Through the spring and early summer, odds are you have attended a wedding or two and perhaps led the ceremony. Such good times! And as you know, these times of immense excitement also bring anxieties about the readiness of the couple for this lifelong journey. I have experienced this concern from the couples wondering if this is right and if they are ready. But there are others who also want the best for them and want to help them be prepared, including their families and ministers.
If you are responsible for working with couples on this important part of the journey, there are tools out there that are great resources to assist you!
These premarital counseling tools can help you:
- Assess couple preparedness/success for marriage: Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly assess strengths and weaknesses for this particular couple in the area of finances, romance, communication styles or family background to name just a few? Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have a “dashboard” warning so to speak of issues that could cause grief for this couple in the years ahead?
- Manage the counseling sessions: It can be intimidating for ministers to think of how to structure premarital counseling – what should be covered, how long the sessions should be, how to find and ask the right questions, and give the right coaching exercises.
- Launch the couple with tools for the future: How fulfilling would it be to give resources and concepts to the couple for the journey ahead! Assessments like the ones I’ll mention give practical help to daily life like budgeting, dating and romance, conflict management, healthy communication and spiritual growth!
Back in 1995 I was introduced to my first premarital counseling assessment called Prepare-Enrich and I have used it for many years. It is extremely helpful and very thorough asking the couple to individually rank “most like me, least like me” type questions about finances, physical intimacy, family background, personality, communication and conflict management to name a few. The concept is this, while you could spend hours asking questions of the couple about the previous list, you would then also need to work to figure out what are areas of strength and what areas need attention because they could cause trouble. For this assessment and the next, they do this task for you. This is not about ease, but rather about precision. Why talk in length about financial management if the assessment shows this is not a great area of concern for that particular couple? I also like that it allows me the opportunity to simply reflect back to the couple, “Here is an area that we need to address, because you indicated disagreement about this statement on the assessment.” This is far different than, “I think you have a problem here.” There is cost involved and an amount of training to be a facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich tool. Walter Mullican here in Oklahoma is a great contact for how that works.
But, I have added a new assessment as an option and I have been using it most recently with my premarital couples. Developed by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, it is called SYMBIS, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. I like the fresh view that it gives in its format and delivery, and while much of the content would be the same as mentioned above (as with all premarital content), how it shares it is fresh and I believe unique. In short, the bonus for me with SYMBIS is that its up to date personalized report for the couple is thorough and available for them through the sessions. The facilitator report and guide is also very thorough and walks you through each session’s content. Prepare-Enrich is also thorough and provides workbooks and reports, but to me it seems to take a bit more searching for and connecting of the areas that need to be addressed. As with Prepare Enrich, there is training and cost involved to become a SYMBIS facilitator. Dr. Parrott leads the online training through recorded video segments and brief content mastery quizzes. Either way you go on the assessments, the cost is worth it, the training is worth it. You’ll be glad you did, and the couples certainly will be as well!
Share in the comments of any tools for this aspect of ministry you have found useful! Keep at it!