Bring Hope to Marriages and Families with a Seminary Degree Skip to content

March 1, 2024

How do you Bring Hope to Marriages and Families by Earning a Seminary Degree?

Written By Grace Theological Seminary

Dave Lanuti, marriage pastor at Hope Community Church in North Carolina, never thought he would go to seminary. Despite his doubts, he ended up completing a seminary degree in just over a year through the Deploy program at Grace Theological Seminary.

Dave, with particular goals in mind, discovered Deploy’s model for self-motivated students at the right time. He began the program in early 2020, just before the global pandemic. With the year taking a drastic turn and leading to the cancellation of many plans, Dave earned his MA in Local Church Ministry with honors in just 14 months! 

We asked Dave to share more about his ministry role and how Deploy impacted his journey.


How long have you been at Hope Community Church? What is your role?

I serve at a large non-denominational church in the Raleigh area called Hope Community Church. I have served in a few pastoral roles in our church, including small groups pastor and campus pastor. I currently serve as our marriage pastor across all of our locations. I am building and launching a new parenting ministry as well.

I’ve been a pastor for more than 10 years, and I’ve been overseeing marriage ministry at Hope for almost five years.


How did you first feel called to ministry for marriages and families?

As a pastor, you meet with a lot of struggling people in search of encouragement. Over and over, couples were reaching out to me for marriage encouragement. I walked into my senior pastor’s office one day and asked him, “I know this isn’t even a job we have available, but what would it look like if I only focused on encouraging healthy marriages?” A month later, that was my full-time job. It has been the joy of my career.

What makes your ministry unique?

For starters, there aren’t many “marriage pastors” in churches today. I believe marriages and families are perhaps the areas of greatest struggle in America. Thriving marriages are vital in our disciple-making efforts in the “family of families” called the church. The ministries I serve are truly led by lay leaders. In any given year, we have about 75 lay leaders serving as marriage mentors who are leading the charge in making disciples. We have a pre-married prep, a newly married ministry, a marriage encouragement class called “re | engage,” and two-on-two mentoring. All of them are lived out in life-on-life relational contexts, with mentors equipped and charged to share the Good News of the Gospel as the hope of marriage.


A strong marriage is only the beginning of a strong family. Your ministry is quickly expanding to include both marriages and families. What does that look like in your context?

I am currently working on launching a new ministry for parents at our church. I wrote a parenting book that will soon be published, called “Hope for Parents.” This book gives a biblical theology of parenting, tracing God’s parenting story of us from Genesis to Revelation, all the while relating how that story reflects our own parenting story with our children.

For example, in the beginning, God created a perfect place for His children. We do the same when we are preparing to bring a new child into our homes. As best as we can, we create the perfect nursery where our children will be safe and loved. However, soon after they arrive, we realize they are selfish little sinners!

So we give them a ton of rules (Exodus 20, etc.) But we find out that rules, in themselves, are not able to change our kid’s hearts. Our children need a Savior. Our parenting story is a beautiful parallel to God’s parenting story with us. The book is not designed primarily as a step-by-step guide to parenting, but rather to change the way you think about parenting — as a representative of God (not as an owner of your kids). Every page of the book is dripping with our need for a Savior and the Good News of the grace of Jesus Christ.


What is it like to balance ministry at several campuses?

Hope is a church of several thousand weekly attendees, with countless marriages and families. I knew right away I could not oversee such a huge ministry on my own. From the inception of the marriage ministry at Hope, I have endeavored to be an equipper of saints who do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-16). The ministry is truly theirs. I give the highest level of ownership away to them — and my job is to equip and serve them. Our mentors are truly the unsung disciple-making heroes of our church! Over 2,000 have been through our marriage classes in the past five years at Hope.

What made you decide on GTS and the Deploy program?

I was a public school teacher for 11 years before my calling to full-time ministry and my employment at Hope Community Church in the Raleigh area of North Carolina. Through unforeseen circumstances, I was thrust into a leadership pastoral role almost immediately after being hired by the church my wife and I attended. I had no formal seminary education at the time. 

While I weighed the pros and cons of pausing ministry to pursue a seminary degree, I still believed a formal education would further equip me as a pastor. After many years of asking, “What about seminary?” some mentors approached me about Deploy. This was a game-changer based on its flexible design and its connection to “boots on the ground” mentors in my current church setting. I feel like Deploy was hand-crafted for a person like me.


What are the advantages of a mentor relationship in a seminary program?

The built-in mentoring was by far my favorite aspect of Deploy. Weekly meetings with my formation mentor, Dr. Gary Vet, were transformational. This allowed me to immediately apply what I was learning and receive real-time feedback from someone who observed me in ministry. Since graduation, I still meet with him weekly because he has become so dear to me.

The Master of Arts Local Church Ministry program will equip you to strengthen marriages and families in your ministry context. In fact, a seminary degree will serve as the foundation for offering the hope of Jesus Christ to all people, whether as a marriage pastor, worship pastor, or any other kind of pastor.

The Deploy program enables you to continue in ministry while you further your education. Move at your own pace, connect with trusted mentors, and receive the confidence to offer truth with theological confidence.