Many women in spiritually-mismatched marriages are acutely aware their marriages fall short of the ideal. This realization often results in their feeling disappointed, different, and sometimes inferior to other Christian women. They experience confusion about how to handle dilemmas resulting from the difference in beliefs. Along with practical guidance and understanding, they need to be reminded God desires to give them victory in their marriages and to help them grow and mature.
Often, the teaching we offer to women includes examples of only ideal marriages. Being aware of these needs will enable you to adapt your teaching materials to their needs on an ongoing basis. Offer examples and applications to their unique situations.
Another misconception a woman may have is the idea that she is responsible for her husband’s salvation. Remind her that she is neither responsible for how her husband reacts to her influence nor can she be perfect. God is ultimately the One who convicts through the Holy Spirit and draws men to Himself. The responsibility for one’s spiritual state rests on the individual.
Often, a woman who is married to an unbeliever overly focuses on the couple’s spiritual differences. She needs to be reminded that focusing on positive things she and her husband share will strengthen the marriage.
As a leader, encourage a woman to accept, respect, and love her husband. Such training will show her obedience and submission to the Lord and commitment to her husband. When a wife respects her husband’s right to believe differently, he will more likely respect hers.
She will need to decide how to adjust to the situation while not taking over her husband’s role and how to be responsible for her own spiritual growth. She must maintain a delicate balance between living her convictions, fulfilling her needs as a separate person, respecting her husband, and preserving her marriage. Each woman will find that balance in a slightly different way, depending on her circumstances.
She may have to miss church at times to accommodate her husband, and she should feel free to be flexible with her attendance at events. She may need to choose not to attend weekend retreats or night meetings. Each circumstance will require different adjustments, depending on the circumstances. No absolute right or wrong exists in this area.
Create an atmosphere in your women’s activities and Bible studies that encourages women to truthfully tell about their struggles rather than pretend everything is OK. Stress the importance of being transparent and vulnerable with each other. This openness is refreshing; it ministers to the woman who is sharing and others as well. It allows women to use their gifts and past experiences to encourage and comfort each other. This atmosphere will encourage the body of Christ to support each other.
Plan events to meet these needs. Some husbands may not attend church preaching. Husband-friendly activities such as a Valentine’s Day dinner, a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day brunch, or pertinent talks on life issues allow wives to invite their husbands without overtly trying to get them saved. When you plan church events, plan for singles and couples. Encourage women to come alone or with friends.
Support groups are an especially effective way to encourage. You can invite a speaker, organize the meeting around a book or study, or allow it to be more informal. Also, have a list of women with past or present experience in a spiritually-mismatched marriage, and make them available to mentor other women facing similar challenges. Provide additional referrals for women who are in difficult marriages and are dealing with issues such as addictions, infidelity, mental illness, abuse, and other dysfunctions.
You don’t have to have all the answers for every woman’s dilemmas. They will have to make most decisions on their own, but you can help each woman to feel more included, understood, accepted, and normal by adjusting your women’s ministry to support her unique needs.
This article is an excerpt from Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry compiled by Chris Adams.