Premarital Counseling: Every Pastor Should Offer It

It’s no secret that many marriages are in shambles today. Divorces are certainly high, which adds tension to family relationships and complicates many things. When kids are thrown into the mix, as they usually are, things get even more destructive and complicated. Personally, I’ve encountered numerous children who have multiple step-siblings, are transported to certain parent’s houses week to week, and are constantly in the middle of fights. Divorce is ugly, plain and simple. It’s no surprise, then, that a lot of people decide to hold off on marriage or neglect it altogether, all the while living with their girlfriend/boyfriends with no real commitment in mind—this, too, adds to complicated familial relationships, as many children are born out of this situation as well.

Yet, none of this is how God intended it to be. In fact, the Scriptures speak highly of marriage and always speak negatively about divorce. And still, even God’s people get it wrong. This article is going to talk about why premarital counseling is something every pastor should offer.

It is preparation

If two people are about to get married, that means two sinners are about to begin a life together—and living with one another. Complications, fights, and hurt feelings are bound to happen. Good premarital counseling will allow the couple to learn, under guidance of a pastor or counselor, what to expect and how to handle situations that are inevitably going to arise in the marriage. Much of it, rightfully so, is focused on good communication skills. Will premarital counseling make people perfect? Not at all—but it can be a step in the right direction.

It gets the couple to learn more about each other

It’s possible that the engaged couple has never even had thoughtful conversations with one another to really probe into each other’s hearts. It’s one thing to have common interests and even goals, but it’s important to really know the other person’s heart—what do they struggle with? How is there relationship with God? How do they handle difficulties? All of these are topics that premarital counseling will bring up and get the couple to talk about.

It digs into hearts

Good premarital counseling should be able to dig into both people’s hearts. If they can work out any junk they have in there individually, it’s much easier to then be joined together. More than likely, one of them has been in past relationships, have slept around, or have become emotionally attached to someone else in previous relationships. This, of course, causes problems within a relationship. If they do not talk about it early on, it will eventually surface and cause a lot of harm in the relationship.

It makes sure they’re a good fit

Now, premarital counseling should not be the place where counselors and pastors express their opinions over whether or not two people should get married—unless it’s based on some very clear indicators and evidence. For example, premarital counseling allows two people to discuss important heart issues that they may not have discussed if they were not attending the counseling sessions. While discussing these things, they may find out that they didn’t know each other as well as they thought; one person may want a big family with many children, while another only wants one child. This is a big difference between the two people that can make marriage extremely difficult—it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get married, but it is something that needs to be discussed thoroughly. Other matters that may come up include how to raise children, what role the church plays in the family, etc. All of these issues, if both people completely disagree, can lead them to believe they are not as good a fit together as they thought. Premarital counseling merely helps illuminate these things.

Conclusion

Premarital counseling, when done right, is extremely helpful for people about to enter into a marriage. It will help prepare newly engaged couples to start their lives together, while also cautioning other couples who are not as good of a fit together as they thought. Many relationships, especially among Christian circles, tend to move very quickly—they start dating and then within months are engaged. Because they are still under the infatuation stage, it’s difficult for them to think rationally, which is when premarital becomes even more important! For those who have been a long term relationship and have moved slowly, it can still provide good guidance in living life together. At the end of the day, marriage is extremely important and should be taken very seriously. If people want successful marriages, they need to put the time and effort into making it that way—and that includes preparing even before they are married.

5 Tips for Pastors When Counseling Someone Suicidal

By Jack Wellman

The rates of suicide are increasing worldwide and a pastor needs to know what to say and what not to say and how to engage the suicidal person.  Here are five things that a pastor should consider when counseling someone contemplating suicide.

Ask them Questions

There are ways to approach people who are considering suicide but one approach is to ask them questions which are open ended.  That is, ask them questions that don’t require a yes or a no but require more of a comprehensive response.  Here are some good questions you might use when counseling someone who is suicidal.

  1. When did you first begin to feel this way?
  2. Have you felt this way before?
  3. Did something happen that made you start to feel this way?
  4. How can I best help you and support you?
  5. Please help me understand why you are feeling this way?
  6. Have you sought help already or before?
  7. Have you been turned away when you sought help (if they respond to the previous question with a “yes”)?
  8. (If yes), How did that go?
  9. If you feel like you want to give up, what could change things for you?
  10. How do you think your family/friends would react?
  11. Have you ever suffered from depression?  If so, have they ever seen a doctor before about it?

