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Premarital counseling with a pastor is commonplace for couples who get married in a church. But at Hillside Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., a marriage mentoring program offers engaged couples additional support in laying the foundation for a strong marriage.

Over 10 years, 200 couples have participated in the mentoring program. They attend six two-hour sessions with a mentor couple, after which a report is sent to the pastor.

“Seasoned couples are sought out to be the mentors,” explained program coordinator Linda DeMaagd. As part of the process, the engaged couple is given an inventory of 180 statements to fill out separately. For each statement, they are asked to indicate whether they agree, disagree, or are undecided. This helps couples discover areas in which they agree or disagree. During the six sessions with mentors, they discuss finances, careers, communications, lifestyle, parenting issues, sex, and covenant relationships. 

“One of the blessings for mentors is that their own intimacy grows as they prepare for each session [with] the mentorees, examining where they have been in their own marriage and [sharing] stories from their past,” DeMaagd said. As older, wiser couples, mentors offer a listening ear in an informal atmosphere. A bond of trust allows mentorees to ask questions and gives mentors the freedom to share how they dealt with differences in their own marriage.

“Marriage mentoring is popular because of the relationship you build together as couples. Having someone walk alongside of you offering ongoing support, encouragement, and holding you up in prayer is a blessing. It is all about building the relationships,” said DeMaagd.

Six months after the engaged couple is married, the church treats them to dinner at a nice restaurant with their mentor couple to see how things are going.

“Refocused” is a follow-up program for couples two to five years after marriage or after a major transition in their lives.

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