For the last several years my wife and I have conducted pre-marital counseling for engaged couples. It has been a real joy to spend time with these couples and coach them toward healthy marriages. Most – but not all – of these couples have come to us through our church.
A staple in our pre-marital coaching has been Life Innovations‘ “Prepare.” In the last few years we have used Jason Krafsky’s “Before I Do” to supplement Prepare. We have found these two resources to be very compatible and provide for a very thorough experience for the couples. Recently, Life Innovations upgraded their material by customizing it for each couple. The inventory that they provide and the reports that are produced are now customized for each couple. This has been a great improvement. Life Innovations reports that their research indicates a benefit to couples just from taking the inventory – even if they never have an opportunity to process it with a facilitator! If you are not familiar with Prepare I would encourage you to take a closer look at this tool and pursue certification to become a facilitator.
Krafsky’s “Before I Do” is a well-balanced workbook for couples from a Christian perspective and is filled with great readings and exercises for the couples to do separately, together, and with the facilitators. We have found this resource to be very helpful in getting couples to talk about relationship aspects that they may not have talked about yet. With other materials we have often had to apologize for portions of the material or skip a number of chapters. Not so with “Before I Do.” We typically work through the entire workbook two chapters per session.
Altogether, my wife and I will meet with couples 8-10 times, usually in our home, for 90 minutes to 2 hours per session. While we have required each couple to cover the costs of the materials, we have not charged for the coaching sessions. Today I was reading some material on Krafsky’s website where he posts a very thorough and well-written pre-marital education sample agreement that includes the discussion of fees. This is something that I had never considered formalizing in this way. Occasionally we have had couples ask us what we charge and we have usually just replied, “Nothing.”
What do you think? I am a full-time staff pastor at a local church and not a professional counselor. Should we continue to see this as an extension of our ministry? Or should couples be expected to pay for this service like they pay for wedding expenses? What would be an appropriate amount? How much have you paid for pre-marital counseling? Was it ‘worth it?’ I would appreciate hearing from you.