Structured premarital Christian counseling is designed to help engaged couples form realistic expectations of wedlock and avoid divorce. Relationship therapists or spiritual leaders conduct sessions prior to the nuptials to apprise prospective couples of the purpose of wedlock, the respective roles of husbands and wives, the basics of child rearing, and rudimentary financial management. Their goal is to help potential partners avoid the pitfalls of marital disunity which often ends in divorce. Statistics indicate between 38 and 50 percent of first-time weddings among Christians will fail within the first ten years; a higher percentage of divorces occur among non-believers. The reason for marital discord may be the fact that most couples do not have an understanding about what matrimony entails! Most couples are so engrossed with planning the wedding or honeymoon that virtually no thought is given to what happens the day after they say "I do." While some astute newlyweds may plan to purchase a new home or car, or set aside savings, the emotional or psychological component of two individuals becoming one eludes them. But that's where faith-based premarital counseling comes in, seeking seasoned ministers to gain better knowledge, wisdom and understanding before walking down the aisle.
Sessions for premarital Christian counseling usually begin with a couple meeting with the pastor who is to perform the wedding ceremony. Sessions can consist of one meeting or several over the course of months prior to the ceremony. The duration of meetings may be predetermined by the church's protocol, or arranged according to how prepared a pastor deems the couple to be for marriage. The clergyman may ask each partner to share their personal viewpoint about getting married or how they feel about one another. An astute spiritual leader is not trying to dissuade or persuade young people to either marry or not to marry, but to provide couples with enough Biblical based information to make an informed decision.
Using scriptures from several books of the Bible, including Ephesians, Chapter 5; I Corinthians, Chapter 7; or I Peter, Chapter 3, a wise man or woman of God will simply reveal God's plan for matrimony and certain gender-specific roles that help make the relationship succeed. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephesians 5:22-25).
A primary consideration addressed in premarital Christian counseling will certainly be whether each partner has made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Becoming a born-again believer enables men and women to be governed by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God. A strong marriage is actually based on an individual's personal relationship with God; and two people joined together in holy matrimony create the strongest relationship bond that can ever exist. "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:3-5). God works in the midst of a husband and wife who will first of all, love, honor, cherish and obey Him; and then love, honor, and cherish each another. During premarital Christian counseling, partners will have the opportunity to examine whether they are truly in the faith; and remedy a lack of spirituality by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Otherwise, they are deemed to be unequally yoked; and that can be the beginning of serious marital problems.
During premarital Christian counseling, the pastor may also guide couples through role playing, giving them several scenarios to discuss what kinds of decisions might be made in different marital circumstances. A husband-to-be might not consider choices that could be made if chronic illness, joblessness, or infertility should threaten to derail a happy home. Similarly, women need to carefully consider their potential to love a husband's children from a previous relationship or willingness to relocate frequently because of a mate's occupation. Exposing partners to potential pitfalls and providing Biblical sound solutions gives couples the opportunity to really assess whether marriage is the right move to make. The decision to establish a lifelong bond with another individual should not be entered into lightly. Premarital Christian counseling can give prospective husbands and wives a chance to weigh the pros and cons of holy wedlock or become more resolved to follow their heart.
Once couples have undergone premarital Christian counseling, the spiritual leader or pastor may issue a certificate of completion or a verbal agreement to perform the marriage ceremony. But couples should remember that completing a course in premarital Christian counseling is no guarantee that the marriage won't encounter problems. Marriage not only requires love and sexual intimacy, but also mutual trust and an abiding faith in God to keep what two people are willing to commit to Him. Potential mates must be willing to seek God singly and together, to follow the Holy commandments, to build a life centered around Jesus Christ, and to be determined to keep the marriage vow through sickness and health, poverty and wealth, as long as they both shall live.