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Community Marriage Policy Training

    
Current Training Events

Feb. 22-23: Training in Collegedale, TN, Collegedale Seventh Day Adventist Church 423 396-2134), 6:30-9 pm Friday night, 8:30-6 on Saturday.

March 7: Helena, Montana: Speak to state legislators 7 p.m. about how to reform No Fault Divorce and raise the marriage rate. Call Jeff Laszloffy, Montana Family Foundation, 406 628-1141

March 9, Billings, Montana: Meet with Billings area clergy, 8 am- 1 p.m. to outline the value of creating a Billings Community Marriage Policy to cut divorce and cohabitation rates.
 

How To Virtually Eliminate Divorce in Your Congregation by Mike McManus

What God has joined together, churches and synagogues can hold together. If only a third of the nation's 300,000 churches each trained 10 Mentor Couples by 2020, there would be a million Mentor Couples who could save half of the 1.2 million couples who divorce annually.

How would you like to reduce the divorce rate in your congregation to near zero? For example, Pearce Memorial Church near Rochester, NY has had only one separation in two years among its 1,000 members, and that couple is working toward reconciliation. Christ Lutheran Church in Overland Park, Kansas, a congregation of 1,500, has had only two divorces in three years, and neither couple sought help.

These are only two of a growing number of Marriage Savers Congregations who have learned to put a "safety net" under every marriage in their churches. That safety net is a group of couples in solid marriages who are trained to be "Mentor Couples" to help other couples avoid a bad marriage before it begins, give "marriage insurance" to the engaged, strengthen existing marriages, restore 80% to 90% of the worst marriages, help more than half of the separated to reconcile, and enable 80 percent of those in stepfamilies to be successful parents and partners.

Every church has couples with vibrant marriages, who really could help other couples, but have never been asked, inspired or trained to do so. Marriage Savers® regularly trains clergy and Mentor Couples in how to create a Marriage Savers Congregation.

Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee has had no divorces since training Mentors in January, 1999. First Assembly of God in Rockford, IL trained 14 "back-from-the-brink" couples to help troubled marriages. The therapists in town heard about it and sent over dozens of their worst cases. After working with more than 100 marriages, only four have been lost to divorce.

Marriage Savers Training of Mentor Couples & Clergy

How would you like to virtually eliminate divorce in your congregation? Does that sound impossible? Actually, Marriage Savers presented awards to 10 churches which have had an average of only one-two divorces each in 5-10 years. Eight churches have over1000 members.

Marriage Savers trains both clergy and Mentor Couples on a Friday night and Saturday to create “Marriage Savers Congregations” that can virtually eliminate divorce.

Often the training is given as part of the creation of a Community Marriage Policy, in which clergy pledge to take steps to do a better job preparing couples for a lifelong marriage, enriching existing marriages, restoring troubled ones, helping the separated to reconcile and stepfamilies to be successful. The goal is to radically reduce the divorce and cohabitation rates, and raise the marriage rate across a city. Seven cities/counties have slashed their divorce rates in half, such as Austin, Kansas City, KS and its suburbs, Modesto, CA, Salem, OR and El Paso. Springfield, OH cut its divorce rate 21% in two years, Shreveport, 31% in a year.

We will train in our five major interventions, and the low cost materials we use to help churches institute reforms that add up to creating a “safety net” under every marriage:

  1. Preparation to give marriage insurance, a 95% guarantee that their marriage will go the distance. How? First, couples in healthy marriages are trained to administer a premarital inventory with 160+ one-sentence statements such as “I wish my partner were more willing to share his/her feelings with me,” and "We haven't decided how to handle our finances yet." The inventory enables mentors to target issues identified by the couples themselves that need resolution. Harriet and I model the process with one couple in front of the group, and then ask couples to role play, with one couple serving as the mentors, and the other, the mentorees. They then switch their roles, for more practice. Second, couples are taught skills to resolve conflict, such as PREP’s “Speaker-Listener Technique,” and "Ten Steps for Resolving Conflict." During the training, Harriet and I illustrate PREP and then we have couples practice the exercises, with one couple acting as a Mentor Couple. They then switch roles as mentors and mentorees. These skills can help couples at any stage of marriage. Harriet and I pioneered this form of marriage preparation in our home church. Result: of 288 couples our mentors prepared for marriage from 1992 through 2000, 55 decided NOT to marry, a big 19%. But of the 233 who did marry, there were only seven divorces or separations since 1992. That is a 3% failure rate, or a 97% success rate over a decade, what we call “marriage insurance.”
     

  2. Enrichment is one area where there are many materials churches can use. Our core principle is that each church should conduct at least one marriage enrichment event a year with the goal of involving every married couple for $15 or less. Every marriage needs a shot in the arm. At our training, we also show excerpts of a video series called “10 Great Dates,” which can be held on 10 Saturday nights. Each couple only need buy a $12 paperback. They watch a 20 minute video, and then go on a date for dessert and coffee to discuss an issue that evening, such as how to be an encourager.
     

  3. Restoration of troubled marriages is the hardest of the goals to achieve. However, every church has couples who have survived a crisis like adultery, alcoholism or abuse – whose own experience equips them to mentor other couples suffering from a similar crisis . During our training we have one such a couple tell their story of recovery, using 17 steps that most recovering couples go through. Harriet and I meet with the couple at lunch and discuss what their problem was, but we spend most of the time talking about their steps of recovery. Their story is usually the high point of the training. The 17 “action statements” are similar to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Four examples, “Through other Christians’ testimony and example we/I found hope for our marriage. I made a decision and commitment to follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I accepted my mate as he/she is. I realized that the problem was with myself.” However, a separate weekend training is needed to train “back-from-the-brink” couples whose marriages have recovered – on how they can mentor those in current crisis.
     

  4. Reconciliation of separated couples is a largely neglected task in most churches, because clergy generally have no idea how to help one person trying to save a marriage when the spouse has given up, or has moved out. We share a workbook course, “Marriage 911,” (formerly called "Reconciling God's Way") in which the person trying to save the marriage asks a friend of the same gender to meet an hour a week for 12 weeks. The spouse uses a workbook, while the friend has a Support Partner Handbook, to know what questions to ask each week. The course helps the person trying to save the marriage to grow personally, spiritually, emotionally and professionally -- so much that they attract back the errant spouse in 50% of cases, 75% if they are under the same roof.
     

  5. Stepfamilies divorce at a 70% rate without help. However, a United Methodist church created a proven answer called “Stepfamily Support Groups” which save 80% or more of these marriages, the mirror opposite of what happens without an intervention. We share a kit that can be used to guide five couples in creating a Stepfamily Support Group. These groups help couples with stepchildren learn how to deal with the multiple conflicts of such marriages between stepparents and stepchildren, between stepchildren of different families, with the ex-spouses. The kit has a manual, a paperback and a CD that cost only $35.

The training Marriage Savers offer for these interventions takes about 12 hours. Harriet and I train from 6:30 to 10 on Friday night and from 8:30-4:30pm on Saturday. Normally, the training is scheduled for the day that a Community Marriage Policy is signed.

We offer a two-day training that equips a congregation's pastor and Mentor Couples to put a "safety net" under every marriage. Mike and Harriet McManus can conduct a training in your area.

For more information regarding planning for a signing and/or training, please contact Mike McManus to ask about conducting a training in your area: 301-469-5870 or email: michaeljmcmanus@cs.com