3 Keys For Marriage Ministry

As we speak to people about marriage, we find it ironic how quickly they all agree that marriage is under attack in our country. They agree that marriage is the foundation of family, church, community and our nation. They agree the church should be addressing marriage needs. But when we ask what their church is doing for marriage, most shake their heads and say, “Nothing.”

We believe it is time for every church to begin an intentional, viable and ongoing marriage ministry. Ongoing marriage ministry impacts three critical arenas.

The Home. In a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press and MTV, nearly 1,300 young people between the ages of 13-24 were asked, “What makes you happy?” Did they answer iPhones, TV or money? No. The overwhelming number one answer – spending time with Mom and Dad. This survey points to the fact that kids are looking for a home that is a place of joy, peace and contentment. When a church intentionally invests in marriages, we build homes where children and teens thrive.

A survey conducted by the Barna Institute on men in the church found that four out of 10 marriages in the church will end in divorce, which affects 1 million children each year. Divorce is wreaking havoc on our homes. It is time for the church to act.

The Church. Two out of three teens are leaving the church when they leave the home. We are losing our young people in droves. The primary reason they are leaving is that they feel no connection to the larger body of Christ. Parents are a key in making that connection to the larger body. Most parents are struggling with their own walk with Christ, their own lifestyle and their own marriage. They feel ill equipped to model for their kids the basic tenets of the faith. As a result, too many parents abdicate their responsibility to the youth minister.

By investing in an intentional marriage ministry, churches will strengthen and develop youth and children’s ministries by equipping parents to be the primary faith builder in the lives of their kids. This will not only grow the church in your community but also the church at large. Well-equipped kids will impact college campuses, military establishments and workplaces as these teens leave the home. It is time for the church to act.

The Community. Productivity lost from marriage and relationship stress can cost employers some $6 billion annually, according to an estimate cited in a new report, “Marriage and Family Wellness: Corporate America’s Business?” sponsored by the Marriage Co-Mission, a marriage strengthening advocacy group in Atlanta. Another study cited in the report found that in the year following divorce, employees lost an average of four weeks of work.

Talk about being salt and light to our world! When a church implements an intentional ongoing marriage ministry, it helps produce healthier, wealthier, emotionally stable employees who will in turn impact their work place for Christ. It is time for the church to act.

İnvesting in an ongoing marriage ministry impacts all of life for the Kingdom of Christ. It is time for the church to act.

Need a place to start? Email info@jayandlaura.com

Why Social Media Is Killing Your Love Life

My (Jay’s) mom has a famous saying: “Sorry, kiddo, there’s no perfection in this world!” Mostly, she said that to me when I was disappointed because my expectations went unmet. Unmet expectations can be a real killer in relationships, and they are exacerbated by our culture and its obsession with social media, comparison and perfectionism.

Laura and I love social media. It is a great way to stay in touch with distant friends, to watch their kids grow and, in general, to stay up on what is new with people we care about. Unfortunately, everyone posts their A game on social media. As a result, we never see the real life they are living. For example, if people look at our Facebook page, they see all the fun places we travel to and all the neat people we meet. They may think we have a dream job. And to a certain extent, we do. However, what they cannot see is us crawling into bed at 2:00 a.m., because our flight was delayed or our constant battle with weight because we are on the road all the time where exercise is nonexistent and eating out is the norm.

Looking only at another person’s A game leads to comparison. When we compare, we tend to get stuck on the idea of why everyone else’s life is so much better than ours. Their life is not better than ours; it is just different. Again, we do not know their struggles and challenges. We also do not know their past, and the path they have walked.

Comparison is the thief of joy. When we compare, we rob ourselves of the tremendous joy that comes from knowing God is in control. He has us right where He wants us. When we focus on the blessings we do have, we tend to see our life differently, our spouse differently, and our relationships differently – we are more likely to see them in the light of God and His sovereignty.

