I was able to complete about eight years of academic theological training without having a single class on how to perform a wedding or funeral. When I finished my M.Div., I felt like a superstar for such an accomplishment because I wasn’t intending to be a pastor. And then it happened… I became a pastor.
Thanks, God. Your sense of humor is awesome, ha ha!
So when I was asked to perform my first wedding, I went out and bought a book on performing weddings and read a few websites about it. Truth be told, I wasn’t very excited about performing marriages because I wanted to focus on “real” ministry opportunities and didn’t like wasting my time wearing a suit and reading some cheesy vows with people. Unfortunately, the books and websites I read didn’t really help me much because they simply reproduced the same boring stereotypes about weddings and wedding ceremonies. So I spent a few years with the opinion that performing weddings were close to a complete waste of time and punishment for pastors.
But I’ve completely changed my opinion on that now.
In Small Town USA, weddings are one of the best missional activities that pastors and church planters can imagine! Here are a few reasons why I think you should seriously work hard at putting on quality weddings and why weddings can be a big part of the ministry God has called you to:
(1) Most people think weddings are boring. I know that the romantics among us will always believe that weddings are amazing, but in my experience most people find weddings to be the ultra boring event of the day. You’ll notice this because a lot of people will skip the wedding ceremony and just show up at the reception. Why? Because the wedding ceremony is normally boring and the reception is fun because it’s a party. If you make your wedding ceremonies fun and celebratory, you’ll likely have a lot of thankful people and further ministry opportunities. For example, it’s pretty common for me to do a wedding and then have a number of people approach me after the ceremony to discuss my involvement in their wedding, vow renewal, or other formal celebration. Just this weekend I had seven people/couples ask me for my business card (note to self: get business cards). Why? Because everyone appreciated the wedding celebration and wanted the same thing at their special event. With a little bit of work and intentionality, you can increase your opportunities and influence too.
(2) Performing weddings is the start of long term relationships. What I mean by this is that when you agree to perform a wedding, you are starting a relationship with a couple (and their extended family and friends) that may continue far beyond that weekend, especially if you are intentional. For many of those involved in the wedding, you may be the only follower of Jesus that they know or the only person in ministry that they think is somewhat normal, assuming you fit the profile of the majority of Vineyard pastors I know. And yes, I realize the use of the word “normal” is somewhat relative, but I think you get my point. The fact of the matter is that of all the weddings I’ve done over the years, some of those relationships have actually turned into more than just being the person who performed their wedding. Some of them have contacted me after several years because they wanted some marriage counseling and others have contacted me to be involved in helping them find a church where they lived. If you make every effort to show that the wedding, and more importantly the couple, matter, you’ll earn a lot of relational equity.
(3) Premarital counseling can be life changing. For most weddings I perform, I also have the opportunity to do the couple’s premarital. And since the vast majority of marriages I perform are for people who would likely fall into the category of “unchurched” or non-believers, this presents a great opportunity to introduce them to some characteristics and qualities that they may not have ever encountered. Wise rural community church leaders will invest time and energy in developing a premarital counseling process that helps the couple in life-changing ways. Sadly, many premarital classes that couples go through are simply a hoop to jump through and do not provide much quality help. I’ve done premarital for couples and have seen first hand how training on communication can make a huge difference in their relationship and I’ve also had the pleasure of observing the Holy Spirit show up in those meetings and ministering healing to the couple.
(4) Rural communities still value weddings that involve pastors. This is something I totally overlooked, partly because I’m so bothered by some of the negative assumptions that come via a “clergy vs. laity” dichotomy. It’s frustrating to me and pretty detrimental to the Missio Die when people assume that pastors are the only people that can do ministry. However, when it comes to weddings (and funerals), pastors carry a lot of influence in this department. So while I’ll still push back against anyone who doesn’t think “everyone can play,” I’m also going to take advantage of this expectation in the surrounding culture. Plus, not everyone can perform weddings! If people want to involve a pastor and are open to their influence, I think we should be glad to serve! In fact, I welcome these opportunities because I see significant fruit from it and I think you will too.
So while this may not lay out how you should perform weddings (I’ll do that on ThinkTheology.org tomorrow), I hope you’ll consider the signficiant missional opportunities that arise in rural communities when pastors participate in weddings.
What do you think?
About the author
Luke Geraty is a young budding pastor/theologian who serves at Trinity Christian Fellowship. Husband of one, father of five, and deeply committed to proclaiming Jesus and the kingdom, Luke contributes regularly to ThinkTheology.org, VineyardScholars.org, and Multiply Vineyard. Follow Luke on Twitter, Facebook, or send him an email.