Church Life


Side by Side is our Marriage Ministry, aimed to minister with God’s Word at the place where married couples live – in a beautiful but broken world. At First Pres we believe that the institution of marriage is one of the primary contexts God has designed to prepare us for glory, where we will be holy and without blemish. For this reason, we want to be a church that cheers couples on, refreshes their souls, and points them to the God who will not let them go.

We understand that marriage is a demanding and difficult institution – it brings with it some of our greatest joys, and some of our deepest sorrows. And so, whether you would rate your marriage as a 9/10 but still long for more or you are in the dark night of your marriage and don’t know where to turn or you are engaged and preparing for marriage, Side by Side has something for you. We will provide teaching programs, retreats, and times of refreshment for couples to receive strength and support, to turn back to one another, and to rediscover the vision that God has for your marriage, side by side.

Marriage at Its Best

A Luncheon Series

October 30 with Dr. John Kwasny
November 8 with Barb Martin
November 13 with Billy Dempsey

Join us this fall for our Side by Side Luncheon Series, Marriage at Its Best. We will meet in Miller Hall from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on October 30, November 8, and November 13. To reserve your boxed lunch for $8, please register online or on the FPC Jackson App. Registration will close each week at 9 a.m. on the morning prior to the luncheon. Please email the Discipleship Department with questions or for more information.


Dr. John C. Kwasny is the Director of Christian Education and Children’s Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, MS. He is also an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. Before coming to Pear Orchard in 2005, John spent five years as a Biblical Counselor in private practice, followed by ten years as Director of Christian Education and Family Life at Plains Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Zachary, Louisiana.

Barb Martin, Clinic Coordinator for The Center for Marriage & Family Therapy and Counseling and Placement Coordinator, is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and an Approved Supervisor for both AAMFT and LPC. Not only does she coordinate the on-site clinic that services over 1,000 families per year, but she also serves as one of the MFTC program’s clinical supervisors in addition to teaching courses particularly related to the students’ clinical work. Barb is married to Hal, and they have 3 children.

Billy Dempsey is our Minister of Congregational Care. After working with RUF for 15 years, Billy pastored churches in Missouri and Alabama before arriving here at First Pres in 2011. Billy and his wife, Debbie, have 3 children.


Rooted: Cultivating a Healthy Marriage in Union with Christ

Third quarter Midweek elective
Taught by Ed and Emily Hartman
Beginning January 16, 2019

A marriage is like a garden. It takes skill, attention, time, and an enormous amount of work in order to bear fruit. Without a healthy root system, no plant and no marriage will thrive. As followers of Christ, our roots are in our union with Him. Yet, the reality of our union with Christ doesn’t automatically transform our marriages—we’re changed as we learn to consciously and actively live within that reality. So whether you’ve been married 5 days or 50 years, there’s “gardening” to be done; because as long as we are east of Eden, we’ll deal with thorns, thistles, and weeds in our marriages. For 8 weeks, we’ll look at practical skills that grow out of this theological foundation for marriage, and learn together to cultivate healthy marriages in union with Christ.


Compass: Money & Marriage

Fourth Quarter Midweek elective
Led by Stuart Clarke
Beginning March 20, 2019

Compass teaches people of all ages how to handle money based on the principles in the Bible. Please join us in our Midweek study as we learn God’s role in our marriage and finances. This life-changing study will help us discover God’s approach to managing and strengthening our marital relationship. To sign up or for more information, email Stuart Clarke.

Engaged & Newly Married Elective

Fourth Quarter Midweek Elective
Led by Cory Brock and Hunter Nicholson
Beginning March 20, 2019

This study is intended for engaged couples trying to navigate all that is ahead and newly married couples who have likely already experienced both the joy and the sorrow of marriage. Topics will be those that are often included in premarital counseling (conflict, communication, intimacy, money, in-laws, etc) and will be taught by a handful of gifted people, including pastors, counselors, and other professionals. Please register by emailing the Young Adults Department by March 1.


Marriage Weekend Seminar

Consider joining us with your spouse for our Side by Side Marriage Weekend Seminar on Friday night, April 12, and Saturday morning, April 13. Our weekend will include large-group teaching sessions with Pastor Nate Shurden, as well as time to fellowship with other couples. Our hope is that this will be a time of joy, and hope, and rest for you and your spouse. More details to come! Please email the Discipleship Department with questions.

Nate Shurden is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. While in seminary, Nate served at First Presbyterian Church Jackson in the Christian Education Ministry and as Assistant Editor for Reformation21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Upon graduation, Nate was called to be Minister of Discipleship and Young Adults at FPC Jackson where he served for three years. In 2010, Nate accepted a new call to Franklin, TN, to help plant Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. Nate is married to Christy, and they have four children.