Several marriage and family ministries recommended by United Methodists are promoting new program offerings.
Better Marriages (www.bettermarriages.org), an organization with strong historical ties to The United Methodist Church has launched a new metro-based model for reaching more couples, providing new entry points to make it easier for couples to enjoy a taste of the relationship growth that member couples know and love so much. Key components of the pilot program, which will be easily replicated in other cities, include:
- Writing new curriculum for specific, varied target audiences
- Developing local partnerships, beginning with financial advisors
- Gathering research data to measure the effectiveness and impact of programs
- Creating a self-sustaining business model
If you have not yet sampled the Virtual Marriage Enrichment Group, visit the website and click on Virtual Marriage Replays to sign up for invitations for live events and access to replays. Through these experiences, you can experience the power of Better Marriage’s couple dialogue process, a hallmark of their programming and training.
Marriage Encounter United Methodist, another organization with strong United Methodist ties, has developed resources to make the program more accessible. The dedicated presenters and organizers of this fruitful ministry have created a DVD that may be used when enough live presenters are not readily available and in alternative formats to the traditional Marriage Encounter Weekend. The hope is to reach more couples who are interested in growing their marriage relationship. The experience will usually be spread out over seven weeks, with a weekly session held in the local church or other public facility. This will reduce the cost and simplify child care arrangements, hopefully making it easier for some couples to commit to participation. You can learn more about Marriage Encounter United Methodist and find schedules for upcoming events at www.encounter.org. Click on “3RE Enrichment” and then on “3 RE details” to explore scheduling an event.
A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage is a book and video study by Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, Sacred Sex, Sacred Parenting, The Sacred Search, and other outstanding Christian relationship resources. The video lessons are available through RightNow Media, and you may download the Participants’ Guide free and purchase the book (published by David C. Cook in 2015) at the website (https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/Series/198823).
Jane Serfass recommended this program after using it at New Fairfield UMC in the New York Annual Conference. Each video for the eight-session study lasts 30 to 45 minutes and is followed by a time of sharing and responses to questions in the worksheets. Because each session presents a complete lesson, participants may join in even if they cannot attend all sessions.
The publishers provide this introduction to the book and video study:
Gary Thomas believes couples often settle for too little when it comes to marriage. We fail to understand how deeply God cares about our spouse. We diminish our need to not only understand what biblical love really is, but also to become a people who excels at it. We let ourselves drift apart instead of making the daily choices to grow closer together. Whether your marriage needs a complete makeover, a touch up, or just a new purpose, A Lifelong Love promises to set your relationship on an entirely new dimension. You will never look at worship or your spouse in the same way again. You will understand how living for that day will so radically transform the decisions you make this day. And Gary will guide you through the power shifts and seasonal mine fields that blow up so many marriages so that you can grow in your love instead of in your disappointment. Thirty years of study and two decades of working with couples has led Gary Thomas to his most significant book yet on the relationship between husband and wife. Find out for yourself what all the fuss is about—and why A Lifelong Love is sure to challenge the way the church talks about marriage.
Some of the couples who participated in the study shared their thoughts about the experience:
- I loved this study. His perspective on different areas was refreshing. For example, he used his wife's dislike of spiders to illustrate how to be aware of your spouse's "spiders" and act accordingly. Gary is very easy to listen to and very entertaining while sending home important points. (D & B, married 35 years)
- It was a heartening and positive experience. I’ve seen Les Miserable on Broadway several times and read it as well, and I always got stuck on the famous line in the finale: “to love another person is to see the face of God.” I never understood what that really meant and thought perhaps it was just something that sounded nice. This experience really brought that line to life for me and helped me to know its meaning in a more intimate way. (S & J, seriously dating)
- I really appreciated hearing (via biblical passages Gary discussed) that God supports and encourages a healthy, happy sex life/intimacy in marriage. I’m guessing many of us who were not always Christian have some level of guilt from enjoying sex and intimacy and for making it a fun activity without the intention of bringing forth another life. I’m trying to focus more on honoring God through this part of my marriage. Second, I found it enlightening that we should be in marriage with the goal of serving our spouse unconditionally. Most people seem to be in it for what they can get, which may be why so many marriages fail. That message needs to be shared with more of society. Serving my spouse more is something that I am trying to focus on now to make my marriage even stronger long term. It was a GREAT, GREAT course. (J & B , married 2 years)
Couple Communication and Core Communication
In 2015, Drs. Sherod and Phyllis Miller decided it was time to retire after a lifetime of creating the Couple Communication and Core Communication courses and supporting the dedicated instructors. TYRO Support Services (TSS) took over the fulfillment and training for these programs. TSS knows the life-changing and marriage-saving power of these programs and wants to hear from people who were previously trained or are interested in training now. TSS has been working alongside Drs. Phyllis and Sherod Miller to make improvements to some of the materials and to develop an online store. They are excited to announce that they have revamped the demonstration videos that enhance the courses. Available soon as a DVD set, they clearly demonstrate the courses’ Styles of Communication, Talking Skills (using the Awareness Wheel Skills mat), Listening Skills (using the Listening Cycle mat), and Mapping Issues (using both mats together).
