On the encouraging side, over the last few days we have heard from three couples, who did the course with us - and the hugely positive difference it has made to their lives. On Saturday we met with loads of other folks around Scotland involved with Marriage Courses, in Edinburgh. One of the people speaking about setting up the course in his own church, was doing so because of the effect it had on his marriage. The privacy that couples are given on the course is so well enforced that we had no idea that they were struggling with difficult issues - or that they had learnt to manage them successfully using the tools taught on the course. We've recently been made aware of - or directly told of, a whole group of really great stories of couples who have been so helped by doing the marriage course. The stories are wonderful - but not available for public broadcast! We are however newly aware that there are loads of people who have needed (like us) to learn practical stuff about communication, time management, conflict resolution etc. and newly aware of how effective the marriage course format has been in helping them that we are really keen to offer the course again.
Why then the discouragement? Simply this - it's proving very difficult to encourage more couples to come and join us for a course, especially within our own church. Most of our advertising has been within the fellowship, yet increasingly the only people who will come do so from outside, where word of mouth has been a better advert.
I am unsure as to the reasons for the reluctance of so many people. I could speculate that the reasons include a 'marriage counselling' stigma wrongly attached to the course, suggesting failure rather than initiating investment in marriage. I also think that the absence of some of the cool opinion formers and associated ill-informed commentary has done damage. Most serious though I think have been our failures in promotion, making the course understood, accessible and welcoming; and perhaps most significantly our failure to build a team to own and run the thing with us.
Either way - this week is a tangled and curious mixture of encouragement and discouragement, when we have been made aware perhaps more than ever of the good that's been done; yet disappointed at the lack of response to our invitations. It makes for a strange week!