And when we realize God is in control we can eliminate perfectionism. Early in our marriage, I (Jay) thought that if Laura was more like me, we would have a perfect marriage. Then she gently reminded me that if both of us were the same, one of us would not be necessary. And I can tell you who that would be!

Ruth Graham once said that good marriages are made up of two great forgivers. Nothing could be truer. When I realize all that God has forgiven in me, it becomes easier to forgive others, particularly my spouse.

Only when we learn to forgive, will we understand why “there ain’t no perfection in this world.” Learning to forgive also helps us focus on progress, not perfection.

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

Divorce is not an option. Does that statement ring true to your heart and mind? Yes? No? Either way, there are habits that will help you to divorce-proof your marriage. So whether your relationship is rolling along smoothly or you are walking through a tough time in your marriage, here are three habits you can begin today.

Fifteen Minutes

Determine to build a habit of scheduling 15 minutes of uninterrupted conversation with your spouse every day. It could be before the kids get up, after they go to bed, maybe even after dinner while they watch a cartoon. It is important for husbands and wives to stay connected through conversation.

I know some of you men are thinking, what will we talk about? What you need to understand is that conversation is like “play” for your wife. Have trouble believing that? Next time you are out for lunch, watch two women who are having lunch together. You will see two women who are having the time of their lives—conversing.

Having meaningful conversation as a couple helps smooth out the plan for the day and helps to avoid surprises in our routine.

Three Hours

Plan at least one three-hour date a month. Our friend Edgar Garcia is the Marriage and Family Pastor at Knott Avenue Christian Church in Anaheim, Calif. Here is his definition of a date:

  • Can’t talk about the kids
  • Can’t talk about work
  • Can’t be just a movie

Garcia’s wisdom is clear. Do not talk about the kids or work; worse yet, do not sit silent in a movie theater. Yes, dinner and a movie count as a date. For us, these three hours keep us focused on our relationship. How are we doing? What have been the ups and downs lately? How can we move forward positively in our relationship?

Not only will you reap these benefits, but dating your spouse keeps the romance alive! The anticipation of spending time with the one you love, connecting in real and meaningful ways, and celebrating your love at the end of a wonderful evening together are all part of divorce-proofing your marriage.

Four Days

Twice a year, every year, plan a two-day getaway with your spouse. Build it into your budget, put it on the calendar and request the days off. Simply put, make it a priority. It does not have to be an expensive getaway. Take an overnight camping trip or spend a night at a reasonably priced hotel. Even a stay-cation counts if you take the kids to grandma’s or a friend’s house, and then return home, fix dinner together and watch a romantic comedy.

The benefits are obvious. First, you build anticipation as you discuss all the fun you are going to have. Second, it creates memories that will last a lifetime, and each getaway will add a cord that will keep your bond strong. And finally, planning the next getaway will fill you and your spouse with excitement as you prepare for another adventure.

Divorce-proofing your marriage is not rocket science, but it does take a commitment to build positive habits into your relationship so you can reap benefits for years to come.

Celebrate Your Marriage In 2017

Most of us establish new goals in January. We begin diets to lose the holiday pounds. We exercise with renewed vigor to keep our heart healthy. We make financial goals.

But have you ever set goals and gained a new vision for your marriage? As the adage says, if you shoot for nothing, that is what you hit. How many of us live our married lives that way, without clear dreams and goals?

Celebrate your marriage in 2017 by setting goals and visions for it. Here are three actions that will help you get started.

1. Dream again. We all have dreams, or at least we did when we were younger. I, Laura, dreamed of being a famous novelist; Jay dreamed of being a rock ‘n’ roll singer. Somehow as we grow older, life squelches those dreams.

What were your dreams when you got married? Did you dream of 2.4 kids, the perfect job, and a house with a white picket fence? Probably not. But maybe you dreamed of owning a business together, traveling around the country, or raising great kids. Where are those dreams now?

Take time in January to get away with your spouse. Even if it is only for a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, leave the house and go out to recapture your dreams. It may even be time to make some new ones.

