Many couples enter marriage ill-prepared for the challenges that might come. Premarital counseling allows you to walk alongside couples before they marry and build solid foundations for their years together.

Over many years in ministry, you’ll witness couples getting engaged, but many will be ill-prepared for marriage. Why do these couples need help? Consider six reasons why you should require couples to go through premarital counselling.

1. A biblically illiterate generation doesn’t understand the point of a distinctly Christian marriage

Couples will show up, eager to get married yet unable to articulate the biblical goals of marriage. Don’t assume they “get” the point of marriage.

Ask any engaged couple, “What’s the point of marriage?” and they might answer:

“A couple joins their lives to build a future together.”

That sounds pretty good. While it’s true, it lacks biblical substance. Try this instead:

“A couple makes a permanent commitment where they will seek to reflect dimly the greatest of all marriages—Christ and the church.”

This is a distinctly biblical goal because it comes right out of Ephesians 5, where Paul compares the relationship of Christ and the church to our everyday common marriages. God designed the institution of marriage to be a display of Christ and the church. Hence, the apostle declares about human marriages: “This mystery is profound, and I’m saying it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).    

There’s a crying need to teach the biblical basics of marriage because couples show up biblically illiterate. Premarital counselling equips couples directly from God’s Word with God’s perspective on marriage. That’s why in our premarital counselling, we spend significant time walking through the biblical texts about marriage to help couples grasp God’s thoughts.

2. Initially, some couples won’t know how to work as a team 

With the median age for getting married rising every year, singles have more time to cultivate individualistic habits. Some carry their distinctive goals, schedule, and lifestyle into marriage, hoping their spouse will adjust. You’ll see little implosions happen in the early days of marriage as the marriage exposes these individualistic tendencies.

Kevin used to exercise after work and eat a late dinner. A few days after returning from the honeymoon, Kevin realised he couldn’t do that anymore when his wife, Deanna, texted him, “Dinner is ready. Where are you?” Boom! A little implosion. Kevin read her text, realised how thoughtless he had been, and called her to apologise. Initially, Deanna was angry, but they worked through it. They made a helpful adjustment: Kevin and Deanna now exercise together after work and then head home to cook dinner. 

In premarital counseling, you should teach couples to work as teammates. That’s what the idea of “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) means.[1] It’s two individuals coming together to strive for unity and oneness.

I use this word picture of “teammates” to help couples get what it means to work together. A spirit of individualism will kill a marriage. Premarital counseling allows couples to root out individualistic tendencies and cultivate a team spirit.

3. Some couples won’t be aligned on major life issues, like their future

Tyler has committed himself to go to China as a missionary. Karen has never thought about missions, though she’s open to them.[2]

Peter is a lawyer with long-hours at a firm, while Julia really needs a husband who will be home consistently every night.

Jonathan plans a long-term military career, where he’ll be moved every two or three years. Debbie wants to move someplace and live there for the rest of her life.  

In all three of these situations, the couples’ futures don’t line up. Some aspect of one person’s life doesn’t fit the other’s hopes, desires, or expectations. Something would need to change before these couples got married. They can’t assume things will resolve on the other side of their wedding day. To maintain unity in marriage, there needs to be either theological agreement or flexibility regarding major life issues.

Premarital counselling provides an opportunity to answer the question: “Do you agree or disagree about major life issues?” As a pastor, you’ll pinpoint yellow or red flags during premarital counselling where the couple doesn’t align. And you’ll help them work through these things before they get married. If you do, you purchase future peace for them, alleviating problems down the road.

4. Many couples don’t know how to have a “good” fight 

One difference between good and bad marriages is not that good marriages don’t have conflict. Ask any couple with a good marriage, and you’ll find they’ve experienced plenty of conflicts. What’s the difference, then? Good marriages have learned how to handle conflict. They’ve learned conflict resolution skills that navigate marital landmines with wisdom, love, grace, thoughtful words, and forgiveness.

Teach engaged couples conflict resolution skills. Help them recognise and repent of their sinful habits in conflict and establish new, godly patterns of talking about hard things. Help them see how their unique communication styles and personality differences work together or against one another. Delve into Scripture to reveal how God’s Word has valuable insights into handling conflict as a Christian. Show them how to have a “good” fight and be wise, thoughtful, and loving as they encounter hard things.

Practical Tip: Have the couple write down the details from one of their difficult conflicts and bring it to review with you. This allows you to descend into the trenches of their warfare, stand alongside them, and show them how their faith matters in working through conflict.

