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Two Churches

Two Churches

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Two Churches

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    Slide 1:Two Churches, One Marriage

    Lee Williams, PhD University of San Diego

    Slide 2:Introduction

    Program reflects my professional background: Educator - family therapy training program Researcher - marriage preparation and interchurch couples Clinician - working primarily with couples

    Slide 3:The Basics - Why

    A large percentage of couples getting married are interchurch (40% or more) Couples from different religious backgrounds are at higher risk for divorce. Interchurch couples as a rule have received little attention despite their numbers and higher risk.

    Slide 4:The Basics - Who

    Program targets interchurch couples Interfaith couples may also benefit Same-church couples with religious differences may also benefit Engaged and newly married couples will likely benefit most

    Slide 5:The Basics - What

    The program covers the rewards and challenges of being in an interchurch relationship, as well as strategies for dealing with the challenges. The program is divided into eight units that focus on issues that interchurch often face

    Slide 6:The Basics - What

    Communication skills Problem-solving skills Managing religious differences Exploring values around marriage Building a religious & spiritual bond Changing religious affiliation Religious upbringing of children Finding support and acceptance

    Slide 7:The Basics - What

    Each unit is built around the IDEA model: Introduction Discovery Education Application Program philosophy Process oriented Each couple must find their own solutions

    Slide 8:The Basics - How

    The program is available in two formats: Free, web-based program (www.sandiego.edu/interchurch) Teach-out-of-the-box version suitable for group workshop

    Slide 9:The Basics - How

    Recruiting couples Marriage preparation events (e.g., Pre Cana) Referrals through churches Marriage education websites Eligibility Interfaith? Distressed couples?

    Slide 10:The Basics - How

    Flexible format since each unit is self-contained Sequence is flexible, although it is recommended to begin with communication and problem-solving units Overall length approximately 4 hours

    Slide 11:Communication Skills Unit

    Communication skills can facilitate an exploration of issues that interchurch couples may face. Discovery - Individuals take an inventory to assess their relationship communication skills: Ability to share thoughts and feelings? Individuals misinterpret each other? Ability to share vulnerable emotions? Ability to listen? Feel attacked?

    Slide 12:Communication: Speaker Skills

    Use I statements Focus on behavior rather than character when complaining Share deeper (vulnerable) emotions

    Slide 13:Communication: Listening Skills

    Listen - be curious Use active listening skills to confirm understanding: Tape recorder method Paraphrasing method Empathic method

    Slide 14:Communication: Listening Skills

    Look for cues the speaker does not feel understood Dont confuse active listening with agreement Let partner know you are listening Assume a neutral or positive intent

    Slide 15:Communication: Conflict

    Recognize when flooding occurs Fight/fight pattern Flight/flight pattern Fight/flight pattern Take a time out when flooding occurs Slow down and use skills when addressing conflict

    Slide 16:Communication: Application

    Exercise One - Practice communication skills while discussing an issue Exercise Two - Identify couple pattern around flooding Exercise Three - Negotiate how to take a time out

    Slide 17:Problem-Solving Skills Unit

    Problem-solving skills can help couples resolve the issues (religious or otherwise) that may arise. Discovery - Couples take an inventory to assess their problem-solving skills: Mutual understanding of what is important to each Couples ability to come up with creative solutions Couples ability to compromise Couples ability to carry through on decisions made by the couple

    Slide 18:Step One - Define the Problem

    Need to specify what is the problem Need to decide how narrowly or broadly to define what is the problem

    Slide 19:Step Two - Identify the Underlying Needs

    Couples can have conflict over what is the best solution to the problem Identifying underlying needs can help the couple get unstuck Identifying needs may make it easier to find common ground and alternative solutions

    Slide 20:Step Three - Brainstorming

    Identify as many solutions as possible Be creative - think outside the box Dont critique ideas yet Dont stop brainstorming too quickly

    Slide 21:Step Four - Evaluate the Ideas

    Evaluate the merit of ideas after brainstorming Some unconventional ideas can be modified into more realistic solutions Look for solutions that offer a win-win for both parties, which often requires compromise

    Slide 22:Step Five - Implement the Solution

    Discuss the specifics of how to implement the solution Each person should describe what he or she will do to implement the solution Decide how long to try the idea

    Slide 23:Step Six - Evaluate the Success of the Solution

    Evaluate if the problem has been successfully resolved. Are both satisfied with the solution? If not, consider trying an alternative solution. May need to revisit earlier steps in identifying an alternative solution.

