four other resources to equip church members to care for one another and their community.

  1. Overcoming Addiction (9 step seminar)
  2. Overcoming Codependency (9 step seminar)
  3. SJI Forum & Panel: Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk
  4. Gospel Wheel Evaluations (6 evaluation series)
  5. Summit Counseling FAQ’s
  6. Parent Equip: Talking to Our Children about Purity

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Eight)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Embracing Sobriety as ‘The Good Life’”
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 8 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: James 1:12-13 (ESV), “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.’” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Blessed” – The place where we experience the fullness of God’s blessing is with God more than outside trials.
  • “Remains steadfast” – We do not have to “overcome” or “conquer.” We are merely called to remain faithful.
  • “Under trial” – The temptations that call us back to our old addictive lifestyle would be among these trials.
  • “Crown of life” – The “life” promised by our addiction is already ours in Christ.
  • “Let no one say” – If addictive thinking convinces us to turn from God, it separates us from our source of hope.

Teaching Notes

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down… That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist (p. 142).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The more time I spend in recovery, the worst each relapse gets (p. 136).” Jenni Schaeffer in Life Without Ed

“Lonely people make good addicts (p. 118).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Don’t forget to share your victories, no matter how small, with others in your group. Your growth will give others hope (p. 194)!” John Baker in Celebrate Recovery: Leader’s Guide

“The new behavior becomes fully maintained only when there is little or no energy or effort needed to continue it and the individual can terminate the cycle of change (p. 29)… Successful approximations are the way we learn most new behaviors or change old ones. It is clearly the way that most addicted individuals find their way to recovery (p. 182).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Successful action also provides a new perspective on problems in other areas of the individual’s life. Problems that seemed trivial in light of the serious problems caused by the addiction look different in the light of abstinence. Once change of the addiction has begun, change of other problems becomes more feasible, and often more necessary, in order to sustain the change (p. 185).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Whatever wins our affections will control our lives (p. 175).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

“When you are in an addictive trance, all you see is your addiction. When you come out of it, you begin to see God more clearly; you see other people more clearly too (p. 46).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Seven)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Learning to Enjoy Living Free”
IMPLEMENT the new structure pervasively with humility and flexibility.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 7 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Romans 6:12-13 (ESV), “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “Let not” – Overcoming addiction requires a persistent commitment to oppose new forms of temptation.
  • “Reign” – You must remember that sin’s desire is to rule (Gen. 4:7). Its initial returns will seem innocent. Beware!
  • “Obey its passions” – In God’s design for life your passions/desires are made to obey you as you seek to honor Him.
  • “Members… yourselves” – Sin compartmentalizes and divides life. God wants your whole life to be whole and holy.
  • “As those” – Remember you fight as one who has already been brought back from the death of sin to life in Christ.

“When you want to change and don’t want to change, the truth is you don’t want to change (p. 15)… To succeed, you must learn how to fail… The difference between the wise and the foolish is that the wise learn from their failures (p. 82).” Ed Welch in Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction

“Marital problems usually get worse soon after the addict begins walking a path of change (p. 124).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

“Less frequent events and intense stressors are two critical types of triggers that must be negotiated successfully to sustain change and manage the Maintenance stage of recovery (p. 195).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“The brain does not forget. From the standpoint of psychology, this means we can never become so well adjusted that we can stop being vigilant. From a neurological viewpoint, it means the cells of our best-intentioned systems can never eradicate the countless other systems that have been addicted. And from a spiritual perspective, it means that no matter how much grace God has blessed us with, we forever remain dependent upon its continuing flow (p. 90).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“One’s ability to cope with stress – in particular, with anger, frustration, boredom, anxiety, and depression – has been identified as a critical deficit area in many theories or models of addiction (p. 13).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

Video: Overcoming Addiction (Step Six)

Below is a video from the presentation of “Overcoming Addiction.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

“Exploring a Satisfying Sober Life”
RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.

Overcoming Addiction, Step 6 from The Sam James Institute on Vimeo.

Memorize: Titus 2:11-14 (ESV), “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” As you memorize this passage reflect upon these key points:

  • “To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” – You should be able to put your addictive behaviors in this category.
  • “To live self-controlled” – Your goal is not to live a “super hero life” but a “self-controlled life.” It is possible.
  • “Waiting” – Waiting means being self-controlled, is not easy, and it is always a work-in-progress.
  • “Gave himself” – The sacrifice you’re making is more than matched by Christ; he is for you and with you in this battle.
  • “Zealous” –God wants you to pour the passion you poured into addiction into something good and satisfying.

Teaching Notes

“The overwhelming majority of addicts testify to the power of friendship as the single most important factor in their recoveries from addiction (p. 185).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“One’s ability to cope with stress – in particular, with anger, frustration, boredom, anxiety, and depression – has been identified as a critical deficit area in many theories or models of addiction (p. 13).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Paradoxically, urges often strengthen when the individual concentrates so strongly on resistance to a present cue. Refusing to engage in the behavior helps break the conditioned connection with the cue, but it is not necessarily the most efficient way to do so (p. 178)… Individuals who have not found alternative activities that can provide some measure of relief, pleasure, or satisfaction are at significant risk for returning to the addictive behavior (p. 179).” Carlo DiClemente in Addictions and Change

“Meditation forces us to reflect on the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives, and it therefore represents a very real threat to any addiction since it threatens to reveal the insufficiencies of those stories (p. 176)… Thus Christian worship graciously displaces us from being the center of our story and instead incorporates us into the story of God (p. 178).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Addiction is not something we can simply take care of by applying the proper remedy, for it is in the very nature of addiction to feed on our attempts to master it… Understanding will not deliver us from addiction, but it will, I hope, help us appreciate grace (p. 4).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“We too are in danger of using Scripture as a practical ‘how to’ manual, relying on useful principles rather than focusing on the crux of the gospel message (p. 142).” Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

“The life of recovery requires the development of new habits, but an addicted person may engage in the external acts necessary to the development of such habits without also undertaking the ‘internal’ work necessary to the development of such habits (p. 78).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Meditation forces us to reflect on the stories that we tell ourselves about our lives, and it therefore represents a very real threat to any addiction since it threatens to reveal the insufficiencies of those stories (p. 176)… Thus Christian worship graciously displaces us from being the center of our story and instead incorporates us into the story of God (p. 178).” Kent Dunnington in Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice

“Freedom and security have always been uneasy together; the things that secure us tend to bind us down, and those that free us often feel like risks (p. 32).” Gerald May in Addiction & Grace

“Recovering addicts should keep in mind that addiction is not just a way of interacting with a specific object or event; it’s a way of interacting with one’s self and the world (p. 63).” Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality