Partnering with Pastors to help Couples

Pastors have a wonderful opportunity to minister to couples in their churches.  However, there are those rare times when a couple runs into an issue that seems to stifle their discipleship process.  It is in such cases that a Christian Conciliator can partner with a pastor to help the couple reconcile and set a course for continued discipleship.Here is an example of a partnership relationship:Conciliation Coaching (2-6 hours)  this is the time that the conciliator can go through the peacemaking principles with each party helping them understand the importance of reconciliation and the process of formal mediation.  The pastor or another church leader would sit in on the coaching supporting the party as they work through Scriptures, homework assignments and personal application.  This allows the pastor to function as a shepherd as the conciliator prepares the party for the next step of mediation.  The goal is not to prepare the party to win their case, but rather to win their spouse.
Mediation (4-10 hours) – once the couple understands the intent of the Scriptures and the process of mediation they are ready to meet as a couple.  This also is a great time for the parties to have their pastor present.  Mediation is an organized process of helping parties be obedient to biblical principles.  Peacemaker Ministries call this the GOSPEL:
G =  Ground rules – the mediation is an environment where the parties can work through issues in the context of a “controlled” environment.  The rules are simple and based upon the importance of using principles of biblical communication.
O = Opening Statements – the parties each get a chance to briefly state what they want to accomplish in the mediation.  They are typically coached to help them articulate to their spouse what their biggest concerns are.  This rarely involves all the real issues, but it at least represents what is important to the party.
S= Story Telling – each party is able to rehearse before their spouse how they see things.  Typically, fears, hopes, hurts, etc. are shared in a safe environment so that they are truly listening to one another.  Clarifying questions are used by the mediator to help communication.  The purpose of this time is to help the other party truly understand the issues, positions and even more importantly – the interests of his/her spouse.  Couples tend to think that this is the time to garner support for their point of view from the pastor or mediator.  However, since the couple must agree on a plan, their goal needs to be to help their partner understand.  The pastor and mediator are wise to continue to remind them of this.
P= Problem Clarification – conciliators are trained and typically gifted to organize the information in such a way that helps a couple see the basic problems more clearly.  We tend to arrange them in the following grid:
Issues – those things that have become an interference for the couple that might be represented by a question.  Issues can be substantive and deal with a material decision.  Or they can be personal and involve negative emotions of mistrust, hurt or anger.
Positions – clear issues have fairly clearly drawn lines as to what positions each party has.  When you can identify the positions you start to clarify the Issue.
Interests – couples too often assume why their partner has an opposing position, but at times they really do not understand the underlying interests – fears, hurts, desires, etc. that drive them.  By the time we get to this stage parties begin to see their heart issues and are in the process of removing logs from their own eye.  When the logs are gone then they can see better and have a greater success in the next stage.
E= Explore solutions – the couple starts working as a team developing solutions which typically become counseling agendas or points that they work on with coaching from their spiritual mentors in their church.  Typically, personal issues are resolved by this point making it easier for them to develop a solution plan.  Brain storming with the pastor or other spiritual leader helps the couple see what resources are available in their local church.
L= Lead to agreement – the couple will complete the mediation with a written plan that they have developed.  This plan typically involves the following:
– a list of the Scriptures that convicted them to renew their thinking in certain issues
– the areas in which they confessed sins and granted forgiveness
– specific issues that were resolved during mediation
– additional issues that they intend to pursue in either their normal discipleship process or in counseling
– signatures of their commitment to follow this plan

The goal of this process is to serve as a tool for churches in as much of a noninvasive fashion as possible.  The autonomy and authority of the local church is recognized and the shepherding relationship of the pastor is enhanced.

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