2. Take intentional steps. Once you have recaptured your dreams, what steps will help you achieve them? Start small. Make those first steps easy to achieve so you build excitement about the journey.

If one of your dreams together is to go to Hawaii for your 25th wedding anniversary, what will it take to get you there? Do the math and make a reasonable financial plan. Even if that anniversary is 20 years away, you can start by setting aside $20 a month. As time goes by, maybe that amount can jump to $50. Maybe your dream is to start a new business together. What kind of business? Where? How much money do you need to make that happen? Maybe you want to strengthen your relationship in 2017. A simple intentional step might be going on a date together once a month. So get out your calendar and put those dates down.

3. Walk persistently. All too often we stop at action two. We dream of getting in shape. We mark out time to exercise every day. But on day three we have the flu, so we do not feel like exercising. Day 20 arrives and we still are not exercising. Distractions will come, but persistence means we keep walking.

Jay and I want to strengthen our relationship this year. Our intentional step is going on a date once a month in 2017, so we marked 12 dates on our calendars. What will we do if our October date night falls on a night that our son plays football? We will go on our date.

Too often, as parents, we allow our kids’ lives to take priority over our marriage. Walking persistently means we protect our marriage and give it priority so we each can become the husband, father, mother and wife we need to be.

How will you intentionally celebrate your marriage in 2017?

Tell us in the comments below…

Make It A December To Remember

This year make the Christmas season truly memorable. Turn this holiday season into the year you look back on 20 years from now and say, “2016 is the year it all started!” Here are some simple steps to get headed in the right direction.

Start Christmas Traditions

Some traditions involve food. For example, in our house Laura makes fudge on the day after Thanksgiving, then she stingily doles it out over the next month. Another food tradition is Christmas brunch. After we have opened the presents, we dine on Jay’s mom’s sausage-and-rice casserole and Laura’s world-famous cheese grits.

Maybe your tradition is something you do, such as spending Christmas Eve at Grandma’s or driving around after the Christmas Eve service to look at the lights in your town. We make hot chocolate, turn off all the lights in the house except for the tree lights, and talk about the meaning of Christmas and our favorite memories.

Make Time for Your Marriage

Christmas is a busy season, and it can make us forget about the important relationships in our life – especially our marriages. Christmas concerts and parties can have us running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Socrates once said, “Beware the barreness of a busy life.” Do not let this season become so busy that your marriage relationship feels barren. Put a date night or two on the calendar, and then defend them to the hilt. You will not regret it. Those moments will give you a breather from the chaos and make the season shine.

Pick the Right Gift

My (Jay) love language is not gifts. I do not particularly need to get gifts, and I have never seen how they make people feel loved – until I married a woman whose primary love language is gifts. What Laura helped me see is that giving a gift is not about the size or the cost; it is about how much thought went into picking out the gift. The more thought I put into the gift I choose, the more she feels loved.

For me, gift giving is just about getting the next new toy. Whether gifts are important to your spouse or not, do not forget that gifts will always say “I love you!” So get your spouse one that will make their day.

Take these three steps and begin your journey to make this a December to remember!

Go Hunting For Your Wife

I (Jay) did not grow up a hunter. However, a few years ago some buddies of mine from Compassion International asked me to go on a pheasant hunt in South Dakota. At first I declined, admitting I did not know the least bit about pheasant hunting. But my friend Steve insisted it was no big deal and I was going to have the time of my life. “Besides,” he said, “we eat like kings!” I was in!

I got a hunting license, hauled my grandfather’s 1952 Browning Light 12 out of storage, and bought the proper attire. I was nervous as all get-out. But Steve was right. My buddies knew I was a rookie, and they coached me the entire week. We shot skeet to warm up and get used to shooting. We had lessons from the guides to learn about being a “walker or a blocker” and, most importantly, to not shoot the other hunters.

