So you want to start a marriage mentoring program at your church?
Marriage mentoring can be vital in the lives of couples that are struggling, as well as couples that just need a jump-start or realignment to get back on track. And by building up these couples, we build up their families, and ultimately the church itself that is made up of these couples and families. When they thrive, the church thrives.
So, where do you start when you feel called by God to launch a marriage mentoring program at your church? Once you have prayed it through, and you have the go-ahead from the pastoral leadership of your church, the hardest part is usually recruiting mentor couples. Oftentimes they love the idea of helping a younger, less experienced couple in their marriage journey, but they hesitate for several reasons:
- Their own marriage isn’t perfect, so they feel inadequate.
- They lack training and/or resources.
- They think they have to be marriage experts.
- They’re afraid the time commitment will be overwhelming.
- They’re afraid they won’t know how to handle the tough situations that can arise during conversations.
These are all reasonable issues, and fairly easy to address. With structured training, a good well-researched, biblically grounded curriculum, and on-going support from the church leadership, they can be well on their way to making a tremendous difference in a young couple’s life and the life of their church.
But that’s not all. An often-overlooked benefit to the mentor couple is that they frequently experience rejuvenation and renewed excitement in their own marriage as a result of mentoring another couple! It’s called the Boomerang Effect. According to a recent marriage mentoring blog @#staymarried, the author and her husband became marriage mentors to a young couple and found,
“It was a win-WIN. Talking about our marriage and some truths about marriage on a regular basis and working through some issues with another couple proved to be quite therapeutic and comforting, and even healing. We felt invigorated and joyful at times, reminiscing about our early years as a couple. We had time to re-work some of our arguing techniques (there is such a thing as a fair fight, you know) and we were given the gift of spending time with newly-weds. There’s something so sweet about people who are freshly in love– something sweet and contagious.”
Fortunately, you can start a marriage mentoring program at your church, and it’s easier than you think!
To start a marriage mentor program, here is what you will need to do:
1. Start with a foundation of prayer
“Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” – Ps. 127:1
2. Obtain pastoral or leadership support
The support of your pastor or appropriate church leadership is crucial.
3. Recruit mentors
Find couples in a solid, Christ-centered marriage with a heart for marriage .
4. Recruit mentorees
Find couples who desire a solid, Christ-centered marriage .
5. Select a curriculum
Select a curriculum that will provide practical resources and direction for your mentor and mentoree couples. The CMR recently published a curriculum called Marriage Mentoring (by Dr. Chris Grace, Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and Alisa Grace). You’ll need one Facilitator Guide for each mentor and one Participant Guide for each mentoree. Workbooks will be available for purchase at our website following our conference on Apr. 16.
6. Provide for training:
Attend a one-day training workshop hosted by Biola University’s Center for Marriage and Relationships to equip and train each mentor couple on the basics of marriage mentoring and how to use the Marriage Mentoring curriculum. (The CMR is hosting a Marriage Mentoring workshop on April 16, 2016, at Biola University. Check the CMR website for future training dates.)
7. Plan on-going marriage enrichment /mentor training
Plan on-going marriage enrichment and mentor training for your mentor couples so they stay refreshed in their own relationship, as well as equipped and well-trained in their mentoring skills. (See cmr.biola.edu for articles, videos, blogs and special events/conferences that will support and equip your marriage mentors.)
By launching your church’s marriage mentoring program, you’ll provide a vital resource for help and continued growth for newly married couples. You’ll help bring renewed life and vitality to an older couple. By becoming a marriage mentor couple, you’ll not only invest in the life and legacy of another couple, but you will also likely end up enjoying renewed love and intimacy in your own marriage! You’ll ultimately be strengthening the church itself: its couples and their families that make up the church.
When the mentoring thrives, couples thrive. When couples thrive, the church thrives. In the words of #staymarried, it’s a win/WIN for everyone.
Alisa Grace ('92) serves as the co-director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships where she also co-teaches a class called "Christian Perspectives on Marriage and Relationships." While she speaks and blogs regularly on topics such as dating relationships, marriage, and love, she also loves mentoring younger women and newly married couples, speaking at retreats and providing premarital counseling. Alisa and her husband, Chris, have been married over 30 years and have three wonderful children: Drew and his wife Julia, Natalie and her husband Neil, and their youngest blessing, Caroline.