Make Statement like

  • I am glad that you reached out to someone like me.
  • I have had concerns that you haven’t been yourself lately.
  • I can’t really understand all that you are going through but I care about you and want to offer any help that I can.
  • You know that you are not alone in feeling this way.
  • There are a lot of people that felt this way, even in the Bible.
  • Have you ever called a suicide hotline (e.g. an actual hotline is: 1-800-SUICIDE 1-800-784-2433)?

The Dos and Don’ts

  • Be honest, open, and forthright and don’t try to solve their problems.
  • Speak to them in a calm, reassuring voice.
  • Don’t tell them to “snap out of it.”
  • Don’t say “It’s not that bad.”
  • Continue to be supportive.
  • See if you could go with them to get help.
  • See if you could meet with them right now (if they’ve called you on the phone or you were told to call them by a family member or friend).
  • Be careful what you say to them…don’t be negative toward them or regarding their feelings.
  • Don’t be judgmental.
  • Try to encourage them.
  • Do not argue over their thinking about suicide.
  • Listen, listen, listen.  Be slow to speak and eager to listen.
  • Don’t interrupt them while they’re talking.
  • Don’t try to shrink their problems for them or make them think that their problems are not serious.
  • Keep continual eye contact and pay close attention.
  • Turn off cell phones while you’re speaking with them.
  • Offer to come over and speak to them in person or go out together and meet at a neutral sight if they’re speaking to you over the phone.
  • Don’t lecture them or quote the Book of Job.
  • Try and offer hope about tomorrow but don’t force it if they reject that.
  • Show them that you are taking them seriously.

Signs or Symptoms of Impending Suicide

  • Withdrawing from church services.
  • Lethargic, unemotional reactions to others in services.
  • Withdrawing from Sunday school, church functions, or other church-related activities.
  • Withdrawing from relationships like church members, family, and friends.
  • Substance abuse, alcohol abuse.
  • Anger or violent overreaction to minor things.
  • Weight loss.
  • Divorce or separation.
  • Trouble with the law.
  • Giving away of personal, valuable possessions, while having made out a will and telling you or others about it.
  • Asking about whether suicide is the unpardonable sin.
  • Saying “Good bye, I’m done, thanks for trying to help me, I’m going away,” and “you won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
  • Reckless behavior like reckless driving, drinking, drugs, or other dangerous activities.
  • Sleeplessness (signaled by continual yawning).
  • Physical ailments; headaches, nausea, fatigue.
  • Self-inflicted injuries, cuts, burns, bruises, head banging, hitting themselves.
  • Rejecting any praise or encouragement.
  • Neglect of personal appearance, unkempt clothing, hair, etc.
  • Extreme boredom.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • No interest in conversation with anyone.

What to Do When Suicide is Impending

When you get the feeling or know for sure that they’re going to end their life, drop everything and immediately seek a one on one audience with them or at least stay on the phone with them.

  • Do not leave them alone or if you’re on the phone, seek to see them at once.
  • Directly ask them, “Are you feeling so bad you’re thinking about committing suicide right now?”
  • Have you actually thought about how to do it?
  • Ask when are you going to actually do this?

If they answer yes to most or all of these questions, this person may well be seriously considering suicide and is in the “high risk” category, especially if they have a plan made out already.  This is urgent. Ask to come over immediately.  If they refuse, call one of their parents, siblings, pastor, counselor, or one of their closest friends.  Don’t hang up the phone or if you are with them, don’t let them go home or leave your house or wherever you are alone.  Offer to pray with them and if they refuse, pray silently while staying with them. People rarely commit suicide when someone is with them. If they intend to commit suicide immediately, you might consider calling 911.

Conclusion

Pastors may be the person’s last, best hope of avoiding suicide.  We have to be prepared because this problem is growing at a rapid rate. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that almost 3,000 people a day commit suicide and worldwide rates are growing like never before, having grown by 60% in the last 50 years and the trend is increasing every single year.  Christians are not immune to this either.

Even though suicide is the third leading cause of deaths for those ages 15-34, it is not a young-person’s problem.  The highest suicide rates are for those 60 years and older. That segment of the population is the fastest growing group in the world but they also have the fastest growing rate of suicide. Many want to put a period where God intends a comma so pastors will need to keep their eyes and ears open.  Some of these suicides may have been avoided if the person had sought medical help because sometimes it is as simple as a brain chemical imbalance that is treatable with medicine.  Life is precious.  People are fragile. It’s a fallen world, and a good shepherd must keep a constant, vigilant watch over his flock.