I had a blast. We hit our limit every day, then sat around the campfire at night telling stories and laughing hard. I have been an avid pheasant hunter ever since, rarely passing up an opportunity if it presents itself. A stuffed pheasant that I shot hangs on the wall of our family room. His name is Phrank … Phrank the Pheasant!

So guys, what if we pursued our wives with the same passion we pursue wild game? Here’s what it would look like.

First, stalk her habitat. Where does she like to go? Where is she most comfortable? Figure it out without her knowledge so you can sneak up on her unsuspected.

Second, what’s the best “bait” to attract her? Dinner at her favorite restaurant? That chick flick she’s been talking about? How about a couple’s massage?

Finally, buy the right equipment. While women are not as “visual” as men, they do like it and take notice when their man grooms himself nicely. So shave the nose hairs, buy a new shirt and put on a little after-shave before you go out.

Taking the time to pursue your wife with the passion of a hunter will make her feel loved and appreciated. It is instinctive for a woman to want to be pursued. It is hardwired in her DNA. And just think, the more you pursue, the more she just might let you “catch” her!

Take The Just-Because Challenge

Every May and October, we host a marriage conference at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The 130-year-old wood-frame hotel, with over 380 uniquely decorated rooms and a front porch that is more than two football fields in length, looks out over the straits of Mackinac. It is the perfect romantic setting for couples to get away and to get ahead in their marriage.

This year our final challenge to the couples was to do something for their spouse “just because.” We gave every couple a challenge coin. Inscribed on the coin were these words: just because.

The idea came to us a few years back when I (Jay) bought Laura a large bouquet of flowers and on the card I wrote: “To Laura, Love Jay, Just Because.” We have told that story countless times, and we thought it was time to challenge the couples to put what we have learned into practice.

The challenge starts with the men having the coin. Each man must do something for his wife – just because. When he does, he gives the coin to his wife. Then it is her turn to do something for him, just because. It does not need to be something elaborate. For example, a husband can wash his wife’s car, just because. A wife can make her husband’s favorite meal, just because. Write a love note, just because. You get the idea.

When we got home from our May event this year, I (Jay) was looking to practice what we preach. We were running some errands in Mt. Pleasant, and I knew exactly what to do. One of Laura’s favorite treats is a Dairy Queen chocolate ice cream cone dipped in chocolate. I whipped our little red VW convertible bug into the drive-thru, placed the order, and gave Laura the coin.

A week later we had planned a golf date one afternoon after work. While I was finishing up emails, Laura loaded the golf clubs into the car (normally my job) and handed me the coin.

In the months since our May conference, we have received countless email and Facebook notifications of couples doing something for each other, just because. One of our favorites came from Sabrina who mowed the lawn on her day off so her husband, Michael, would not have to do it on his day off. Simple gestures mean a lot.

So why not start your own challenge and do something for your spouse – just because?

For information on our challenge coin, contact us.

A Simple Way To Build Intimacy In Marriage

We live in Michigan, and in Michigan, Labor Day marks the “official” end of summer. School starts the day after Labor Day, and it feels like a fresh start for us all. We would like to challenge you to a fresh start by adding a new habit to your marriage – dating!

The following is an excerpt from our book The Spark! Igniting Passion, Mystery and Romance in Your Marriage .

A simple way to build intimacy into your marriage is to spend time together. It seems obvious, but for some reason, when we get married, we can forget to date. It can be a struggle to find time to spend together and nurture intimacy.

So here is a simple yet practical idea.

What happens with us is that Jay likes to do different things than I (Laura) like to do, so when date night comes, we want to do something different. To overcome this struggle, we each wrote down our five best dates (keeping within our budget, mind you). Jay wrote down his five, and I wrote down my five. Then we meshed them to create a series of great dates.

Laura’s five great dates are shopping, going for a walk, shopping, joining a book group, and shopping. Jay’s five great dates are dining out, golfing, dancing lessons, golfing and cooking lessons.

