The divorce rate in our county is currently hovering at 62.4% which means that 6 out of 10 couples getting married today in Palm Beach County will fail in their marriage. This stat is quite a bit higher than the national average which is less than 50% divorce rate. It is data like this that fuels my vision for ministry. Families are in crisis. We have to do something.
What makes this come home to me is that I know people, have friends who are giving up on their marriage. People who are Christ followers. People who sit in the church most weeks listening to our teaching about life and the Bible and how it is all supposed to work. Apparently, what we are currently doing is not working. It’s like we have lost respect for marriage and the commitment it requires. We have bought into the lie that divorce is the easy way out. In reality, there are some really hurting people out there; in our county, over 60% of them.
On Friday, I was part of a larger groups of pastors and spiritual leaders in our community that signed a document which pledges us to do something about the divorce rate. The Palm Beach County Healthy Marriage Initiative is an effort to strengthen local church and marriages by providing county-wide standards for performing weddings. The eleven points of the document are as follows:
1. Promote a healthy and biblical model of marriage.
2. Require a minimum of 4 months of preparation.
3. Promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage.
4. Present the evidence of the negative impact of cohabitation on marriage.
5.Require a minimum of 4 premarital sessions, utilizing both the scriptures and a premarital inventory; and at least two post-marital counseling sessions within the first year of marriage.
6. Enrich existing marriages with an annual event in the local church using videos, marital inventories, or outside speakers.
7. Train “back from the brink” couples whose own marriages once nearly failed to mentor those in current crisis.
8. Reconcile the separated or abandoned with a course, “Marriage 911”
9. Enlist, train, and equip a support system of mature married couples to serve as Marriage Mentors to engaged couples, newlyweds, and those experiencing marital difficulties.
10. Create Stepfamily Support Groups to provide a place of prayer, encouragement and hope to stepfamilies.
11. Partner with other congregations and organizations to share resources and create a positive climate in which marriages can thrive.
Although these standards will be tough to uphold, I am all for the effort. I’m sure some prospective couples will get really ticked but our marriages and families need some help. Maybe we can see a turnaround in the future.