How Does the Program Work?
Mentor couples attend a fun, 3-hour training workshop. In this engaging atmosphere mentors actually “test drive” a part of the mentor program.
After the mentor training workshop, the mentoring committee matches mentor and mentee couples. The couples meet monthly for one year as they develop a friendship over guided conversations about marriage. They meet in a relaxed atmosphere of their choosing, perhaps enjoying snacks, a meal, or dessert together. They discuss a topic about marriage with the corresponding list of suggested questions from the mentoring conversations guide.
Why Use Stories and Experiences to Mentor Marriages?
Stories and conversations are an ideal “teacher.” Whenever we hear a speaker, it is the examples and stories that are shared that stick with us, even years later. These conversations tap into the power of lives shared together – a great resource of wisdom about marriage.
In this mentoring program, both couples share their stories. Mentors are reminded of their earlier years of marriage. Mentees get to see real examples of couples growing their love. These stories surface marriage strengths, joys, successes, differences, challenges, and problem-solving skills. It is practical support to couples as they face new stages in married life.
Why not just leave this to counselors?
If you are upstream in shallow waters it is relatively easy and enjoyable to cross a creek. If you wait to navigate the water downstream the river may be swift and deep. Mentoring helps couples upstream avoid problems and nurture healthy marriage habits. Older couples who have good marriages can be a great resource for providing this care to younger couples.
We often find ourselves in a reactive position. We hear of couples in crisis after they have visited the counselor or the attorney. We need to be proactive helping couples grow and keep a strong marriage. We do need professional counselors helping couples who are downstream in crisis. Better still, we need many marriage mentors upstream to help people from falling into the river of poor marriage habits.
How is this different from other mentoring programs?
There are four levels of Marriage Education/Mentoring. On the following slide you will notice high structure programs at the top and low structure programs at the bottom. Those with higher structure require more education and training in use of their program content whereas the more relational personal experience based programs rely more on role models and friendship with the couples. There is a place for all of these programs in the “Marriage Movement” as exemplified by the Smart Marriages organization and the Association for Marriage and Family Ministries.
At Marriage Mentoring: 12 Conversations we have found that our program is a great beginning point for a marriage strengthening effort because it is a social event, sharing food and stories. One potential mentor wife responded, “You mean, my husband does not have to read a marriage book, just show up, eat, and tell stories? Count us in, that sounds like fun. He will do this with me!”
It also serves as a great follow on to a marriage class or workshop as it keeps couples talking about and applying what they have learned month after month.
Marriage Mentoring: 12 Conversations is a primary care approach to foster the growth of couples, not the “repair” or “counseling” of couples. It is intended to be a nurturing model for marital health and the prevention of troubled marriages. A story-telling model of mentoring is less intimidating for all couples involved. Potential mentor couples are more easily recruited to be mentors when their task is to share their own stories rather than assess mentees and provide resources.
What is mentoring and what qualifies you to be a mentor in the Twelve Conversations program?
Marriage mentoring is a supportive friendship, the power of a shared life and journey. Mentoring is not meant to be counseling, taking sides, fixing couples, or parenting couples
To be qualified as mentors, you need to have a successful marriage at your stage in life, be willing to share stories in an encouraging way, and be comfortable in discussing mentor conversation topics with your spouse. Mentor couples do not have to be educated marriage counselors or have the “perfect” marriage. You simply need to be willing and able to share in loving and caring ways the stories of your married life. . .
And by the way, enjoying good food over conversation is a great idea of how to spend an evening. . .