NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Seventy-five couples took intentional steps to keep the sparks in their relationships alive during a Festival of Marriage in Nashville, Tenn., one of several slated throughout the country.
David and Claudia Arp, founders of Marriage Alive International and authors of several marriage resources including “Ten Great Dates,” were the keynote speakers for the FOM weekend sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Arps emphasized three things they hoped couples would take from the Festival of Marriage:
— A great friendship is the best indicator of a marriage’s probable success -– and dating and having fun with your spouse keeps the friendship fresh. Remember that dating is an attitude, the Arps said, and it can be anything a couple does together that they both enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily require spending money.
— Stay connected by good communication skills. Spouses will get angry with each other, the Arps said, noting that there is no other relationship more likely to produce anger because marriage is the most intimate earthly relationship. The Arps advised couples to find a positive way to process anger, talk about it and deal with it. It is equally important to communicate the good facets of marriage, they added.
— Make marriage intentional by setting goals you want to see God accomplish in your relationship. Be reasonable, realistic and clear when you set goals and set specific steps to reach the goals, they said.
Gary and Kristin Nunn led some of the breakout sessions during the festival. Gary, discipleship pastor at Northbrook Baptist Church in Cullman, Ala., and Kristin, a public school teacher, are in their second year of serving as conference leaders.
“These conferences are such a good way for couples to have some time to reconnect and focus on each other and their relationship,” Gary Nunn said. “They are a ‘jumping off’ point for couples to go back to their local churches and suggest to their church staffs that they make marriage a priority.”
The local church is only going to be as successful as its families, Nunn said, and families are only as successful as marriages. “Saving marriages is crucial to saving churches,” he noted.
“It’s to a church’s benefit to do what it can to help support couples as they navigate the waters of marriage,” Nunn said. “Churches can sponsor their own marriage conferences, bringing in outside speakers and leaders. They can host ‘date nights’ for couples, offering no-cost or low-cost child care at the church. They can supplement the expenses of couples that attend an event such as this Festival of Marriage.”
First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Ky., reflecting its intent to keep marriages healthy, supplemented the cost for 11 couples from the congregation to attend the May 2-4 Festival of Marriage. Group leaders Tom and Elizabeth Rhodes said while the group had a lot of fun and enjoyed the trip, the conference was more than just a good time away from the busyness of home.
“These couples were given a lot of tools they can use to make their marriages more Christ-centered,” Tom Rhodes said. “Several of them didn’t know each other very well so they were able to develop some closer friendships with other Christian couples as well as having some time to spend together as a couple.”
Elizabeth Rhodes said the church has a fund “to offer financial helps to groups that want to attend conferences and events. There’s no better investment we can make.”
LifeWay marriage event coordinator Mark Satterfield said the Festivals of Marriage allow couples “to retreat to a place where they can focus on each other, their marriage and their relationship to God. Each of our FOM weekends offers a time for them to get away from jobs, kids and the daily grind so they can concentrate on their marriage.”
The festivals are held in locations around the country. Some, like the Nashville gathering, are smaller, while others, such as the one at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, are much larger.
“We want to offer a variety of sizes and locales so that we will meet the comfort level of all our participants,” Satterfield said.
LifeWay will host six more Festival of Marriage weekends in October and November in New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri and Maryland.
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources. For more information, visit www.lifeway.com/marriage.