Something is happening this summer, something that I’m very excited about. In an effort to better support and encourage vibrant, healthy marriages, our church is launching a Marriage Support ministry, built around the idea that good marriages don’t just happen, but benefit from having the right tools, working hard, and leaning on the strength and wisdom of others.
The centerpiece of this fledgling ministry will be marriage support groups, small groups of four or five couples that will meet together monthly to discuss marriage-related topics and to get counsel and encouragement for struggles they are experiencing. My hope is that members of these groups, over time, will grow closer to each other through this sharing, providing a safe and therapeutic atmosphere in which each couple can feel comfortable not only reaching out for help before problems balloon into crises, but offering up their own experiences for the benefit of other couples facing obstacles that they have already conquered.
I got the idea from a Gary Smalley book, Making Love Last Forever, in which he described a small group of reliable, lifelong friends to which he and his wife would turn for a listening ear and godly advice when a problem cropped up in their marriage that was too big for them to work out on their own. “What if”, I wondered, “everyone had such a resource available to them?”
In the Bible, we’re told over and over again to lean on each other, to teach each other, to encourage each other. It says we are to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received” and “carry each other’s burdens.” Doesn’t this also apply to our marriages? At some point, we all need to ask for help. Instead, most couples experiencing difficulties in their marriages react in just the opposite way: they circle the wagons; they pull away from intimate friends; they turn inward, putting up a mask that says “everything’s hunky dory, thanks very much,” while inside their private world, fortresses are collapsing, bombs are exploding, and the bond that holds them together is eroding a little more every day. Finally, the last cord breaks and their divorce is announced, shocking everyone around them and causing a waterfall of comments like “They seemed so happy together!” and “I didn’t know anything was wrong.”
We live in a mind-your-own-business culture, but we are designed to live in relationship with one another.
So why bring this up on my blog? Well, I could use your help in a couple of ways. First, please pray for the effectiveness of this ministry, and for those who are involved to have open hearts. This isn’t just a place for those whose marriages are already on the rocks. Every marriage goes through peaks and valleys, and every couple has something to teach as well as something to learn. Second, I would love to hear your ideas. If you were going to be a part of a group like this, what topics would you want to cover?
The groups will be discussion-oriented, and I’m in the process of writing discussion guides that will serve as a loose structure for meetings. Here are the topics we’ve already come up with. What would you add?:
*The God-Centered Marriage—How to Be True Spiritual Partners
*Fighting Fair—Healthy Handling of Conflict
*Are You Listening?—Clear Communication Skills
*B.F.F.—Maintaining Friendship in Marriage
*Beyond Flowers and Candy—Keeping Romance Alive
*Mutual Submission—What Does It Look Like?
*Bliss in the Bedroom—God’s Purposes for Sex
*You and No Other—Affair-Proofing Your Marriage
*Healing the Wounds—Forgiveness and Restoration After Past Hurts
*Looking Ahead—Creating a Family Mission Statement