The Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats

Maybe you’ve heard the statistic that Christian marriages have the same rates of divorce as the rest of the population. Many Christian leaders quote it. However, a closer look at the data tells a different story. Bestselling author and speaker Nancy Pearcey took that closer look while doing research for her latest book, The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. She discovered that “regular churchgoers divorce at a lower rate than secular couples, and nominal couples divorce at a higher rate than their secular peers.” That distinction is important and says something about the solution to the marriage and family crisis we face today in America: the church.

The church plays a vital role in building strong marriages, which lead to strong families and communities. And this is good news. Like no other institution in our society, the church is uniquely positioned to offer solutions to the many problems couples face in their marriages and families. Here’s how sociologist Brad Wilcox sees the church’s role, particularly in the lives of men:

Let’s face it. The church is one of the few institutions in the United States where men encounter other men who are interested in talking about fatherhood and marriage—and interested also in practicing what they hear preached. You don’t often find it at work; you don’t find it in the sports stadium; you don’t find it in the local tavern. But in church what you will find is a message and ethos that is family-focused and gives men the motivation to attend to their families. 

One of the best investments a church can make is in marriage. When a church devotes time, energy, and resources to building strong and healthy marriages, it impacts not just the congregation but the entire community. Marriages that would have ended in divorce are saved. Broken homes and relationships get rebuilt. Couples discover that they can fall in love all over again. And future generations get to see a biblical view of marriage lived out and celebrated.

Many churches have seen the need for a marriage ministry in their church and have started one. One of them is Grace Marriage at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Sherwood.


In November of 2021, Jason Bogardus, the lead pastor at Cornerstone, attended a Saturday morning marriage ministry workshop hosted by the Central Arkansas Marriage Initiative (CAMI) with his wife. Starting a marriage ministry in the church had been on Jason’s heart for a while. Something he heard during the workshop fueled that desire all the more. “One thing stuck out to me,” Jason recalls. “Someone said, ‘Almost all your ministries would benefit from healthy marriages.’” Through the workshop, Jason met another Jason (Ancarrow) from CAMI, who connected him with a group working with Grace Marriage. 

Jason liked the model of Grace Marriage, which helps churches reimagine marriage ministry and equip husbands and wives to build marriages that reflect the Gospel. “What appealed to me is that the meetings are every three months. It’s like how you change the oil in your car as maintenance. Well, this is regular marriage maintenance. It’s not just one weekend, and you can bring up topics or subjects that have come up since the last time you met.”


Grace Marriage launched in April of this year with 40 couples split into 6 or 7 groups. About 15 of those couples have one or more spouses serving in the military. “We’re near the Jacksonville Air Force Base, so we have a lot of military people in our church. One woman’s husband has been deployed, and this group has been good for her to talk with other women.”

Some couples have met in homes and others at the church. One benefit of the format of Grace Marriage is that you can start anytime. If someone joins the church, they can jump right into a group and not be behind. Here’s what a typical meeting looks like:

  • 3-4 hours
  • One couple facilitates.
  • Groups discuss videos they watch and material from their workbook.
  • Couples have a breakout session to build each other up.
  • Men and women break out and have a separate session together.
  • Everyone shares one big takeaway and answers, ” What will you focus on in the next three months?”

“Beyond that,” Jason tells me, “the group does fun things to keep it light. We had to guess each couple’s song the first time we met. Another time, we had to dance.” Overall, Jason sees the value of the 3-4 hours couples spend together. “It’s good to have a dedicated time when there are no kids, no phones, and you can talk to your spouse. In day-to-day life, it’s easy to just pass each other by. You need to be intentional so that doesn’t happen. Every week for 20 minutes, my wife and I check in to see how each of us is doing. It’s great for encouraging each other.”


What has been the feedback from the couples participating? Jason says, “What couples enjoy the most is the concentrated time to talk to their spouse about their marriage. They also like the direction they receive on what to talk about. Overall, the [material and discussion] builds up and stays positive. It helps them with things you’re trying to accomplish. And they can remember why they fell in love in the first place. One guy in our group who has been married for 25 or 30 years was blown away by how long it had been since he and his wife talked about the romantic side of their marriage.”

As a pastor, Jason knows that many couples don’t start working on their marriage until they’re in crisis. “Usually, I deal with people in marriages that are already in bad shape. [The good news is] you can address things before they’re horrific. Too many people slowly drift into problems. What attracted me to Grace Marriage is that it helps prevent that drift.”


The vast majority of people in a given church are married. Given that fact, building strong marriages in churches makes a lot of sense if you want your church to be healthy and thrive. “Every ministry in a church is affected by marriages,” Jason remarks. “And every ministry in the church will be enhanced and better if you have a marriage ministry. If you strengthen the marriages in your church, it will alleviate stress and problems in other areas in the church.”

A marriage ministry is also great for outreach and evangelism. “Those in our community lack resources to thrive. There is a lot of assistance for food and meeting immediate needs. But where do people turn if they are struggling in their marriage?” The church can be a place where people, both inside the church and outside of it, can get the help and support they need. A marriage ministry is great for marriages inside the church, but it can also be that invaluable resource a couple in the community needs to save their marriage. Jason reflects on the situation today in our country and feels a sense of urgency. “We see people in their 20s, and they are in their 2nd or 3rd marriage. There aren’t great examples of marriage in our culture. Many come from broken homes where they had no pattern or model of what a healthy marriage looks like. We have those in our churches.”

The formula is simple. Strong marriages = strong families = strong communities. Churches like Cornerstone see the opportunity that the church has in our culture to change the way we talk about and enjoy one of God’s greatest gifts—marriage. Together, churches can respond to the crisis of marriage and family through marriage ministries like Grace Marriage. Together, churches can help couples build healthy marriages, leading to flourishing families and futures for our children. Together, we can build a flourishing community!

We are thankful for the exceptional work of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship and for all the churches in our city working toward a genuine unity that displays the love and beauty of Christ. They’re helping the whole Church grow.

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:15-16

If you’d like to start a marriage ministry in your church, you can attend CAMI’s Your Marriage Ministry Workshop on October 21st, 8:30 – 2:30, at Life Line Baptist Church. The $20 registration fee covers lunch and all materials. The workshop will give you the key building blocks for sustainable, proactive, year-round marriage discipleship. By the end of the afternoon, you’ll have a draft of a marriage discipleship plan you can implement right away, customized to your church’s vision, culture, structure, and demographics. All are welcome, whether you’re a pastor, an elder, or a lay leader with your spouse. Register for the event here or contact Mark Ellis from CAMI for more information. 

If you’d like more information about Grace Marriage, visit their website.

Chris Loux – Communications Director, CityChurch Network

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