United We Stand

In the 1960s a book came out called Creative Divorce. Its tone was upbeat, expressing the individualistic philosophy of the day. Divorce creates only temporary distress, it said; after a few months, individuals bounce back and go on to form more "meaningful relationships." But in the late 1980s, a very different book came out called Second Chances. It reported on the first longitudinal study of divorce, and its tone was decidedly somber. Divorced people, it turns out, do not bounce back. Five years later—even 10 years later—former spouses are often still raw with rage. Their children also suffer depression, school problems, drug use, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Clearly, Americans need to radically rethink our view of divorce. Over the past several days, I've discussed ways your church can fight divorce and build lifelong marriages. There's a premarital questionnaire called PREPARE that can predict with 80-percent accuracy which couples will divorce. There's Marriage Encounter, an intense weekend retreat where 90 percent of couples fall back in love with each other. And for seriously troubled marriages there is Retrouvaille. This program has even helped renew the marriages of couples who have already divorced. These are incredible resources available for any church that wants to build strong marriages. So why aren't more churches using them? Many pastors feel they just don't have the time to add another program. But most of these programs rely on older couples who act as mentors—an innovative idea that has actually proven to be more effective than pastoral counseling or even counseling by professional marriage counselors. Other pastors say they're afraid of scaring people away from the church. When a pastor requires a long and demanding period of premarital counseling, many couples simply say, "No thanks," and hold their wedding at the church down the street. To solve that problem, Mike McManus, author of the book Marriage Savers, has instituted Community Marriage Policies in 86 cities where churches agree together to adopt certain programs. For example, last year in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, clergy from more than 50 churches agreed to require couples to undergo four months of marriage preparation, take a premarital inventory to help them evaluate the maturity of their relationship, and meet with a mentor couple to help them bond for life. The result? McManus believes the policy is responsible for the fact that the number of divorces in Eau Claire dropped by 7 percent in just eight months. The same remarkable results are showing up elsewhere. For example, in Peoria, a Community Marriage Policy has been in effect for six years, and the number of divorces has dropped 28 percent. In Modesto, California, the policy has been in effect for 12years—and the divorce rate has plunged an eye-popping 35 percent. Clearly, McManus says, "we hold in our hands the answer to America's divorce rate." McManus is right. Pastors who marry any couple that comes knocking—pastors who are "Marrying Sams"—need to recognize their complicity in America's divorce epidemic. Why don't you read Mike McManus's book Marriage Savers. You'll learn more about how your church can become a real marriage saver.


Chuck Colson


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