Over the last several years I have participated in Divorce Care, a program targeted for separated and divorced people; Marriage 911, focusing on separated people; “Before ‘I Do'”, a study for engaged couples; PAIRS and RINGS, communication tools, and life coaching – all of which have some application to married, dating or single people. I have also participated in Wild at Heart and a Top Gun series both targeted for men.
I have been thinking about the possibility of a marriage course that would be focused on marriage but would include people from many stages of life – teens just thinking about dating, engaged couples, early marrieds, long-term marrieds, separated, and divorced. Now before you tell me I am crazy and it would never work, let me lay out some topics that might be covered. These are just off the top of my head and I am sure others would be added or changed. These listed might be emphasized to greater or lesser degrees.
A. God’s big picture of marriage. Start with the Garden of Eden where God said it was not good for man to be alone, to the Fall, to Jewish customs of marriage, to Jesus starting his ministry at a wedding, all the way to the end of time when Jesus and the church celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb to usher in eternity.
B. More specific details about marriage being a covenant, and marriage customs in Jewish and Christian history to modern times.
C. Details of what legally happens when you get married and what happens when you get divorced.
D. Dating and Courtship concepts.
E. Ways to build your relationship with God and the importance of that relationship. If you don’t have a good foundation in this area, you are likely to marry for the wrong reasons, and once you are married, if this slips or takes a back seat your marriage won’t be all God wants it to be and you can be in for a disaster.
F. Practical relationship tools such as PAIRS, RINGS, or Coaching – especially the learning to listen aspect of coaching.
G. Sexuality. Topics such as God’s view of sexuality, desire differences, changes in sexuality based on life stages as newly married, pregnancy, menopause, etc.
H. The importance of the basics of the faith – forgiveness, confession, basic disciplines such as taught in First Steps Discipleship (www.disciplinganother.com).
I. How to deal with anger.
J. Family of Origin issues and how they influence everything.
K. Life challenges such as illness, mental issues, financial issues, etc.
L. I am sure there are many more topics I will think of once I review various materials and programs.
I would also like to combine several methods of education in the Marriage Course.
1. Teaching with attendee interaction. Teach many key concepts out of the Bible and supplement with solid reference material.
2. Use videos and various media.
3. The leaders model tools and then the attendees practice. If there are couples attending they can interact with their partner for the tools, while people attending alone can write their responses or, depending on the tool, practice with a same gender partner.
4. Ample time for discussion and feedback.
5. Personal testimonies from the speaker and the attendees.
I would think with all of the above elements people would stay engaged and truly learn some new things while coming to appreciate people who are at a different place in life than they are.
So why do I think it would be good to have such a broad range of participants? I think there is a huge benefit from cross generational understanding. Young people risk either being so in love that they think life will be bliss (they need a little dose of reality from some older people), or they are so cynical about marriage and relationships because of their family and cultural experience they could use some models of good, but not perfect, marriages to inspire them.
Premarrieds need to realize the seriousness of the vows they are about to make. When they have their first big disappointment with each other – which is highly likely somewhere between the honeymoon and the end of year two of marriage – they need to be prepared how to handle it and not give up.
For Newly marrieds this can be a lonely time and they need encouragement to go on.
The Separated need to be inspired with hope to continue on in their relationship and also learn to lay a new and better foundation if they reconcile.
Divorced people run the risk of either becoming so cynical about marriage that they turn everyone around them off about marriage, or they run head long into a new marriage, never really thinking about what went wrong the first time.
Long-term stable marriages need an outlet for their wisdom. Just being married 40 or 50 years is a testimony to those around them. Most of the time they are people who still admit they want to learn more, which then becomes an inspiration for the younger people just starting out in married life.
What do you think of this general concept? I know it needs much refining, but is it something you might show up for? What would you like to glean if you could sit in a room and learn from every generation about marriage?