Take a look at some more of Jack’s article here: Jack Wellman at CMM

Can Marriage and Social Media Coexist?

Social media can be clearly seen woven into the fabric of our culture on many different levels. No one can deny the influence it has had and the direction it has taken our society. Arguments can be made that social media as a whole has contributed to a societal deterioration and breakdown, yet also has helped our culture grow and develop into more connected communities.

According to a recent study by USA Today, more than a third of marriages began as online relationships, illustrating how much technology has affected our lives.

Gina Nicola is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) in Pismo Beach, California. In the course of her practice, she has seen first hand the effects social media has had on marriages and relationships and has agreed to shed some light about her experiences.

Thank you for taking the time to address this topic. What kind of therapy do you specialize in?

My practice primarily consists of two groups of people: individuals dealing with trauma and marriage & couples counseling. I also provide premarital counseling to couples and teach Marriage Builder classes that focus on communication and conflict resolution.

How big an issue is social media in the couples you counsel?

It ranges from couple to couple. I find that it can be a minor issue or it can be such a large issue that it’s what brings couples into counseling. I rarely see it be non existent in marriages. It seems to have some impact whether great or small.

What types of issues do couples struggle with regarding the use of social media?

Many couples complain that one person in the relationship is more interested in other people than in their own relationship. I hear individuals say that their whole lives seem to be “out there” for people to see. The concern is that nothing is sacred, private or considered special between the couple. There are also issues with trust, emotional affairs, comparing marriages, comparing kids, taking on other peoples problems and being “friends” with people that the spouse/partner doesn’t know. This creates a sense that the individual is being left out of an important aspect of their loved one’s life.

What ways have you seen social media negatively impact families and relationships?

What stands out the most is trust. I have worked with couples who are hurt and feel betrayed because a spouse is spending more time with someone on social media than with them. When exploring this issue and getting to the truth of what is going on, I find that the original problem is usually a communication breakdown between the couple – and the choice was to use social media to cope with it. Social media is a way to reach out to others and stay connected. However, I see it being used to deal with problems, avoid issues and as a means to seek comfort from anyone who will listen.

An example of this happened with a couple I worked with a few years ago. They had been experiencing a great deal of stress and were unable to talk to each other about it. When they tried to have hard conversations or communicate how they were feeling, they would each feel unheard or unvalidated in the conversation. This lead to distance in the relationship and the beginning of separate lives. The wife found social media was a good distraction for the tension in the home and he sought distraction through television. Though she was just playing games and surfing around the internet, she stumbled upon a chat room in a game and started chatting with another man in a different part of the country. At first it seemed innocent but it quickly escalated into much more when they both started sharing feelings and frustrations in their marriages. She started looking forward to getting on the computer and spending time with him – and becoming emotionally attached in the process.

The situation grew to include feelings of betrayal, anger, secrecy, rejection and the false sense of acceptance and love. I call it a false sense because even though her feelings were being validated and she felt loved, the online relationship did not translate into doing life together. There is a false that she “knows” him but in actuality she only knows what he has chosen to disclose. People can be anyone they want to be online.

When I work with couples where this is an issue, I always ask “What do you think God thinks of this situation?” I believe some people forget that God knows about their online activity and relationships. I really don’t think that social media was the way we are supposed to deal with our couple relationships.

It’s troubling when one spouse publicizes and posts their marriage problems online. What other warning signs should people look out for in their relationship regarding social media?

Choosing to post relationship details (regardless if the other person knows) is definitely not a good sign. It causes embarrassment and frustration when one person in the relationship is “airing the couples laundry” without asking.

Anytime someone is spending more time escaping issues in a relationship, that is also a signal that something might be out of balance. If a spouse would rather spend all their time on the computer or phone rather than engaging with their partner right in front of them, that is probably a time to talk about what is going on.

When the motivation to post or publicize something about a relationship is done out of hurt or selfishness, it has destructive potential. No one is perfect and it is hard work being in relationship. Sometimes I think people need to focus more on what is going right than what is going wrong. There are many ways couples can get help; putting it on social media is not the answer.

How can social media be used constructively to grow and build a healthy marriage relationship?

