Tony and I have been fortunate to have incredible, life-giving, challenging, and encouraging community surrounding us since before we got married. When we were dating, we found a church that both of us, with our different perspectives and vastly different upbringings, could attend together without having to check our brains and personalities at the door. It has been through our experiences in this church that we’ve met some of our very best friends and learned the value of having honest conversations and living transparent lives.
One of the ways we’ve been able to have and listen to these honest conversations has been by being a part of small groups. We shared about about our small group from last fall in our post, “We Do It In Groups,” where we read and discussed John Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. Over the years, we’ve read and used lots of great material that have spurred insightful group conversations, and we’ve learned some great tips and tools for our own marriage. It is actually from the work we’ve done and the fun we’ve had in these groups that we get a lot of the ideas for the topics we write about here at #staymarried.
Several months ago I was approached by a woman, Heidi, at our church. She told me that she and her husband, Jesse, had been following the #staymarried blog and had decided to start their own small group of other married couples and use the blog as their discussion topics. I was both humbled and thrilled! I’d never considered this blog could be used that way. I’ve since found out about a handful of other groups that do the same sort of thing. I’ll be honest, it’s intimidating. It’s one thing for me to imagine someone reading what Tony and I put together on their own, digesting it, and discussing it with their spouse. It’s something else entirely to imagine a group of people talking about something Tony and I have written – YIKES! But, in spite of my insecurities about how helpful this blog is or isn’t, I can’t deny the power of processing these ideas in a group setting. There is something meaningful that happens when you hear how someone else interpreted something you both read and what resonated with them. Groups are a great place to find out that you are not alone in your struggles, big or small.
So, Heidi and Jesse had this idea and they kicked it off with couples they already knew. They agreed to meet every other week and to share the responsibility of hosting. Each time they meet, a different couple hosts the group, and it’s the host couple that chooses which #staymarried blog post to discuss. They have also used other material from books and other sites, as well as taken some weeks just to go out and have a good time together. They are committed to each other and certainly committed to stay married, which I got to witness firsthand when they invited me to drop in on one of their group meetings a couple of weeks ago.
I was both nervous and excited to check out their group. So nervous, actually, that I typed the wrong address in Google Maps, got lost, and arrived 45 minutes late! I was sweaty and disheveled when I finally got there, and as I walked in, of course they were already sitting around a living room where they had saved one empty chair just for me! I looked around at this room full of gorgeous faces I’d really only ever seen in passing and each one of them was holding a printed out copy of MY BLOG! I could not have been more embarrassed.
Still, they were kind and gracious, offered me a drink, and told me they really had only just gotten started with their discussion. The hosts, Steven and Bethany, had chosen the post “7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver,” and I got to sit back and listen to them share their own stories. Every single one of them had a story about someone they had been hurt by in their past. Some of their stories were in the distant past, some were more recent. Some of them shared about the little everyday hurts they were experiencing in their marriage and how hard it was to accept an apology sometimes. Some shared about how they want to forgive, but they just aren’t there yet. They shared about how watching their own parents argue, apologize, and ask for forgiveness has affected the way they themselves approach conflicts in their own marriages. As they poured their hearts out to one another, and joked with one another, and really listened to each other, my eyes were opened to what an incredible thing it is that they have created. This is real community. It had so much less to do with the paper print-outs they were holding, and so much more to do with their willingness to invest in their marriages and in each other.
I left that night inspired. I came home and told Tony all about it and we decided we could do more to encourage others to start groups and discussions the way Jesse and Heidi and their friends have. Whether you want to use the #staymarried blog to have just one meaningful discussion with your friends over a bonfire, or you want to organize your own group to meet regularly, we want to make it as easy as possible for you. Today, we’re introducing a new category of our resources: Resources for Groups!
Go ahead, click on it! The link will take you to our Resources Page, pre-sorted to bring up all of the new material just for groups!
Here are some of the things you’ll find in the For Groups category:
Group Outline – One resource you’ll find is a group outline. It’s just an example, feel free to use it or change it however you like. Whenever Tony and I have led groups before, we always start the first week by passing out one of these to help set the tone for the weeks ahead. It’s kind of like a syllabus for a class, but less formal– it gives everyone a sense of what we hope the group will be like and what kinds of topics we’ll cover week-to-week.
Discussion Questions – We’ve chosen a handful of posts to get started. Some of the posts naturally lend themselves to pre-group work (like taking the 5 Love Languages Assessment) and we’ve included fun homework with others. We are hoping these work well whether you’ve got a women’s group, men’s group, or a group for married and engaged couples.
Other resources – There are authors and groups out there that are much more qualified than Tony and I to help you facilitate a great group. So, we have not limited this section to just #staymarried blog material. We’ve also included resources from people like Les and Leslie Parrot, Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn, and Andy Stanley.
This is a category of the resources section of our site that we will continue to develop, so please let us know what is working and what else you might like to see here. We hope you are able to launch something meaningful with your friends this fall, a place to be real and honest with each other, and encourage each other to #staymarried.
P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read We Do It In Groups and Repair Attempts. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks!