A United Methodist Pastor’s Template for Premarital Appointments

As a pastor, I have the great honor of being part of some of the most significant events in the lives of people. One of these is when a couple is joined together in Christian marriage.

Premarital appointments with a couple are crucial as they create the opportunity to:

  • Get to know each other
  • Plan a service of Christian marriage that makes sense for them
  • Offer coaching or help around areas of concern for the couple
  • Share guidance from marrying and counseling couples

I am in my ninth year as an appointed pastor in the United Methodist Church and during that time I have officiated at  thirty-seven services of Christian marriage and currently have four scheduled in the next twelve months.  I have developed this template for four premarital appointments. While I will continue to develop it, I wanted to share my current version with you.

Feel free to use and adapt in whatever ways are helpful for you. I hope that this is helpful for you in ministry.

What have you found to be effective and helpful in meeting with a couple before they are married?

My Advice on Cohabitation

I recently read an update from The Methodist Church of Great Britain in which it reports: “The Methodist Church will look at cohabitation, at the urging of the Youth Assembly. The annual report from the Youth Assembly, which was received by the Conference, requires the Methodist Council to work with young Methodists to produce advice on cohabitation “in a 21st century context”.”

So the youth of Great Britain are looking for guidance on cohabitation in a 21st century context…

Last week I listened to, Kids First, Marriage Later — If Ever, a story on NPR summed up as: “Federal data from 2007 says 40 percent of births in America are to unwed mothers, a trend experts say is especially common in middle-class America. In one St. Louis community, the notion of getting married and having children — in that order — seems quaint.”

I found the story to be fascinating and commend it to you…

Here is my simple guidance for all you couples out there:

  • Do not live together before you get married.
  • If you are living together before you are married, do not have sex.
  • If you are engaged and having sex, I challenge you to abstain until your marriage night as a way of setting aside the time for preparation.

It is pretty simple.

I am proud of… my wife.

Last for this non-comprehensive blog journey and certainly not least is my wife, Nicole Conard. She is an amazing woman, wife and pastor. I am proud of the way that she lives out her calling to ministry. The way that she cares for people and the passion that she has for renewing the church are inspirational.

I could not be more proud of her as my wife. She cares for me, allows me to care for her and helps make my life more joyful. She keeps me guessing when I need to take it easy and holds me accountable when I need that as well. She is a fine cook and I am glad to be married to her.

What does God think of divorce?

Email Received:

I am writing because I have a few questions I need help with. I am recently divorced. It seems my wife didn’t understand that you are not supposed to date other people when you are married. We tried to work it out the first time 3 years ago, but the second time she decided to stay with her boyfriend and I moved out. It’s been about 8 months since the divorce and I am now starting to date one of my best friends. We have brought each other back to church and now that I am growing in my faith I have some real concerns. What does god think about divorce? I read so many things about how god hates divorce and I am worried that I have committed a sin when it was of no choice of mine. I just don’t know how to feel about this and could use some guidance.

My Response:
Thanks for the question. I have a couple different responses to your question – What does God think about divorce? The first response that I would like to share is a statement from the denomination on divorce. It is a part of the Book of Discipline which is the governing document for United Methodist Churches and you can find this section online here – http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?mid=1723

“God’s plan is for lifelong, faithful marriage. The church must be on the forefront of premarital and postmarital counseling in order to create and preserve strong marriages. However, when a married couple is estranged beyond reconciliation, even after thoughtful consideration and counsel, divorce is a regrettable alternative in the midst of brokenness. We grieve over the devastating emotional, spiritual, and economic consequences of divorce for all involved and are concerned about high divorce rates.”

A couple other online resources that may be helpful:

My response is that part of the reality in your situation is that there was already a break in the covenant of marriage. The divorce did not break the covenant of marriage between you and her. It was already broken through the infidelity. There are times when marriage can recover from cheating, but it takes the desire and commitment of both persons to make it happen. It sounds as if your ex-wife was not willing or able to make that commitment to make things work.

I hope that this is helpful. Please feel free to send an email with any additional clarifying questions or other ways that I can provide guidance. Thanks and hope your week is going well.

You might also see a previous post, Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

What do you think?

Speedlinking – July 14, 2008

Speedlinking – June 5, 2008

Can two deeply committed Christians get divorced?

I was asked this question recently and my initial response was “yes.” However, now I am thinking maybe the answer is “no.” I never believe that divorce should be a first choice or seem like an easy option.

I think that there are circumstances where divorce makes the most sense and is perhaps the best option for two people – abuse being a clear example to me. There may be other reasons as well. My first thought was that these circumstances happen to faithful and unfaithful people alike and that being a deeply committed Christian would not preclude divorce.

As I think more about it though, it becomes a little less clear. If two people were practicing their faith and took seriously their vows of marriage then I am not sure that divorce would make sense. I would suggest that if one is living out their faith that abuse would not be a possibility and that in the case of infidelity (which is not something to which anyone is immune) a commitment to the marriage vows should make some difference.

I am still not quite sure on this question. What do you think?