5 Tips for Leading A Marriage Small Group
Have Impact With a Marriage Bible Study
My wife and I just finished leading our second marriage small group this year. At the last meeting one of the couples turned to us with a sincere expression and said, “Thank you so much. This has been great and it’s helping.”
That same couple had been very discouraged just a few weeks before. Was everything in their marriage perfect? Of course not. But, they had made significant progress in rebuilding their relationship.
This same comment was echoed by other couples in the group.
You can have an impact on people’s lives and a small group is a great way to do it.
Here are 5 tips on leading a marriage small group.
Tip 1: Promote it Right
I’ve written on this in the past. You might want to check out my post on 5 Tips to Promote Your Marriage Education.
For convenience here’s those tips:
- Aim the Content at Couples in Distress
- Don’t Call it Marriage Mentoring
- Put a Session Limit on It
- Get the Men
- Pastors, Refer Couples
Tip 2: Emphasize Safety
One of the first things that we do is ask the group to keep what is shared confidential. In fact, we require that they commit to this. I’ll usually go around the group and look for an assent.
We spend a lot of time emphasizing safety. We want the group to be a safe place. We’ll talk about how valuable it is to have a place to talk about your struggles. Talking about marriage issues in an honest way is a rare thing. Where else can you do this?
This means that, as leaders, we need to be safe people.
What type of reactions would you like someone to have if you are going to share something?
We model acceptance. We listen and validate. We honor their thoughts and feelings.
When we hear someone confess to a big sin we say, “Thanks for being open.”
We don’t judge. We don’t demand they change. They need to decide to change for themselves.
Tip 3: Explain It’s OK to Struggle
This is a big point that I’ll explain to the group. Most marriages go through a challenging time. It’s just a fact.
Many, many couples are struggling.
There’s nothing to be ashamed about. Many people are embarrassed, ashamed or feel that they are failing.
We want people to be real and get healed. We can more easily heal when we are honest about it.
Tip 4: Admit Different Couples are In Different Spots
One of the toughest groups to lead is a mixed group. This is a group where couples come with different levels of marriage satisfaction.
I think about one group that we led. A small group that had already been meeting as a bible study for a while asked us to come in and lead the group using our online material. It was made up of a mixture of pre-married couples, newly married couples and couples that had been married for up to seven years.
This was a tough group. The pre-married and newly married couples were very optimistic. I suspect that there was a couple there that was really struggling, but they never opened up.
Three types of couples:
- Date night couples – Some couples are there because it’s like a date night. They are investing in their relationship. They are being proactive.
- Couples with rising problems – Some couples come because they know that they have issues. Correction, it may be that one person thinks that they have issues. The couple may not agree that there are problems.
- Last chance couples – Some couples come because this is the last chance before a divorce. One of them may have already decided they want a divorce and coming to a class is a way to prove to someone else that they tried. We have had couples that have already hired lawyers and have already negotiated their divorce.
After that poor experience with the mixed group, I changed my approach. When I know that there are couples with different levels of marriage satisfaction, I acknowledge it. I explain the three types of couples that we’ve met.
I’ll say that I don’t know where this group is at, but I want everyone to find value in the course, I am particularly interested in those that are struggling. My experience is that the happy couples can make the struggling couples stay quiet. Even happy couples run into problems. I aim most of our questions to helping people with the tough stuff.
I want people to be real.
Tip 5: Leverage the Couple Insight Reports
If you are using our online material, you will receive a couple report for each of the sessions. The customized insight in the report allows us to focus the discussion on the areas of greatest need.
We NEVER reveal a couple’s answers to the group. That wouldn’t be creating a safe environment. We leave it up to the couple to decide what to share.
We do use the couple insight reports to plan what questions that we want to ask. If we find that most of the couples are struggling in a certain area, we will spend a great deal of time asking questions and generating discussion about those concepts.
We follow the questions in the report and use those as a guide. We also suggest that the couples talk through the questions on their own.
We’ve had many couples report back that the questions created great discussions at home.
5 Tips for Marriage Mentors:
- Promote it Right
- Emphasize Safety
- Explain that It’s OK to Struggle
- Admit Different Couples Are in Different Spots
- Leverage the Couple Insight Reports
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