Early in his ministry, BJ Thompson wouldn’t have guessed he’d ever be a marriage counselor. As an early member of the 116 Clique (a hip-hop collective that includes such well-known rappers as Lecrae and Trip Lee), Thompson admits that he had his heart set on being “this cool, nifty leader and speaker,” able to keep the messiness of others’ private home lives at arm’s length.

When those around him started voicing a need for help with their marriages, however, Thompson’s trajectory changed forever. In 2008, he co-founded Build a Better Us, a ministry network that now partners with local churches throughout the country to create small groups dedicated to building and strengthening marriages.

For this week’s episode of The Calling, Thompson joined CT managing editor Richard Clark to share about the challenges of marriage counseling, the future of the family, and why he’s still hopeful that marriage will continue to point those inside and outside the church toward Christ.

On his advice for new parents: “Make children a part of your family, not the center of your family….There’s space that mom and dad need to connect, to talk, to love on each other. We need to figure out how to make that happen, even if the midst of changing poopy diapers and being spit up on and children walking in.”

On counseling across racial boundaries: “Typically, people assume that because I’m African American, I have limited knowledge and understanding on marriage and family. Or they limit me to the realm of what they believe I should be involved in—maybe a poor, lower-class, disconnected, single-mother community. They don’t recognize we’re literally in every realm of society and engaging people at the core of who they are.”

On absent father figures: “When you talk about these neighborhoods and communities that lack father figures, I think it’s important for us to realize that we can be that, if not but for one to two children. All you have to do is invite them in for a meal, share your story, let them share their story; share something meaningful that you learned, and then let them share something meaningful that they’ve learned.”

On the most difficult part of marriage counseling: “Your marriage is the temperature of your life. When you get into that, you get to see what’s real. You don’t see what you see on a Sunday: holding hands, smiling. You get to see what’s behind the curtain.”

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The Calling is produced by Richard Clark and Jonathan Clauson.

Theme music by Lee Rosevere, used under Creative Commons 4.0.