5. Some couples haven’t been fully transparent with each other 

Get everything on the table before marriage, not afterward. There should be no secrets. Engaged couples must be brutally honest about their lives—both present and past.

Why? If you make a life-long commitment, you should know the person you’re marrying. Also, you don’t want any secrets revealed after the big day—the kind of secrets that would have caused you not to marry the person.

For example:

  • Does he or she have a significant debt problem (including debt on high-interest credit cards) they have not revealed?
  • Does one of them have a difficult sexual history, including a porn addiction they have only recently dealt with?
  • Does one have a complicated family history that might spill over into marriage and affect their union?

Everyone has baggage. Your job as the pastor is to get the couple to unpack their bags. You’re especially looking for the things that could impact their marriage.

Premarital counselling provides an opportunity to get all of these things on the table in a safe and loving environment and to get guidance and wisdom from a thoughtful pastor who can shepherd the couple through difficult topics.

6. Some couples shouldn’t get married

I don’t assume every couple should get married just because she has a ring on her finger. A few couples should not get married, despite their wishes to the contrary. Let’s say Tommy and Jill have nasty fights—he screams at her; she throws things, storms out, and slams doors; they have frequent nuclear meltdowns. You’d think they wouldn’t want to be married. And yet, the opposite is true: they’re eager to get married. If you tell them they shouldn’t get married, they might even ignore your advice and go off and get married without your help and against your better judgment.

I’ll tell Tommy and Jill they shouldn’t get married (or at least delay their wedding) because their catastrophic fights won’t magically disappear on their wedding day. They will carry over into marriage, potentially creating a miserable existence for years. If they’re not demonstrating the maturity to handle conflict before marriage and instead demonstrate consistent immaturity and foolishness in conflict, why would I want to support turning these sinful patterns into something permanent? I’d need to see some significant signs of change before they get married, or else I’ll tell them they shouldn’t get married. And I’ll be frank about why I see their potential marriage as problematic.

Premarital counselling provides the opportunity for you, as their pastor, to say the hard thing:

“Tommy and Jill, you know I love you and am committed to your good. This will be hard to hear, but until your nuclear fights change significantly, I don’t think you should get married.”

Some couples whose sin creates destructive patterns shouldn’t be solemnised in a permanent relationship. Either their sin patterns need to change, or they need not get married. Premarital counselling allows you (as the pastor) to head off years of misery for them and, quite frankly, years of difficult pastoral work for you (as you walk alongside them).

Practical Tip: I ask couples not to send out wedding invitations until after we’ve finished premarital counselling. Why? Because once the invitations go out, it puts pressure on a couple to follow through with their big day, even if they are not ready to get married. If you hold off on the invitations, you (the pastor) can take as much time as needed to work through the difficult things in their relationship to ensure they are ready for marriage.


In a gospel community, the Lord has kindly placed pastors who desire to shepherd the flock of God entrusted to them (1 Pet. 5:2). Pastors demonstrate God’s loving kindness by walking alongside couples in significant life moments—like dating, engagement, and marriage. What a distinct privilege it is for a pastor to care for God’s sheep this way!

Many couples enter marriage ill-prepared for the challenges that might come. Premarital counselling allows you to walk alongside couples before they marry and build solid foundations for their years together. 

[1] The first and primary way to define the Hebrew term “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) is as sexual intercourse. In 1 Corinthians 6:15-16, Paul says: “[15] Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! [16] Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” What’s Paul’s concern here? When you have sex with someone, you become one with them—not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Paul says don’t give over this oneness to a prostitute—a woman who is not your wife. Then Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 (“The two will become one flesh”) at the end of verse 16 to tie the idea of sexual intercourse with the theological concept of one flesh.

A second way to define “one flesh” is to think of it in more general terms—two individuals merging their lives financially, sexually, relationally, emotionally, spiritually, to form one family unit. Hence, synonyms of “one flesh” can be unity or oneness. I used the idea of working as teammates to communicate this later idea.

[2] If Karen ends up deciding she can’t be a missionary after they get married, Tyler could end up bitter and hold it against her. That’s why they need to resolve this issue before they get married.  

© 2023 Deepak Reju. Used with permission. Originally published at

Deepak Reju 

Deepak Reju serves as the pastor of biblical counselling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.  Deepak is the author of the book, Pornography (P & R).

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