If you're interested in reestablishing use of the Couple and/or Core Communication programs, please contact:
TYRO Support Services
Parents’ Television Council (PTC) (http://w2.parentstv.org/)
The PTC is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. Its mission is “to protect children and families from graphic sex, violence and profanity in the media because of their proven long-term harmful effects.” The PTC recently announced that it has partnered with PureFlix, an independent film and television studio that markets family-friendly movies, for special pre-release screenings of Little Women. The first film to be released by Pinnacle Peak Pictures, Little Women is a modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel about the lives of four sisters as they mature into adulthood. Little Women is a respectful and wholesome portrayal of women that is so rare in today’s entertainment, and it has the PTC Seal of Approval™. Little Women opens in theaters nationwide on September 28, but in celebration of National Daughters Day, the PTC is hosting special pre-release events to show Little Women at selected movie theaters, beginning on September 24. If you live in or near any of the following cities, please send a $20 donation to the Parents Television Council, and PTC will send you a movie ticket to see Little Women. If you can’t make it, your donation will be used to purchase and distribute movie tickets to charities that support young girls in the cities where the screenings are held.
La Porte, Indiana – Mon., September 24
Phoenix, Arizona – Tues., September 25
Springfield, Mass. – Tues., September 25
Denver, Colorado – Wed., September 26
Atlanta, Georgia – Thurs., September 27
Jackson, Mississippi – Thurs., September 27
Please make your donation to the Parents Television Council at https://raisedonors.com/parentstv/little-women-movie.
“Unlike the inspirational portrayals in Little Women, the images young girls see every day on TV and in movies, magazines, and ads are filled with images of female beauty that are unattainable. The media pushes an unnatural body type on young girls which directly impacts how they feel about themselves. Nine in 10 girls say the media place a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin, making it difficult for them to accept their natural beauty. Sadly, many young girls are afraid of becoming fat, and approximately 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders. That’s why we’re taking this opportunity to promote the PTC’s 4 Every Girl campaign. This national movement was created to combat this harmful impact on young girls. We are leading 4 Every Girl to teach young girls that their self-esteem DOES NOT depend on the media’s unrealistic stereotypes about what their bodies should look like. Thank you so much for your past support. This is an exciting time for the Parents Television Council, and we want you to be a part of it! I hope you will reconnect with the PTC and help us continue this.” —Brandon Witt, [email protected]; phone, 213.403.1331.
See also “Special Discounts for United Methodists” for new offerings from Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot and from Love Thinks, which bases its programs on the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), developed by Jon Van Epp.
 1RightNow Media is available as part of a churchwide subscription. If your church already has a RightNow Media subscription in place, then you will need to contact either the account owner, or any of the administrators on the account. They will be able to send you an email invite so that you can set up a profile. If your church does not have a subscription and you are a decision maker for your church, then feel free to submit your request for a Demo so that one of the program directors can walk you through everything the site has to offer. You can request a demo from http://www.rightnowmedia.org, or call 972.560.4000.
Jane P. Ives, United Methodist Marriage and Family Ministries Consultant, Portland, ME