Marriage Strengthening Curriculum
The world passes by way of the family, and it is obvious that our world is disintegrating at the same rate as our families. Family life is under attack by our culture and is increasingly bombarded by negative and damaging messages and images. Strong families are also the cornerstone to the strength of the Catholic communities and message in our world today. We need to see the importance of strengthening marriages, in the community around us, for the sake of our next generation.
The Discovering Our Deepest Desire (D.O.D.D.) curriculum is not just about strengthening marriages, but it is also about building Marriage Education mentors in our church that provide marriage support and encouragement to those in need.The DODD curriculum, in conjunction with the Believe in Marriage ministry, seeks to encourage ongoing support versus a “flash-in-the-pan” approach. The title of the D.O.D.D. curriculum comes from St. Augustine who said, “The deepest desire of every human heart is to be seen and to see another in this same way.” This golden thread that runs throughout the program is the impetus that drives home the importance of strengthening our marital commitment to our spouse. The curriculum is filled with quotes from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with fun and interactive activities. In the true Socratic form, it has questions throughout that are utilized to engage the participants and to get them actively thinking about the topics presented. Every session has homework meant to keep the couples working together in between each class and long after the curriculum has ended. The curriculum is not only designed to strengthen marriages but to also encourage participants to become mentors for others after the curriculum is completed.
Too many people wait too long to get help for their marriage, out of fear of what it will look like to others. Often, couple’s wait until their marriage is in extreme crises or at the end-of-the-rope before finally seeking help; and often, at this point, it is too late. The D.O.D.D. concept is built upon creating ongoing support for couples and for reducing the stigma of marriage education being only for those in trouble. Rather, it should be readily available in our churches in order to help couples grow in and work at their marriage, ongoing, with the support of their faith community.
GETTING IT STARTED IN YOUR CHURCH:
In order to set up marriage support in your church, it is vital that you first have support from the church leaders and their willingness to start broaching the subject to their congregation. It is important to help families and couples see the value of building time, into their weeks and months, for strengthening their marriage, for the sake of their kids and families. To start this process, churches are encouraged to do any or all of the following:
- Preach about it from the pulpit.
- Distribute flyers about marriage improvement tips.
- Have marriage be part of the topics covered in bible studies.
- Create a marriage event at your church with fun activities and talks on healthy marriage topics.
It is also important to use these avenues as a starting point for introducing the idea of starting a marriage enrichment program (or “date night”, if that entices people more) at your church and to recruit a team that can get it off the ground. From there, you want to get staff trained in the D.O.D.D. curriculum that can facilitate the program or run the first set of classes using the DVD series and having a designated facilitating couple. You will also want to make sure that you put ample effort into promoting and advertising it.
It is important to note that the D.O.D.D. curriculum is designed not only to build up individual relationships, but also to recruit future team members from the classes that will not only set up the classes but also teach the information. There are 3 aspects to running an effective program at your church that should be addressed. These aspects include a couple (or a team) that is willing to:
2) Work on the logistics of the classes (food, place, advertising, hospitality)
3) Set up and run babysitting (or children’s programming) for those in need
When you set up your team, it is recommended that you create three teams within it to address these different areas. We also recommend that these teams rotate duties on a scheduled basis to avoid burnout and to pull from all of the talents you have. Recruitment should be a part of every class you run so as to bring in new teaching couples as you lose ones who need to take a break. It is also important that you interview your potential teaching couples and be selective in choosing the right couples to work on this effort and to work in areas in which they are qualified.
The D.O.D.D. curriculum can be a huge commitment to some since it is a 12 session program. However, I have learned over my many years of teaching marriage curriculum’s (some even being up to 18 sessions long) many people who were leery about the time commitment, at first, often were the ones asking for more when the program was over. To make it more enticing to couples, it can be broken up into “Units” and presented over time. Some people may be more willing to commit to 4 weeks at a time, and then can decide, at the end of each unit, to go onto the next 2 units, or to stop. However, the D.O.D.D. curriculum builds upon itself and all new couples should start with Unit 1 (Sessions 1-4) first, and then move onto units 2 and 3 in succession.
A second way to make this more enticing to those who have kids, is to make it more of a family formation time each week. Along with babysitting for the smaller kids, you could team up with your parish Youth Minister (or have a couple from your team do this if your church does not have a Youth Minister) and have a teen program that focuses on building healthy relationships (i.e. Go for the Gold www.trustmarriage.com). Also think about programming for the 7 – 12 year old children that focuses on building healthy friendships. By making the time about family formation, there is a better chance of getting more couples to attend your marriage enrichment classes.