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How To Plan A Christian Marriage Retreat For Couples
This last May I celebrated my 29th Wedding Anniversary. We both managed to arrange to slip away for a one week trip to do our own marriage retreat this Spring. Looking back these 3 decades I praise God for the mentors and people in our life that poured into us while we were in dating and later after we married. I still remember Ike Dyck our marriage counselor from southern Manitoba telling me about the “7 needs of a Wife”, and his wife Tina explaining to my fiances the “7 needs of a Husband”. I kept that list hidden away in my workshop for years and referred to it often. Those sessions were priceless and I can still recall items from that list today.
Fast forward to today, and the 7 needs of a wife and husband have not changed. People still need those list and the explanations that go with it. As believers, we need to continue to strengthen marriages new or old in our local church community. One great way to do that in mass is yearly marriage retreats.
Find speakers and counselors like Ike and Tina to lead couples through biblically-based lessons to enrich and deepen relationships. If you don’t have resident experts on the subject, don’t despair, there are great video courses available and you become a facilitator. If you don’t already have a video course in mind, I suggest purchasing a video course from Mark Gungor, famous for his “Laugh your way to a better marriage” series.
What’s a Church Marriage Retreat?
It’s a special time for spouses to get away “from it all” and invest in each other in a relational, romantic, and spiritual way. Couples that retreat together, progress together. Strengthen your marriage or the marriages in your church by hosting a Marriage Retreat or Conference. If you are interested in organizing a Christian marriage retreat, you will need to get a bit organized. Working through the process in a methodical step-by-step basis.
Organizing any event requires a lot of work, but if you break it down into small manageable pieces. Give yourself enough time it can be a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. Your Christian marriage will change the views and opinions of themselves and their spouses and bring much-needed life into the marriages that attend. Great marriages and families glorify God and bring life into every sphere of influence they are involved in.
In order to plan a successful retreat, you will have to think about scheduling enrichment workshops, fun activities, and providing couples with excellent materials. Here are some guidelines to follow along with planning your Christian marriage retreat.
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You want to host your retreat in an exciting and peaceful location. Pick something no farther than a couple hours drive. Its generally a weekend event, so you don’t want to be driving for 3 hours one way just for the weekend. Wilderness setting by water is nice. Try to find a place with trails so that couples have a place to walk and talk privately away from the retreat center. If your booking in winter, find a place with lots of public space so that everyone has a chance for private conversation. Regardless of where you host your retreat, keep in mind that it should be a place where everyone gets there own guest room with private bathroom, and preferably the walls not paper thin.
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Speakers or Facilitators
The first thing you want to do when it comes to seeking a speaker or facilitator for your retreat is to make sure the person (preferably a couple) has a proven track record with their own marriage. If you are using videos and pre-written materials just make sure the facilitator has already read and watched all the materials ahead of time. Find course materials that agree with the teachings of Jesus, things that center on forgiveness, restoration, and unconditional love. Danny Silk as some great materials you might want to check out. Make sure to keep the meeting interesting by moving it along from topic to topic. Create an agenda and stick to it. You may want to add things like icebreakers, Chinese auctions, or talent show night into your weekend to keep things light and fun.
You don’t have to offer music at your retreat, but it can add a lot of class. Consider adding music to your meal times or incorporate worship at the start of each session. In between the speakers and workshops or in the evenings you can have a musician. Put on a show or play soft romantic melodies. Praise and worship is always a good idea.
Babies and Childcare
Due to the nature of the retreat, there generally won’t be accommodations for babies or children. If you’re nursing maybe plan to attend at a later date so that you’re able to receive the full benefits of the course.
Common Marriage Retreat Themes
A marriage retreat ought to have topics that will help couples to grow in their relationship with God and each other. Here are a few ideas for marriage retreat themes that you can cover at your marriage retreat.
Many couples have a hard time communicating. In fact, lack of communication in a marriage leads to many arguments and wrong feelings. A great set of topics to follow are:
- Personally, I forgive you for your past mistakes
- Willfully I choose to move towards you, even though I feel we are disconnected
- Moving forward I take responsibility for how I treat you
Fear brings out the very worst in human nature. When we show our spouse our worst, they have a tendency to dish it back. We end up reacting out of fear and blame others instead of taking personal responsibilities. When we defend our choice of blaming others instead of taking responsibility it causes the other to become the “bad person” in our books. This type of dynamic is destructive. Instead of moving in fear, we much move in love. When we take responsibility and show our best, it shifts things into the positive, into love. Once you have the fear/love thing sorted out you will find that finances, romance, chores and child-rearing start to have solutions that are within reach!
After resolving conflict a good place to move forward is how to rekindle the passion within marriage. You can have workshops focused on love languages and a great book to have the men read is Sex begins in the Kitchen while the Women can be provided the book Sheet Music.
Furnishing a morning or afternoon session on personality types. Understand the differences within personalities can be incredibly life changing for a marriage. Understanding why your spouse thinks and acts can change the entire dynamic of a marriage for the better. Try a course like DISC so that couples can discover their type and see how it relates to their spouses’ type. Show how two opposite personality types can live in harmony without a judgment against the other.
- Both spouses must attend the retreat. Spiritual and emotional wholeness is extremely important for the healing and growth of all marriages.
- Couples are encouraged to be members of a church, however, all couples of any background are welcome to come.
Whatever your Marriage Retreat theme keep Agape at the center
The World knows love, but that kind of love is conditionally based and translated from the Greek word Philia. Philia love works as long as there is no offense, but it runs very thin when one party crosses a line. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5:47 “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
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On the other hand, Agape love returns good for evil, and in the case of offense in a marriage, those that know Agape return good instead of evil. That does not mean we continue to trust the other in the same way, because trust is earned, but rather it means we still cheer them on, believe the best about them and provide a relationship filled with peace and rest.
As you move forward in your planning of a marriage retreat keep God’s Agape at the center of it all.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW
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