Are you interested in going into pastoral counseling? If so, one of the most common types of counseling that will be requested of you is premarital counseling — so you’ll want to be prepared!
Premarital counseling helps couples understand and plan for marriages that will glorify God. It also helps couples set reasonable expectations for each other and for married life. It is often coordinated by local churches and can be held one-on-one with pastors or in classes with other couples based on an established curriculum.
If you’re not sure exactly how to deliver premarital counseling, read about the common goals and strategies here! With this guide, you’ll be ready to help Christian couples develop a strong foundation for their marriage through your pastoral counseling sessions.
How Christian Premarital Counseling Helps Couples
The premarital counseling curriculum from Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington D.C. lists five purposes for premarital counseling.
- It helps build a solid, biblical foundation for marriage. A lot of time is spent in Scripture looking at how biblical ideas apply to marriage.
- It helps couples begin a dialogue. Topics like communication, finances, sex, and parenting need to be discussed before marriage.
- It points out areas of concern in the relationship. No relationship is perfect. Potential problems, conflict, and struggles should be addressed.
- It preserves couples from temptation. Getting engaged can result in couples rationalizing premarital sex. Premarital sex and other temptations need to be discussed.
- It prepares couples for the marriage, and not just the wedding day. Couples can have a tendency to focus on the wedding day and not on the marriage.
An important part of premarital counseling is getting the couple to have serious conversations about their upcoming marriage. The tendency is for engaged couples to avoid the tough stuff because they don’t want to think about it. But marriages are filled with problems. If you avoid these problems early on, they will resurface later on down the road.
Christian premarital counseling explores each person’s faith and history. It helps the couple examine personal convictions, expectations for their future, and responsibilities they will have. More than anything, premarital counseling aims to produce a marriage that is biblical and God-honoring.
Applying Scripture to Premarital Counseling
Studying the Bible is a primary part of Christian premarital counseling. Couples often examine the “basics of marriage” contained in Genesis 2:18-24, William McRae writes in his book Preparing for Your Marriage. A common passage to look at is Ephesians 5:21-31 or Genesis 2:24 where it says “the two shall become one flesh.”
The couple will also participate in other biblical studies. For instance, the CHBC curriculum for premarital counseling includes sessions on a theology of communication, a theology of sex, and “a theology of everything else” that includes love, money, forgiveness, and children. Another example, in the context of a couple’s communication and spiritual growth, is to study the power of prayer.
Biblical studies are not isolated from other parts of premarital counseling. Combined with an assessment of each person and his/her strengths and weaknesses, premarital counseling can use Scripture to help a couple approach marriage with the right mindset and heart. The couple looks at how to model their marriage, how to enhance their faith, and how to encounter any obstacles, struggles, or concerns.
The Bible is as critical to the life of a married couple as it is to the life of the individual Christian. Remember that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).
Path to Ministry
Ministry leaders can help engaged couples better understand each other and God’s purpose for this covenant. Christian premarital counseling is a powerful opportunity to ensure that each person and their relationship is rooted in God. It can inspire them to follow His plan for their lives. If you want to help others prepare for marriage, a master’s degree in ministry studies with a concentration in counseling would be a great way to prepare yourself to give premarital counseling.
Grace College’s online Master of Arts in Ministry Studies with a Counseling emphasis is designed to equip pastoral counselors and others with important ministry tools to help those who are hurting. The six counseling courses are ministry-based and taught by instructors who are or have been engaged with counseling in a local church. The concentration will start with the theological foundations of counseling and will go into Christian counseling theories and methodologies as it applies to a wide range of topics, including Christian premarital counseling.