Social media is a great way to generally stay connected with friends and family but as it relates to a relationship, I encourage people to ask themselves, “What is your motivation for posting comments and pictures or connecting with individuals?”  “What are you hoping to accomplish?” “What message are you trying to send and is there a better way?”

A lot of times I ask “what are you growing?”  Are couples growing respect and intimacy using social media as a tool or is it causing a larger gap in communication and connectedness in their relationship? We grow what we invest in. Relationships take a lot of investment in order to grow them in a healthy way. I firmly believe God created marriages to be very personal and intimate relationship. Marriage is meant to be lived with another person and challenges us to do life together, with the goal of glorifying Him and having a special and unique relationship with another.  If couples find a way to use social media to accomplish this than keep doing what works.

What are some positive tips you offer couples regarding social media that can help improve their marriage?

Most of my tips have to do with trust and compromise.  My goal is to try and help couples find a balance between the online world and the one they actually live in. One tip that has had good results is to discuss information (topics, pics, etc.) beforehand that both parties agree can be shared on social media. This helps to create a boundary of sharing that both people in the relationship can deal with and if in doubt, simply communicate and ask before posting. Not doing so can not only affect each person in the relationship but also extended family members.

Another tip is discussing the people you are friends with online with your spouse. Many people forget to step back and consider how their online relationships will affect relationships within their homes. I have spoken with many couples who view social media in relationships in completely opposite ways. One might think having an old boyfriend from high school as an online friend is no big deal, but the spouse could be uncomfortable with it and see it as a threat – or even inappropriate.  If couples would remember to ask how their spouse would feel first, they might avoid hurtful feelings or misunderstandings about online relationships later.

I think individuals can take the time and ask how they are representing themselves and what/who are they glorifying. It is not my job to deem what is appropriate or not but it is my job to help people decide what is growing their most important relationship, and that is with God.

 

*** Gina Nicola serves as the Director of Care & Counseling Ministries at New Life Community Church in Pismo Beach, California. Her passion is to create a safe environment for people to be honest and open about the difficulties of life and relationships. She strongly believes that everyone can find healing and hope through embracing the love and understanding of a relationship with Jesus.

 

 

Why Do Men Look at Pornography?

By Jonathan Holmes
Posted 5 days ago
January 19th, 2014 6:00AM

 

Source: ChurchLeaders.com

One problem that biblical counselors will surely face in their counseling and everyday conversations, regardless of gender, is the addiction and enslavement to pornography.

It is not uncommon to hear and meet counselees whose first introduction to pornography happened in their pre-adolescent years of 7-12.

With a problem so prevalent and pervasive in the church, numerous books and articles have been written on the topic. How can biblical counselors contribute to this conversation?

Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC) member and Association of Certified Biblical Counselor’s Executive Director, Heath Lambert, recently authored a book titled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity With the Power of Grace, which has ably defined and elucidated a gospel-centered approach to fighting the sin of pornography. Additionally, a helpful list of resources has been gathered on the BCC website to equip biblical counselors on this topic as well.

Something I have found personally helpful in counseling with both men and women through this issue is helping the counselee identify what motivates him or her to seek out pornography. In some ways, we might say the actual viewing of pornography is symptomatic of a deeper worship disorder that is happening in the heart.

What motivates and precedes the viewing of pornography? Once that can be identified, then more specific biblical counsel can often be offered.

Boredom.

In some ways, this might sound a bit benign, but many men I have met find themselves viewing pornography out of pure boredom. They have nothing to do on a given evening, they begin surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, and before they know it they are accessing pornography.

What started out as boredom and a lack of vigilance soon gives way to viewing pornography.

Entitlement.

One man I spoke with recently described his battle with pornography as a struggle of entitlement. After a long day of work, he felt this self-gratification was something he deserved. It was a reward for him, a way he could make himself feel better.

Pornography became a vehicle for him to feel good and experience pleasure. After closer examination of his life, we were able to discover that this sense of entitlement actually tainted many areas of his life.

Escapism and fantasy-ism.

Many men are very dissatisfied with their work life, home life, sex life, situational circumstances, spousal relationships, etc. This brooding dissatisfaction and discontentment soon gives way to seeking out satisfaction and contentment in a virtual world.

In this virtual, on-demand world, the counselee can escape and create their own reality. Pornography, in many ways, becomes a haven from the “real world” they inhabit.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net