This is a question I have been wrestling with for some time now. There is such a disconnect from what people say they believe and follow and how they actually live. Just recently I heard of two more (seems to be rampant as of late) marriages that have ended in divorce because of infidelity. And I wouldn't be surprised if most pastors are dealing with at least one if not more couples in the church who are struggling in their marriage. I currently am seeing two couples who are struggling. I'd like to blame it on a lot of factors including the Devil's ploys. But the truth is the problems in any marriage lie primarily if not solely between two people, the husband and the wife.
If a marriage is a gift from God then why are so many falling apart in the church?
Each individual brings many things to a marriage including their personalities and any unresolved issues from their past. Everyone grows up in a different environment where healthy communication was modeled or not, where good parenting was modeled or not. These things and so much more play a key role in whether or not a relationship grows into a healthy supportive marriage. I am convinced that marriages fall apart mainly by pure selfishness especially ones that end with infidelity. Somewhere along the line committed love was short-circuited and relationship building stopped and expectations, often unsaid, grew and were unfulfilled. And of course, the Lord's guidance was left out by either both or one of the partners.
We know that marriage is God's idea and is supported by the church. I believe God uses community to undergird marriage as we support one another. In most of our marriage formularies we commit to supporting the new couple in their marriage and helping them to make it work.
Small groups can play a pivotal role in this support. I've seen a number of small groups willing to tackle tough marital situations and the struggling couple come through the experience in a much healthier place.
There are different ways this can be done. One is that the group regularly holds one another accountable in their relationships through prayer and open sharing. That would be ideal, but it doesn't always work for every group and depends on how connected and open you are. Another option is to go on a marriage retreat together. There are a number of good ones out there to choose from and worth the weekend away. And I know that many groups have singles included, but it has been my experience that the singles would gladly support healthy marriages and encourage couples in their group to pursue healthy relationships.
Another option is to use marriage enrichment curriculum over a six week period as one of the studies. This may not be an option if you have singles in your group. However I would encourage churches then to host a special short-term small group study using this curriculum. I've found that to be very effective too. You may have to intentionally invite couples to participate rather than just a bulletin announcement. Perhaps you can kick it off around a sermon series on the family or relationships. Have the pastor announce it often from the pulpit. And of course if you've offered the group before, have a couple or two share about their experience.
Here are some great resources that I know are very solid and have either read, lead or participated in.
Marriage Built to Last with Chip Ingram
Love Path by Joe Beam:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
These guys put some really great stuff and host marriage getaways. My wife and I have attended one and loved every minute of it. More recently they have introduced a new type of video series for your church and community called "the art of Marriage"
Let's do whatever we can to support healthy relationships and healthy families.