    Slide 24:Problem-Solving Skills Unit

    Application - Couples are given the opportunity to practice the skills on a problem

    Slide 25:Managing Religious Differences

    This unit provides strategies for dealing with religious differences, as well as exploring how they may be an asset for a couple. Discovery - Couple completes inventory on religious differences: Church teachings What it means to be saved Importance of attending church Religious practices Importance of Bible Importance of prayer

    Slide 26:Two Common Myths

    Only interchurch couples have important religious differences Reality: All couples can have religious differences Religious differences are problematic Reality: Differences can enrich or divide

    Slide 27:Dos and Donts

    Dont take a deficit view of differences Dont focus just on differences, but also look for commonalities Do all you can to learn about your partners religious faith (e.g., attend partners church, read and discuss materials)

    Slide 28:Benefits to Exploration

    Exploration can lead to the discovery of similarities and commonalities Exploration can challenge individuals to grow spiritually Can become more tolerant and accepting of other religious traditions

    Slide 29:Dos and Donts

    Dont put other churches down Do put the problem in proper context-interchurch couples reflect a broader division in Christianity Dont overlook possible strong connections between family and religious traditions

    Slide 30:Troubleshooting Conflict

    SLOW DOWN - Use communication and problem-solving skills Be curious Is the conflict over a difference that will make a difference? Is conflict a symptom of deeper issues?

    Slide 31:Religious Differences: Application

    Exercise One - Have individuals identify the five most important religious or spiritual beliefs they have in common with their partners. Exercise Two - Couple discusses how they can learn more about each others religious or spiritual life.

    Slide 32:Meaning of Marriage

    This unit help couples explore their values around marriage to assess how compatible they are. Discovery - Couples reflect upon the following: How do they define marriage? What role should God play in the marriage? What messages have they received about marriage from church, family, peers, and society?

    Slide 33:Meaning of Marriage

    The unit discusses how the 4 Cs can shape values regarding marriage. Church Childhood/Family of Origin Circle of Friends Culture

    Slide 34:Topics to Explore

    Role of God in the relationship How important is God to each of you individually? Is marriage viewed as secular or religious? What role will God have in the relationship? Will you pray together as a couple? What spiritual values will guide you when your marriage faces challenges?

    Slide 35:Topics to Explore (continued)

    Divorce and commitment Under what circumstances is divorce acceptable? If you divorce, is remarriage acceptable? What will you do if you encounter difficulties in your marriage?

    Slide 36:Topics to Explore (continued)

    Gender Roles Traditional or egalitarian? How will roles change with arrival of children? Children and religion What will be religious upbringing of children? What role will God play in family life? What core values or teachings do you want your children to have?

    Slide 37:Topics to Explore (continued)

    Family planning/contraception What approaches to family planning are acceptable or unacceptable? What will you do if there is an unexpected pregnancy? What are each of your views on abortion?

    Slide 38:Meaning of Marriage

    The unit also helps couples explore their compatibility with regards to these values: Step One - Know yourself Step Two - Critically examine your own beliefs Step Three - Know your partner Step Four - Map areas of similarities and differences Step Five - Assess overall compatibility

    Slide 39:Meaning of Marriage: Application

    Exercise One - Explore and assess compatibility of values around marriage using five-step process. Exercise Two - Write down vows that reflect values around marriage.

    Slide 40:Joint Religious/Spiritual Life

    This unit discusses the value of building a religious and spiritual bond, as well as strategies for strengthening this bond Building a joint religious and spiritual life was a protective factor against divorce. Discovery - Couples take an inventory to assess the level of joint religious activities.

    Slide 41:Religion and Spirituality

    Religion is an external institution with church communities, rituals, traditions, and doctrines. Spirituality refers to an individuals personal faith, beliefs, and relationship to God. Religion and spirituality can strengthen one another, or be separate.

    Slide 42:Developing a Joint Religious Life

    Attend church together Do service/volunteer activities together Attend Bible studies or religious education classes Attend church-sponsored social activities together

    Slide 43:Attending Church Together

    Both remain active in their own churches, but also regularly attend their partners church. Alternate every other week which church they attend. Partners remain active in their own churches, and will occasionally visit the other partners church. Select one church to attend, with one or both changing affiliation.

    Slide 44:Addressing Barriers

    Individuals may feel uncomfortable with another church due to unfamiliarity or negative preconceptions. Individuals may fear that others will try to convert them. Catholics: Does attending another church meet my Sunday obligation? Issues around communion.

    Slide 45:Advantages of Joint Attendance

    Strengthens religious and spiritual bond. May help couple discover more commonalities. Get a different perspective, which may enrich ones spiritual life. Two possible sources of support.

    Slide 46:Developing a Joint Spiritual Life

    Pray together Study the Bible together Read and discuss other religious or spiritual books together Discuss your personal faith with one another.