To combine shopping and dining out, we meshed dinner out with a shopping trip to the mall. On a golfing date, while Jay hits range ball and practices putting, I browse the pro shop looking for deals on shirts, shorts and accessories. When we signed up for dancing lessons, we had to go shopping for tap shoes. One of the benefits of combining these dates is that we decided walking was a great form of exercise that we could add to our golf dates.

Now it is your turn. Take your five great dates individually and then mesh them together. They will become your great date arsenal. We are not asking you to be joined at the hip. We are not saying to totally disregard your personal interests, hobbies and friends.

What we are saying can be best summarized with this quote from our in-depth survey: Movies, plays, dinner, walks – it does not matter. The important what-we-do is to spend time together focusing on each other and not the rest of the world.

September is the perfect time to start fresh and begin to date again. Try it!

Beat the Dog Days of Summer as a Couple

We know, we know, we know … when will these kids go back to school! August can be a rough time in the life of a family. In June we cannot wait for the drudgery of the school routine to be done, but by the Fourth of July, we start wondering when these kids are gonna go back to school. When August hits, parents can literally be pulling our hair out.

Here are three great tips for beating the dog days of summer.

First, remember these words from our friend Peter Brooks: “Please … hold your loved ones close. Don’t argue about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter. Live in this moment, make memories, ‘redeem the time’ … please. There are no guarantees.”

James 4:14 echoes Peter’s remarks. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (NIV). The reality is we do not know what tomorrow will bring, so cherish even the tough days. Use the summer to make memories you cannot make during the school year. Ice cream cones and Slurpee runs were always a break our kids looked forward to.

Second, remember that raising the little ones is a 24/7/365 role you play. Children see how you behave in the tough times, and they will learn from observing your behavior. When times get irritating, do not blow a gasket. Instead use it as teaching moment with your kids. Let them know that mommy or daddy or both are a little frustrated and explain why.

Remember the words of our Lord when dealing with your kids: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Finally, focus on your marriage. The best thing you can do for your children is to be madly in love with your spouse. Study after study shows that the healthiest, highest achieving, socially connected kids come from a family where mom and dad intentionally work on growing their love.

Too often kids can become a distraction from the marriage relationship and ultimately drift a couple apart. Bottom line is that kids thrive in a stable home life, and nothing will insure that more than keeping your marriage your #1 earthly relationship.

Masquerading as the ordinary is exhausting

I (Laura) love collecting all the catalogs that come in over the week and taking time on Saturday to look through them all very diligently to make sure I am not missing anything I might need! Perusing the catalog is cheaper than going to the actual store. I mark the items I love and must have, but never really purchase!

On this particular perusing excursion I was looking through a Macy’s catalog filled with all kinds of trinkets and gift items. Slowly turning each page, being careful not to miss any lovely gift for someone I might know, I stopped and there it was! My life changed forever at that moment!

One Saturday afternoon snuggled under my plush cheetah print blanket with coffee in hand, I found myself perusing I did not see the color of the plate, the cost of the plate, nor did I check whether a 50% discount was available to acquire the plate. All I saw were the words imprinted on the plate!

quote

Finally a store had captured my heart’s motto! My husband, Jay, would tell you that many stores capture my heart! But this was different. I knew in my soul that this is how I would forever live my life.

Now before you call me melodramatic or a little over the top (because if you knew me you would know that neither of those words are commonly associated with me), you should know that one of my highest values in life is uniqueness. These words captured that value precisely!

Since that Saturday, I have lived life striving to be extraordinary and no longer masquerading as ordinary – not always easy. Ordinary is easy and accepted. A desire to want to be extraordinary, can, at times, be seen by others as an oddity, nonconforming, atypical and or incredulous! It means walking away from life as others see it and striving for something more. I don’t want to be like everyone else! I want to be the woman, wife, mom, and friend, God created me to be. I was created by an extraordinary God, to be an extraordinary woman, and live an extraordinary life, for Him.