This past summer, I married a young couple in our church. It came time after the dust settled to meet with them to see how married life was treating them. I try to do this about 3 months post-marriage, allow them to get settled, and give them plenty of time to fight and make up before intruding. Here is my general approach to try to assess how they are doing and learn best how to shepherd them through this first year. 4 suggestions:
Sit down with them in their home. It is good to meet with them, but set a time where you are able to be in their home. Hopefully, a woman’s touch does nothing but improve the home of a bachelor and you are able to see how they have set up their home. Before marriage, they were meeting in my office for pre-marital counseling discussing what it would be like if they had their own home. Now they do and it is good to enter in on their turf and celebrate that.
Ask questions and watch reactions. Come ready to ask questions of them both and how they are adjusting. Ask about the greatest joy of marriage for each of them, then the greatest challenge. Ask about how their families are handling post-wedding life. Ask about what is the biggest surprise they did not see coming about marriage. Ask these kinds of questions, then watch the reactions of each of them as they answer and listen to the other answer. You will learn a lot from those exchanges.
Remind them of truth shared in pre-marital counseling. Pre-marital counseling is profitable on several levels, but one limitation is that so much is addressed in the hypothetical. You are talking about being married, without being married yet. Now they are really married and living marriage out. Refresh some of those conversations that were had to help them view those issues from the lens of now a married couple. Share again about the truths of Scripture they are now called by God to walk in by his grace. Remind them how the gospel now applies to their daily interactions with each other they shared with you.
Speak encouragement where you are encouraged. Anyone who is married, knows it is an experience you never stop learning, growing, and maturing from. A young, newly married couple is just skimming the surface of this learning experience. Yet, look for those beginning signs they are getting it and encourage them in those things. There was much I was encouraged by with this young couple. Do not leave their home before speaking those encouraging words to them. They need it, and they are looking to hear those words from their pastor who has already walked through much with them.
Pastors, these are just suggestions. However you choose to handle the care of your newly married couples, make sure you are meeting with them in some capacity a few months into their marriage and throughout the year periodically. Make sure they are applying the truths that you spent many sessions speaking to them beforehand. Encourage them where you are encouraged. Then be grateful you have an eager couple desiring to be shepherded by you in this very important first year. Not all do.
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Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children, son, Samuel and daughters, Abby, Isabelle, and Claire. He has served in pastoral ministry for over fifteen years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University receiving his B.A. in Sociology. He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He is also the author of Visit the sick: Ministering God’s grace in times of illness (foreword by Mark Dever) and Test, train, affirm, and send into Ministry: Recovering the local church’s responsibility to the external call (foreword by R. Albert Mohler Jr.). Both of these volumes are published by Day One in their pastoral series designed to serve pastors, church leaders, and those training for local church ministry. Brian has also published Help! He’s Struggling with Pornography and Conduct Gospel-centered Funerals (co-written with Phil Newton).
A Faith That Endures: Meditations on Hebrews 11 is Brian’s newest book, released in fall of 2011. His next book on The Pastor’s Family, co-authored with his wife, is due to be released by Zondervan in Fall 2013.
To find out more, please visit Practical Shepherding.