08/12/12 — Preparing for a wedding? Don't forget to prepare for the marriage

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Preparing for a wedding? Don't forget to prepare for the marriage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 12, 2012 1:50 AM

Sometimes, couples spend more time preparing for their wedding than the marriage that will follow.

Scott Jennings, pastor of marriage and family life at The Bridge Church, who also does counseling with his wife, Sherry, sees evidence of this all the time.

"Time after time, we're sitting down to talk to couples and ask them, 'What kind of premarital counseling did you get?' Many say some or none at all," he said.

Jennings can empathize. His and Sherry's divorce was actually finalized on their 14th wedding anniversary.

Theirs, though, is a success story, as they found faith and have since remarried.

They also volunteer with Family Life, a national ministry that leads seminars for couples and features a regular radio broadcast.

It's their way of extending the same lifeline that was offered to them.

"We are so grateful God rewrote our stories so that we can help other couples want to rewrite theirs," Mrs. Jennings said.

Through Family Life, the Goldsboro couple has been trained to lead "The Art of Marriage" and assist churches in establishing marriage ministries.

They will be leading the seminar locally, at The First Pentecostal Holiness Church in Goldsboro, the weekend of Aug. 17-18.

"What it does, what this event specifically does, is really discusses the foundational truths about marriage," Jennings explained.

Whether it's an engaged couple, newlyweds or marriage veterans, the importance of having such training cannot be measured.

"The response is always the same -- 'I can't believe no one has told me this before,'" Jennings said.

The DVD-based event is done in an entertaining, engaging manner, he added.

"I tell you, it goes by very quickly," he said. "We have seen it now probably about a dozen times. We get something out of it every time we see it.

"It's not just for folks who are in a good place in their marriage; it's not just for folks who are in a troubled place in their marriage, although it will help folks in both. It's for couples who are already married or considering marriage."

Just as one wouldn't expect a garden to flourish without constant care, Jennings likens the health of a marriage to how much is invested into it.

"We don't even think about buying a brand new car and not maintaining it," he said. "No, we go and we change the oil. You wouldn't drive it until the engine seized. So what would make you think you don't have to maintain a marriage?

"There's a zillion self-help books out there when really, the manual is Scripture. But we need help to extract the information we need to have a healthy marriage, to have a healthy parenting relationship."

He and Sherry have been facilitators at eight of the events, with an average of 100 people at each, he said. And during that time, about 80 people have made first-time decisions to become a Christian.

"It's a gospel-centered event, but it's presented in a way that's inviting and engaging because the center of the whole issue is you have got to have that vertical relationship with God before you can have the horizontal relationship with your spouse," he said. "The Scripture is at the center but it's not really 'churchy.'

"The Art of Marriage strikes right on the head that debate -- a balance of being inviting and compelling."

Cory Jackson, pastor of children and family ministries at First Pentecostal Holiness, said the joint venture between churches serves dual purposes -- outreach in the community and the opportunity to strengthen marriages.

"Our desire is to hopefully involve them in a ministry in our local church that would emphasize marriage, and if there's an opportunity to make them a part of our church in any way, then we would offer them classes here at First Church and The Bridge that would hopefully build up their marriage and their friends' in the same way," he said.

Cost to attend the "Art of Marriage" is $40 per couple.

The Friday night session runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Child care is available, and advance registration is required. For more information or to register, visit thefirstphchurch.org under "upcoming events" or elevate.webconnex.com/ art_of_marriage.

More information can also be found on the Family Life website, at theartof marriage.com.