For an introductory class, FILSIL, broken into multiple sessions to deal with the inherent breaks within the text is great as an informational class. This will help those who might be doing pretty well to keep going and those who are OK get better.
As I used the book it will not however reach those couples with serious problems without significant follow up work by someone sitting with them face to face and continuing to drill the concepts home with them. This will take a significant time period.
In most churches, like society at large, there are pretty much three groups of married folk. The most likely group to succeed at marriage are those that are proactive in making the marriage grow and improve. These people attend seminars, weekend retreats, read books, do devotionals together and are the most likely to have "date nights" and such to keep the marriage alive and growing in a healthy manner. The percentage of marriages in this group falls between 20 and 25 percent depending on whose numbers you use and where the line at the bottom end of the group gets drawn.
The FILSIL class with some directed questions and such will reach the vast majority of this group. Some may pursue the HNHN/LB/5Steps workbook route and perhaps even get interested in helping other couples. Out of 25 couples or so, you might get 1 or 2 real converts to MB. The good news is that these couples will then model it so that others can learn it.
The next group is the group with between 50 and 60 percent according to most studies. This group is at risk for marital meltdown. The problem is that they don't know it. They live the marriage they believe is the marriage that is supposed to be with independent hobbies and activities, lots of stuff involving the kids, extra hours at work to pay for it etc. Both are bored, somewhat disheartened over the broken expectations of what marriage should have been like and have just settled into a routine that is more or less the melding of the ideas of what marriage should be like based on their experience with the marriages of their parents, at least the way they perceived those marriages to be as they remember from their childhood.
The FILSIL class I teach will help many of these couples. Out of 50 couples, you will get the same number of true converts to doing things differently as in the already proactive group. The thing is, you might also give several people the tools they need for the crisis in their marriage that is impending and just a matter of time before they find out what it is going to be. Most will remain oblivious and still have that crisis at some point.
The final group of 20 - 25 percent of all couples fall into the category of already being in a crisis situation. Either one or both has already had an affair, is currently having one or things have deteriorated to the point that both are living their lives in a state of Withdrawal. Any conflict gets avoided since they have no way to deal with conflict and so nothing ever gets resolved and they are a divorce looking for the trigger. MANY of these couples are in counseling. They meet with the pastor and with a counselor weekly. They get sent to weekend retreats. They
even make a show of being united in some cases when in public, but they are headed for total meltdown at their earliest convenience.
A FILSIL class spread over several weeks will have little to no effect on these couples. Their course will not change based on information alone. What these couples need is an intervention, not an education. This is where someone with real training and skill can make all the difference. As much as us wannabe counselors would love to be able to help, the best thing we can do for these couples is get them to someone that can get all up in their grilles and break the cycle they are in before it is too late. MB still needs to be applied, but this bunch needs a truckload of 2X4s before the first lesson. Old stuff needs dealing with. Resentment needs to be hauled away by the truckload. Years of not just neglect but serious addictions, abuse or totally dysfunctional ways of doing things need to be undone. In many cases in this group, one or both are involved in an affair currently or have had multiple affairs in the past and the BS is aware of those affairs.
So a simple class based on any books is not likely to make much difference. If however, these couples can be turned around, it is where the largest group of converts to a new way of doing things is likely to come from. These folks go on to lead classes, teach others, become involved and proactive not just in helping their own marriages but others as well. Look at all of us here, for example.
An 8 to 12 week class is going to reach very few of these people. It MIGHT turn around 1 in 25 to make other methods of counseling more effective in the long term by giving couples a glimpse of how a marriage *can* work if certain things are used. If these people can get into a program, either counseling by someone that is fully on board with MB or someone adept at breaking cycles of addiction and long term habits that need to change, success can be very high. Those methods need to be intensive "in your face" kinds of things though and so are not your typical setting.
FDI uses Dr Harley's materials in a weekend workshop for these couples by the way. They provide significant follow up and support and seem to have about a 3/4 save rate on these marriages. Many couples in this bunch go on to actively work in other FDI programs including some that now teach those that are being certified to lead the other classes.
Such was the case of the couple that lead our facilitator workshop this past June. They had a divorce hearing that was pending in less than 30 days. Both had affairs, one ongoing at the time and someone at a local church talked them into trying one last thing before letting go of the marriage. After a weekend workshop, the ongoing affair ended, the divorce was postponed and through counseling and some additional education this couple now teaches the teachers of the class designed for the top 75%. They are not involved in the weekend seminars which are led by MA and PHD level folks.
The class Markos mentioned is the one that my wife and I went to training for in June. It is called Dynamic Marriage and uses HNHN, Love Busters and 5 Steps workbooks in a class that consists of 8 sessions. It examines the Love Bank model, helps couples identify ENs and Love Busters, addresses how to develop a strategy to overcome specific Love Busters (all right from Dr Harley's books) and then goes on to examine related ENs as naturally paired in HNHN. (SF/Affection; RC/Conversation; O&H/Physical Attractiveness; FS/DS; FC/Admiration) The final class is amazing to watch as couples recommit to each other, promise to care for each other and often leave hand in hand when 9 weeks earlier some of the people came kicking and screaming into the pre-session.
FDI also has a follow up class that any couple that has taken the DM class can lead. This class lasts 12 weeks and runs 45 minutes to an hour each week. The DM class is sessions of 2 1/2 hours each with one pre-session of an hour or so.
DM also includes significant amounts of scripture and one foundational part is teaching couples to pray together each day. It also uses a set of CDs and an in-house workbook. It is scriptural based enough that nonbelievers feel somewhat uncomfortable in the class. They quickly get over the fear of not fitting in and are allowed to skip answering questions regarding their prayer life together or how various scriptural passages explain or relate to the Love Bank model. I had one such couple in my recent class.
Statistics from before and after surveys for the DM class now include over 70000 couples.
What a simple FILSIL class can do for a church is a couple of things that are quite important going forward. It establishes a leadership group or couple for marriage ministry and it sets in motion enough interest in the MB materials that can turn into significant inertia. It gives people an introduction to the Basic Concepts. Those in that top 25% will benefit. Some of the middle 50% will be helped and others will know where to turn when they have their future meltdowns. The requirements to lead such a class are a desire to help marriages flourish and a good understanding of MB concepts. Teaching methods can be learned. MB methods can be taught. Passion for marriages (not just your own marriage partner) must be there for the program to have success.
If leaders need to be sold on the whole idea, they might be ot of touch with reality. If they are reluctant to let someone not in leadership to lead the ministry, they need another kind of adjustment in thinking. If they have a top-down style of leadership, then only if they have their own marital crisis will they get on board. If they are too wrapped up in formal education, there will likely never be a program established.
Churches need empowering leadership, not just empowered leadership. Leadership is present in any church. What changes is the adjective that describes it. Churches that make leaders grow. Those that are led, whither and die Some grow in numbers at first, but unless people are being trained to do the work of the church, the church isn't fulfilling its primary function. See the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation to see what the eventual outcome for those churches might be.
Good program for church growth over all is Natural Church Development
. The principals are also applicable to marriage ministry and even to marriage itself. The website has an online seminar for free if you want to listen. (13 languages currently available)