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Marriage Mentoring Initiative

The Marriage Mentoring Initiative is designed to tackle those things that trip up marriages, especially in the early years. Couples often think their issues are unique, and can feel alone in their struggles. Through a series of focused conversations, Marriage Mentoring normalizes those struggles and brings couples into community. The result is revitalized relationships, both for the couples mentoring and those being mentored.

“We found renewed hope for our marriage knowing we weren't alone in our challenges."

- — MENTEE COUPLE

“We have been encouraged by the process of mentoring to realize that our marriage itself is a tool in God’s hands.”

- — MENTOR COUPLE

Our Story

Filling the "Donut Hole"

The FamilyLife Canada Marriage Mentoring Initiative is a response to thirty years of listening. Our work with couples and pastors identified a need to mobilize volunteer mentor couples. We recognized a gap in church marriage ministry; we call it The Donut Hole. Many churches offer both pre­marital counselling and crisis intervention; often, there is little in between. The “in between” is the average couple, who may need someone to discuss their marriage, an occasional tune up or outside perspective.

Background

Neil and Sharol Josephson, National Directors of FamilyLife Canada, were family pastors in a large congregation. For that congregation of 10,000, they developed and implemented a successful marriage mentoring program. Consequently, they brought both their knowledge and experience to the FamilyLife Canada Marriage Mentoring Initiative. Along with Sylvia Thompson, a certified counselor, they developed mentor training and mentoring conversations based on Dr. Edward Gray’s 12 Conversations.

What are the benefits?

  • For churches, Mentor Couples are a rich resource which expand the church’s marriage intervention. The long term benefits of investing in younger couples, strengthens their marriages and ultimately alleviates the pressure on pastors to do all marriage enrichment in the congregation. Stronger couples, become stronger parents and families, which eventually strengthens the overall church community.
  • Pastors no longer carry the entire responsibility of marriage intervention/counseling within the congregation.
  • Personal growth for the mentor couple as they share their marriage story is a further benefit we’ve observed, strengthening the marriages of mentors and mentees alike.

How does it work?

  • Training: Mentor Couples couples receive very effective video training. Both the time (three hours) and cost are minimal.
  • Timeline: The two couples commit to meeting once a month (approximately) for one year, and choose from 14 conversation topics (listed below). Each topic supports a healthy marriage with a conversation guide and a take home project.

14 Conversations

Gratitude

In this light­hearted introductory conversation, you will talk about some of the fun things from the early days of your relationship with your spouse, and share some of the traits that you appreciate in your spouse… and your spouse will do the same for you. Together, you will also identify personality differences between you and your spouse, and consider how those differences may have even strengthened your relationship.

Showing Love

The way that you and your spouse express love has undoubtedly been influenced by the families that you grew up in. You will take some time to talk about that, to think through the five ‘love languages’ (as described by Gary Chapman), and to discuss how you and your spouse express and receive love.

 

Family History and In-law Relationships

When you married your spouse, you also married his/her family… the good, the bad, and the ugly! You and your spouse can each describe what your family was like as you were growing up, and discuss how you each relate to your families of origin and your in­ laws.

Communication

Communication can be a real challenge for a lot of couples, but understanding how you and your spouse are currently communicating and identifying factors that might be affecting your communication can go a long way! You’ll also have a chance to brainstorm ways to improve your communication.

Conflict

Conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing… right? It’s all in how you handle it! Together you will discuss how conflict was handled in your pasts, and how that may be affecting how you each currently handle conflict. You will also identify triggers for disagreements with your spouse, not so that you can push those buttons, but so that you can work towards resolving those disagreements.

Rituals & Habits

Do you and your spouse think much about the patterns you’ve developed together? This is your chance to discuss some of your more significant rituals and habits, what makes you laugh, and the most important 20­minutes of your day. This conversation helps you recognize how all the little things you do regularly impact your relationship and help keep you together.

Money

Saving, spending, giving, paying, investing, managing, burning… There are so many ways to handle money! Put all your cards on the table, and discuss expectations and decisions about money.

 

Pace and Priorities

One of the biggest obstacles to intimacy is the frenetic pace of North American culture. Busyness and its accompanying tiredness rob people of time for joyful, contented interactions. This conversation will encourage you to step back and evaluate your current pace and how it impacts your relationship. It will also encourage you to set or affirm your couple priorities and discover ways of supporting each other’s dreams.

Household Partnership

Making a place into a home takes team work, sacrifice and an ability to notice the right things. During this conversation you will explore how the decisions you have made about your household responsibilities serve you and offer you an opportunity to “tweak” them.

Spirituality

For many couples, growing together spiritually is key to developing intimacy and deeper communication, as well as aligning their values. However, experiencing God ­ or faith ­ in the context of your couple relationship may be new for you. During this very important conversation, you will be able to explore what faith or spirituality mean to each of you, the ways in which you believe you connect best on a spiritual level and how you want faith to be represented in your home and with your children.

Fun and Recreation

If you are like most couples, you were drawn together because of your common interests: you explored the world together, had fun, and shared joy and laughter together. The demands of a busy and stressful life may have resulted in putting some of those carefree relational needs on the back burner. This conversation invites you to explore how to bring laughter back into your lives.

Emotional and Physical Intimacy

Intimacy, both physical and emotional, is one of the greatest gifts of married life. Yet couples can go decades with unmet emotional needs and find their physical intimacy is lacking, too. This conversation will help you talk together about how you can each help the other to feel safe, secure, loved and wanted key feelings that comprise emotional and physical intimacy.

Parenting (Conversation for couples currently raising children)

Marriage allows two people to build an exciting partnership. As they make a home and create safety and security, they help each other achieve their dreams and embark on the joy of parenting. During this conversation, you will have the opportunity to explore how you can continue to grow in your relationship despite the challenges and busyness of a life with children.

Parenting? (Conversation for couples not raising children)

There are many reasons why couples remain childless. This conversation will help you to put words to your circumstances ­ whether they are intentional or not ­ and the challenges you may be facing, and will help you to explore ways of impacting the next generation.

Holidays and Celebrations

This fun and lively conversation will help you share and understand expectations ­ your own and your family’s ­ about holidays, birthdays and celebrations. You will also have the opportunity to decide together about new traditions you want to incorporate and old traditions you may want to change or leave behind.

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