The timing of the release of The Marriage Course—completely updated and refreshed with new expert interviews, thoughts and insights from married couples who shared from their own relational experiences and anchored by pioneers Nicky and Sila Lee—could not have been better. No one could have known in the early months of 2020 that marriages would experience stress and fractures in myriad ways.
At The Alpha Conference, Nicky and Sila shared from stage about this updated content, the vision and heart behind the course material, and the desire to deepen and strengthen all relationships while making the materials accessible to all—the resources were available online for the first time ever.
In the audience that day, at the tail-end of January 2020, was a couple from Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon. They knew The Marriage Course was for them and their church—a community filled with young couples—and went home planning to run an in-person course with about 20 couples, excited to see how they could integrate this course into what their church currently offered.
In the weeks that followed, they gathered with four other couples to discuss testing a pilot launch of The Marriage Course. Then they experienced what so many others would soon face: the world shut down and all planning came to a halt. Then innovation took over. Because The Marriage Course was now available online, they were able to seamlessly transition to offering The Marriage Course virtually. It was soon clear that the online format allowed for greater attendance, so they opened the course up to the whole church and their entire community, offering it two nights of the week—with a later start once per week to accommodate those with young children.
For two weeks they promoted the course in their weekly email announcements and included a quick mention at the close of a sermon.
They could never have imagined what happened next…
More than 300 couples from 25 different states, and two provinces, registered to participate in The Marriage Course! Bridgetown Church isn’t the only church to experience high interest in The Marriage Course in 2020 and 2021.
HIStory Church in Southern Florida saw how the tools offered through the course were right for this cultural moment. Couples were under stress and better communication and conflict resolution skills were needed. They ran The Marriage Course as a tool for outreach to plant a church that today is healthy and growing. Since the first course, they have offered several in-person courses in the past few years and integrate different themes and menu items for each night with Salsa night being by far the most popular!
The global pandemic, current societal tensions, and uncertainty about the future have taken a toll on marriages across the country. Couples that thought they had a strong and stable relationship have come face-to-face with the cracks in their foundation. Couples who rarely fight are fighting. Couples who normally agree find themselves at odds with each other. The corporate stress of the last two years is throwing our closest relationships into turmoil, and we’re desperate for a way through the wreckage.
The Marriage Course is a lifeline in that storm.
It offers couples something different than a couples’ Bible study. Rather, it gives them seven dates that provide foundational insight into what it means to love one another well. One of the distinctives of the course is there is no group sharing. All conversations happen only between the couple.
If the course is offered in person, the host team provides a simple but nice meal and creates a date night environment with romantic tables for two assembled in the room. If online, the meal is not an option, but some churches provide a small basket for each couple at the start of the course, with chocolates, or a candle, and two guest study journals. After a short greeting, the video begins and is paced in such a way that there are times for teaching and then multiple breaks where the couples use the prompts and their journals to dig into the topic for the week. It’s an intimate time. A time for connection. A time for listening and being heard.
“We are running The Marriage Course for the second time and have already seen amazing fruit from it! We’re so grateful for how it has championed nearly 200 marriages in our church, since launching it in Fall 2020. One couple who completed the course Fall 2021 sent us this feedback ‘When we started the course, we had just started marriage therapy to help us talk through some issues. We both found The Marriage Course incredibly helpful.”
— Alisha, The Marriage Course Leader
Session topics include: Strengthening Connection, The Art of Communication, Resolving Conflict, The Power of Forgiveness, and more. Through the videos, participants hear from couples who face the same struggles and challenges they do. They learn tools that help them to strengthen their marriage and can put those tools into practice throughout each session.
Though many couples find they need a little extra support right now, The Marriage Course is also a wonderful resource and investment for couples whose marriage is already healthy and happy. It’s designed for any couple who wants to strengthen their relationship.
These resources are not just for English speakers!
All the resources are available in more than 20 languages. St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Coppel, Texas, has run The Marriage Course in both English and Spanish for the past two years. They find that couples are more likely to accept an invitation to The Marriage Course than to Alpha, especially if they are not church attenders or if one person has a stronger faith life. Many of their participants have gone on to try Alpha in either English or Spanish and have gotten involved in one of their Connect groups. If Alpha is considered the front porch of the church, The Marriage Course can be thought of as the front steps to the porch.
Brad, director of The Marriage Course at St. Ann’s, commented, “We were surprised at how easy it is to facilitate The Marriage Course on Zoom. It takes very little effort from our team, but the couples get so much out of it. It is a truly a win-win.”
If you are interested in learning more about The Marriage Course and how it can serve couples in your congregation or as an outreach to those in your community, we would love to help. Learn more about The Marriage Course and our upcoming trainings here.