Pastors across the country are repenting for the little they've been doing to address marriage needs in the church and are committing themselves to no longer stand idly by.
The blame for the high divorce rate in the United States, the increasing number of out-of-wedlock births and the falling percentage of adults getting married does not fall on secular society, they say. It falls on the church.
"The church hasn't done a good enough job," prominent evangelical Chuck Colson said Wednesday during a webinar promoting the upcoming National Marriage Week. "We can turn marriage around in America but believe me, if we are ever going to do it we've got to start with the church."
Evangelical pastors, ministry leaders and Catholic priests have united in a major campaign to strengthen marriage and they're convinced the resolution begins with the church stepping up and reclaiming the power and might of the institution of marriage.
"We really can't stand by and watch marriage collapse," said Chuck Stetson, chairman of the Let's Strengthen Marriage Campaign. "Defeatism is not an option. We cannot sit on the sidelines any longer."
Christopher West, a Catholic and a Theology of the Body Institute fellow, insists Catholics and evangelicals need one another in this fight for marriage.
"Just as we learned how to stand together in the pro-life cause ... we need to do the same for marriage, otherwise we are not going to win this battle," he said Wednesday.
What is critically needed is the redemption of marital love through a proper biblical view, West offered.
While many are hungry to understand the meaning of marriage and love, their hunger is not usually met "from the banquet of God's plan" and they "inevitably go to the fast food menu of the culture," West lamented.
"One of the reasons marriage is collapsing is because we've been eating from the fast food menu," he said.
Research by The Institute for American Values shows that two thirds of young adults who were active in church said no one in their congregation reached out to them during the time their parents were divorcing.
A 2005 Ellison Research survey also found that only a little over a quarter of churches were offering a marriage enrichment class.
Churches are being called to address family needs by establishing a marriage and family ministry – one that is on par with the worship, education and outreach ministries, and includes classes or counseling on dating/courtship for youth, marriage preparation and marriage enrichment.
"We should be teaching young people the importance of dating and courtship in a biblical manner," said Joe Mattera, presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition. "It is not about sex and condoms that the public schools and our government would have us believe."
Mattera reminded Christian leaders during the webinar that the first covenant between God and mankind is marriage and thus getting marriage right is that much more important.
"We need to teach the way God meant things to be," he urged. "Marriage is the most effective training ground for nurturing mature well-rounded Christians and even world class leaders ... because in marriage people experience the full essence of self-sacrifice and agape love."
Churches are gearing up for National Marriage Week USA, Feb. 7-14, a collaborative effort to encourage many diverse groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture.
The social implications and benefits of stronger marriages are massive, especially with regards to children, organizers say. Economic stability, thriving children, fewer people going to prison and even stronger churches are just some of the benefits.
"If strengthening marriage is the key to solving a whole host of social ills what are we waiting for?" posed Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship. "We as leaders, as pastors, have got to get marriage right."