A while back I had to write a paper describing how I would conduct a premarital counseling program for an engaged couple. You can find a modified version of the paper below. It was an interesting exercise, although it was a bit abstract. It must be said that there are multiple ways to faithfully conduct a premarital counseling program, especially when you consider the particular couple, the cultural context in which the couple lives, their personal backgrounds, and so on.
How I Would Conduct Premarital Counseling for a Christian Couple
One of the first things I would do is have the couple fill out a sheet of paper filled with questions. These questions would be both practical and theological. “When did you become a Christian? “How did you become a Christian?” “Do you plan on going on a honeymoon?” “Who will pay for it and how?” You would be surprised how many couples don’t know these things about each other. Then, I would have them discuss these things amongst themselves before our first night.
Our premarital counseling time would last six weeks, and ideally, we would meet once or twice a month. My wife would serve alongside me for every session. The first night of premarital counseling would be an introductory night. I don’t think we would need to rush into deep discussions right away. The sound of premarital counseling can be intimidating, especially if you’ve had poor counseling experiences in the past. So on the first night, I would want to spend time talking about life, creating a welcoming environment in my home, and doing everything possible to make the couple feel loved and welcomed.
During the second session, I will want to talk about perhaps the most important topic that we could discuss: the family of origin.
More specifically, the couple should seek to understand their story (more about that in a bit). Childhood and past experiences in part make up the person you are today and are directly related to your current struggles. With that in mind, I would want to discuss each other’s family of origin and create a dialogue about each family background. I think that a few talks about this won’t be enough, but hopefully, during the premarital process, we can start a conversation in which both sides can learn more about one another and continue to talk about their family of origin even after they get married.
The couple will read The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. They will read the book and discuss the content amongst themselves. Since I’ve read about engagement, both because of this assignment and for my own experience, I will also encourage the couple to read Tying the Knot (a Christian book on engagement), and Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage by John Piper. These are good resources that will promote healthy dialogue about marriage. Yes, my wife and I will be doing the premarital counseling. But I don’t want to underestimate the power of good resources. And these would be the three that I would recommend.
The Genogram will play a big part in this process, too. This is keeping in step with wanting to emphasize the family of origin as the main gist of the premarital counseling process. Using A Family Genogram Workbook, I would have both the male and the female do the hard work of heart work by conducting a family genogram. This would include a minimum of three generations. I would want the couple to learn how relationships work by identifying issues in her/his family. The goal of this is to create a thorough discussion of the underlying feelings, motivations, and reasons for these issues.
Roles in Marriage, Finances, and Sex
With these things behind us, we would only have a couple of weeks remaining. In this time, I would want to talk about the practical aspects of marriage: roles in marriage, finances, and sex.
So next up would be roles in marriage. This perhaps might be the most theological night of counseling. I would have the couple read Ephesians 5 – specifically the part on marriage. The husband is the head (Eph. 5:23). Wives should submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22). And husbands should love their wives and give himself up for her as Christ did the church (Eph. 5:25). I would also want to talk about the doctrine of complementarianism and their “divine design” in marriage and talk about the roles that God has called them to both individually and collectively.
From there, we will discuss finances. Do they have a budget? How do they plan to pay for their wedding? What’s their plan to survive during marriage? And do they understand the theological implications behind proper stewardship? All of these questions I would ask as we discuss the implications of money in a marriage.
Finally, the sex chat. I think it would be wise to save this for the end because I don’t want couples to think too much about sex months away from their wedding! For this last night, I would want to split up so that I would speak privately with the guy, and my wife would speak privately with the woman. I want to create an atmosphere where they felt safe to share their hearts.
Also, we would be available to answer any questions they might have and give suggestions for honeymoon sex and beyond. One or two weeks before the wedding, I would encourage them to share their hearts with one another regarding sex and help each other alleviate any anxieties that they might have.
So, that’s what we would do. We would meet for six weeks and discuss family of origin, divine design, roles in marriage, finances, and sex. I would also make it a point to pray for the couple that I’m counseling. The hope is that this premarital counseling program will play a small part in preparing the Christian couple for a lifetime of faithful Christian marriage.