Ron and Rochelle are sitting in your office. They can barely look at one another. You are not even sure what they are doing there. You have had several marriage counselling sessions with them already, with little progress to show for it. It breaks your heart to see these two people who once loved one another sniping at one another, hurling accusations, criticism and anger around the room. Every now and then it even lands on you. “Pastor,” they plead, “why can’t you tell us something that will actually help us?!”
Do you ever feel helpless when the people in your church come to you with either chronic marital discord or an acute crisis, such as an affair, abandonment or disclosure of abuse? The average pastor has not trained for this and even if they did, they don’t have sufficient time to spare. Working with relational stresses like these is usually time-consuming, hard work that requires a set of skills beyond that of most pastors.
Referring your hurting couples to a local Christian counsellor is one very good option. If you do not already have one or two trusted referral options in your community, Focus on the Family Canada has a referral list of screened, approved Christian counsellors across Canada that we can suggest to you if you would like help finding someone near you. Call 1.800.661.9800 and ask for the Care Associate or email [email protected] for more information.
However, we would also like to let you know about a new option we are currently working on bringing to Canada in order to better help you with those in your church whose marriages are in distress.
Hope Restored is a marriage intensive counselling program that originated in Branson, Missouri. Now partnered with Focus on the Family, Hope Restored intensives offer marriage counselling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce. Hope Restored intensives are all-inclusive, extended periods of counselling over multiple days that allow our team of marriage counsellors to get to the root of the problem. A Hope Restored intensive includes 20 to 32 hours of counselling over three to five days, with three to five nights of lodging, including breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
Couples who participate in these events report an overwhelmingly positive response. In 2014, of those who attended these retreats:
- 99.3% said they would recommend this to a friend in similar need
- 97.4% said it had made a difference for them personally
- 92% said they believed it would make a difference for their marriage
- 95.2 % said the program exceeded their expectations
- 93.3% said they are hopeful about achieving a satisfying marriage
Focus on the Family Canada is working hard to bring these programs to our Canadian retreat centres near Calgary, AB, and Winnipeg, MB. We have begun hiring staff and training them in this model. Our projection is to begin offering intensives in the fall of 2017. We will be looking for opportunities over the next year to get the word out about these programs, so be on the lookout for some informational events we will be arranging for pastors and leaders to further acquaint you with our new program offerings. In the meantime, if you are curious about what the program entails, we recommend the book, The DNA of Relationships for Couples, which tells, in story form, what it is like for a group of couples to experience an intensive. It is a great read – quick, easy and insightful!
It is our goal that an initiative such as this, which over time will also offer marriage enrichment and educational opportunities, can be a support to you as you serve families with struggling marriages in your communities. We say this often, but it bears repeating: “Strong families help build strong churches.” Unfortunately, we all know that families that are struggling relationally sap your energy and have a hard time shining their lights for God in the community. We look forward to the opportunity we believe God is leading us towards to bring even better tools to you and to the families you serve.
If you know of a couple who might benefit from an experience such as this, stay tuned to the Focus on the Family Canada website for more details. Or you can call the counselling department at 1.800.661.9800 and ask for the Care Associate for more information.
Wendy Kittlitz is the vice-president of counselling and care ministries and executive director of Kerith Retreats at Focus on the Family Canada.
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