By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
WESTMINSTER, Md.–Romance is in the air at Westminster Church. The church’s marriage ministry is blossoming in an amazing way. But it’s not cupid who’s making it happen, it’s the Holy Spirit.
Five years ago, the church began a couples’ Sunday school class that took off from the start.
“More folks came than we anticipated. The first week we had to go to two larger rooms,” Greg Miller said. Miller is pastor of contemporary music and marriage.
Miller and his wife Terri, who teach the class, saw that couples were hungry to learn how to communicate, relate to one another during challenging times and keep their home lives stable.
“Making friends with other couples was a real draw,” Terri Miller said.
As couples shared, laughed and cried with one another, they began inviting friends.
The class has more than doubled. Fifty-seven couples are registered for the class. About 25 couples attend weekly and others are teaching other classes.
The Millers see the class as an evangelistic outreach. God is not always a priority for people, but usually their family is. As they participate in the studies, they hear God’s Word and see how Christian families handle day-to-day struggles.
Several couples have gone on to become strong church leaders.
Though the Sunday school class was the basic building block, the ministry also includes a mentoring program, marriage enrichment, pre-marriage education and training, support for blended families and crisis intervention, though Greg Miller stresses that the ministry strives to prevent the crisis situations.
The mentoring component pairs trained mature Christian couples with those newer in the faith.
“They’re not there to stand as judges, but to be friends, to share their life experiences and, when necessary, to say, ‘its okay, hang in there, we’ve been through that, and here’s what worked for us,’” Miller explained.
Marriage enrichment includes such activities as the Festival of Marriage, special emphasis marriage classes and other local events such as a family life marriage conference hosted by the church in partnership with the Marriage Resource Center of Carroll County (MRCCC), a faith based organization created to support marriage and to partner with churches to help them implement and grow marriage ministries.
The church has a strong relationship with the center. Westminster Senior Pastor Larry Steen was on the founding committee for the center and Greg Miller is now the chairman of the board.
“It’s great just having a lot of these resources at our fingertips,” Greg Miller said.
Miller works closely with Westminster’s family and children’s minister, Chris Grella. Miller said coordination with the family and children’s ministry is very important for making the marriage ministry successful.
Young couples desperately want to be good parents. Grella will teach a series of classes next month about raising Godly children.
Miller said the marriage ministry is exciting and desperately needed in the community. According to the MRCCC, from 1998 to 2002, 50.6 percent of all marriage in Carroll County ended in divorce.
“Our generation has let our children down,” MRCCC Assistant Director Amy Gilford said.
Young couples just don’t have enough models of solid Christian marriages, she said.
Gilford said Westminster is doing a wonderful job ministering to married couples.
“We wish every church would have something like that,” she said.
Greg and Terri have seen their own relationship strengthen as they minister together.
“It’s important that we be good role models. We work hard to live out what we’re preaching,’” Greg said.
“Of course, the couples know we’re not perfect. When we’re challenged we talk about how we’re working through what’s going on in our lives. That’s been beneficial.”