Stemming the tide on divorce: The role of churches

Five constructive ideas

Does marriage matter? Isn’t it a private issue concerning two people? No. I would argue that every divorce is the destruction of a small civilisation, writes Mike McManus in Ucanews. Here he offers some constructive ways to stem the tide.

More than half of America’s marriages are failing — 1.2 million ended in divorce in 2011, 56% of the nation’s 2.12 million marriages that year. In Metro Washington, where I live, there were 15,800 divorces compared to only 24,600 marriages, for a divorce rate of nearly two-thirds.

Does marriage matter? Isn’t it a private issue concerning two people? No. I’d argue that every divorce is the destruction of a small civilisation.

Young people feel its effects most keenly. Children of divorce are three times as likely to be expelled from school or have a baby out-of-wedlock as those with married parents. Divorce comes with an economic price tag, too: each one cost taxpayers $AUD 21,500 in 2004, according to the Heritage Foundation.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. I believe any city’s divorce rate could be slashed. How? Two-thirds of Americans are members of a house of worship, any of which could take five steps to save marriages and prevent divorce:

1. Preparation:

In the 1990s, my wife and I trained couples in our Bethesda, Maryland church who had been married 15-30 years to be 'mentor couples' to help prepare younger couples for marriage. They administered a 'premarital inventory,' which asked engaged couples to respond to 150 statements such as:

  • Sometimes I wish my partner were more careful about spending money.
  • When we are having a problem, my partner often refuses to talk about it.

Mentor couples met for six sessions with 288 couples over a decade. Of the mentored couples, 58 decided not to marry. Studies report that couples who break an engagement after taking an inventory have the same scores as those who marry and later divorce. Thus, one fifth of them avoided a bad marriage before it began. But of the 230 who did marry, we know of only 16 divorces. That’s a 93 percent success rate over two decades.

2.Enrichment:

All marriages run down over time. David and Claudia Arp of Great Falls, Virginia created a solution they call 10 Great Dates. Couples come to church for 10 Friday nights and watch a brief DVD segment on such issues as resolving honest conflict or becoming an encourager. Afterward, they go on a date to discuss that theme in their marriage. It’s fun, easy, and effective — a great date.

FULL STORY What can churches do to help stem divorces? (Ucanews)

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