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Resources from Marriage Savers: Articles

Churches Virtually Eliminate Divorce
It’s the dream of every pastor -- a church that virtually eliminates divorce.

Impossible? NO! Marriage Savers gave awards in 2002 to five diverse churches, each of which has created a congregation with a "safety net" under every marriage. In a four to six year period, they have had from zero to four divorces. Five churches in five years have had a total of only seven divorces between them. That is a virtual elimination of the scourger of divorce that breaks up half of those who marry today. In 2003, five more churches were given "Marriage Savers Congregational Awards" which are noted below.

The leaders of the first five churches can make an astonishing pledge to every couple in the congregation:

We can offer you Marriage Insurance. Your marriage will not only go the distance; it will prosper and be a joy to you and your children and your children’s children.

Further, Marriage Savers told each of these congregations that they can proudly run ads in newspapers or radio to the community: "Is your marriage in pain?" "Are you afraid you may be heading for divorce? Are you getting married? Would you like to learn how to build a marriage for life? Come here and receive the help you need to create a joyful, lifelong marriage! We have been given a national award that we are a "Marriage Savers Congregation."

America’s first Marriage Saver Congregations are very diverse denominationally: Baptist, Lutheran (Missouri Synod), United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and an inner city non-denominational church. Three are in Mainline Protestant denominations, and two are Evangelical. They are located in four states: South Dakota, Virginia, Kansas and Florida. One element is common to each of these remarkable churches. Each had trained a group of Mentor Couples who are willing to reach other couples at every stage of the marital life cycle: Preparation, Enrichment, Restoration, Reconciliation, and Stepfamilies. These couples have created a "safety net" under every marriage in their churches.

The two Kansas churches are only ten miles from each other, but could not be more different; the affluent suburban Christ Lutheran Church in Overland Park, Kansas and a small ghetto Kansas City church, Bread of Life Outreach Ministries in Christ Church. Yet they have joined across racial, economic and denominational lines to build a safety net under every marriage, not only in their churches, but in others in that area. They created a Kansas City Community Marriage Policy on the Kansas side of the state line. In 2003, 50 more churches from Missouri joined in a Greater Kansas City Community Marriage Policy. Mike and Harriet McManus provided the initial training of Mentor Couples in 1996.

Christ Lutheran is a church of 1,300 members with a dozen Mentor Couples who have prepared 36 couples for marriage in the last six years, losing none to divorce. The church has also trained "back-from-the-brink couples" whose marriages once nearly failed, to come along side 10 troubled marriages, all of whom saved their marriage. Christ Lutheran also conducts an annual marriage enrichment retreat. To learn more call the Rev. Jeff Meyers, 913 345-9700.

Bread of Life Outreach Ministries in Christ Church in Kansas City, KS, with 140 members, has trained eight Mentor Couples who have prepared 10 couples for marriage, and worked with three troubled marriages in four years, only one of whom divorced. Equally important Pastor LeRoy Sullivan challenged seven couples who were cohabiting from the pulpit by saying "There are some couples in this church who are living together. That's not God's plan. His plan is that couples should marry or live apart." Result: five couples married and two separated. Bread of Life was transformed from being a church of women and children to married couples and children. Has there been any such inner city transformation in America? To learn more, call Pastor LeRoy Sullivan, 913 371-5433.

Three others are in "Mainline denominations" that have been losing church members: Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Richmond and First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls, SD. A brief profile of each:

St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Richmond is a 1,000 member church which has prepared 61 couples for marriage in five years, only one of who has divorced, though several canceled or postponed wedding plans. Another 27 couples attended enrichment events, none of whom divorced.. St. Giles has also worked with eight couples in crisis, none of whom divorced, though two are still separated. To learn more, call Bob Ruthazer at 804 282-9763.

Bob Ruthazer has also created a Richmond Community Marriage Policy called the Richmond Marriage Builders Alliance.

Killearn United Methodist Church is a 3,000 member congregation of - the largest Protestant church in Tallahassee - which has prepared nearly 150 couples for marriage since 1999, none of whom has divorced. Its "back-from-the-brink" Mentor Couples have also worked with 30 troubled marriages, none of whom divorced, though two couples who did not seek help did divorce.

Richard Albertson, a layman who created these ministries with his wife, Elizabeth, has also created the Tallahassee Community Marriage Policy which is called "Live The Life Ministries." From 1999, when it was signed by Gov. Jeb Bush and 50 pastors, it pushed down the area’s divorce rate by 13%, according to the Institute for Research & Evaluation. Comparable counties in Northern Florida saw their divorce rates fall only 1.3% in the same time. Thus, Tallahassee has out-performed comparable counties by 10-fold. For more information, call Richard Albertson at 850 668-3700.

First Baptist Church of Sioux Falls, SD, is a church of 1,916 members, 691 of whom turn out when it is 50 degrees below zero and 900 on an average Sunday. It has prepared 64 couples for marriage since 1997, two of whom have divorced. First Baptist has also created a program to enrich existing marriages that has attracted 700 couples from 15 churches over several years called "Ten Great Dates," sparked by a video series led by David and Claudia Arp. It also has a vigorous "Marriage Ministry" to save couples whose marriages are in crisis. In six years, 22 marriages threatened by divorce have been mentored. All but two have been saved. The key contacts are Tony and Tami Trussel, who led this movement and Rev. Susan Omanson. Call 605-336-0966.

The Trussels have also created a Sioux Empire Community Marriage Policy that has reduced county-wide divorce rates by 14% from 1997-2001.

Other Marriage Savers Congregations

In 2003, five more churches received Marriage Savers Congregational Awards. Their results are quite similar to those described above:

1. Capital Christian Center
     Rev. Paul Thompson
     9470 Micron Avenue
     Sacramento, CA
95827
     916-856-5683

4. Skyline Wesleyan Church
    Pastor Larry Lamb
    1345 Skyline Drive
    Lemon Grove, CA
91945
    (Near San Diego)

2. Kingwood Assembly of God
    Chris & Brenda Jane
    100 Harvest Way
    Alabaster, AL
(Near Birmingham)
    205-663-3933

5. Pearce Memorial Church
    Rudy & Faith Buettner
    4322 Buffalo Road
    North Chili, NY
14514

3. Oregon City Evangelical Church
    Tom & Liz Dressel
    1024 Linn Avenue
    Oregon City, OR
97045 (Near Portland)
    503-656-8582