    Slide 47:Joint Religious/Spiritual Life

    Application - Couple identifies one way to strengthen their religious/spiritual bond.

    Slide 48:Religious Affiliation

    A large percentage (43.8%) of interchurch couples became same church through one or both partners changing affiliation. The unit explores the issues of whether or not interchurch individuals should change religious affiliation.

    Slide 49:Religious Affiliation - Discovery

    On a 1 -10 scale, what is the strength of your denominational affiliation? Your partners? What religious belief, practice, or tradition. do you cherish most in your church? does your partner cherish most in his or her church? do you find most appealing in your partners church?

    Slide 50:Religious Affiliation

    Reasons given for changing: Preferred partners denomination Wanted to worship together as a family Stronger unity Prevent confusion of children Keep peace in the relationship or extended family

    Slide 51:Religious Affiliation

    Reasons given for not changing: Dont accept beliefs of partners denomination Value current church traditions Change would result in loss of identity Change would result in negative family reaction

    Slide 52:Religious Affiliation - Application

    Individuals complete worksheet where they rate the importance of various factors for against changing religious affiliation. Individuals share their answers with their partners.

    Slide 53:Religious Upbringing of Children

    This unit explores various approaches for the religious upbringing of children. Discovery - Couple reflects and shares their answers to following questions: Benefits and risks to raising children in one church Benefits and risks to raising children in two churches Where and when do you anticipate baptizing your children?

    Slide 54:Religion and the Children

    Important to begin this discussion early Can be one of the most difficult challenges for interchurch couples There are several different approaches that the couple could take There is no right or wrong answer

    Slide 55:One Tradition, One Church

    Everyone in family goes to one church One partner typically changes religious affiliation In some cases, both partners change religious affiliation, or one partner becomes active in the church but does not officially change affiliation.

    Slide 56:Pros and Cons

    Easier for couple/family to worship together Some feel this approach is less likely to confuse children Both partners may be unwilling to change religious affiliation Those who change affiliation may experience problems with extended family

    Slide 57:Different Traditions, One Church

    Each parent remains active in his or her own church. Children, however, are raised in only one church. Usually children are raised in the church of the more devout parent.

    Slide 58:Pros and Cons

    Each parent can remain active in his or her own church Some feel this approach is less likely to confuse children One parent may feel excluded from religious training of children. Parents cannot share equal responsibility.

    Slide 59:Different Traditions, Different Churches

    Both parents remain active in their own church. Each child is raised exclusively in one church, but not all children go to the same church Examples: Boys (Lutheran), Girls (Catholic). Remarried families

    Slide 60:Different Traditions, Raised in Both Churches

    Each parent remains active in his or her own church. The children are raised or exposed to both religious traditions. Concept of Double Belonging.

    Slide 61:Pros and Cons

    Parents remain active in their own church or denomination. Children are exposed to different perspectives, which some believe forces them to more closely examine their beliefs. Children might learn greater religious tolerance.

    Slide 62:Pros and Cons

    Challenge of respectfully articulating your beliefs to a child, without putting down your partners beliefs. Time and financial resources of raising children in two churches.

    Slide 63:Other Approaches

    As a child grows older, some parents may allow a child to choose which church to attend. Only one parent is religiously active, and raises children in that church. Some couples provide their child little or no religious upbringing (perhaps as a way to avoid conflict).

    Slide 64:Children - Application

    What are the most important beliefs you want passed on to your children? What do you think is the best plan regarding the religious upbringing of your children? What factors are most important to you in recommending this plan? What factors might lead you to change your mind? Who will have the greatest difficulty with this plan if adopted?

    Slide 65:Finding Support & Acceptance

    This unit explores the challenges that some interchurch couples face in finding support and acceptance from others (e.g., family, church) Discovery - Reflection questions: How have you experienced lack of acceptance? How have you received support? Who in your family is most concerned about your interchurch relationship? Why? Who in your family is most supportive about your interchurch relationship? Why?

    Slide 66:Parents and Acceptance

    Parents may show lack of acceptance several different ways. Negative comments about partner, partners church, or marriage. May question whether partner is saved. Refusal to attend or participate in worship service Refusal to participate in wedding Showing Acceptance/Non Acceptance May not want couple to get married May not attend the wedding Making critical remarks about partners religion Not attending service with the couple, lack of participation Reasons for non acceptance Fear that it will be as difficult for the child as it was for them Fear that child will be less active Fear that child will convert Parents may feel they have failed personally Parents may feel one church is superior to another Strength of religious identity in the family Showing Acceptance/Non Acceptance May not want couple to get married May not attend the wedding Making critical remarks about partners religion Not attending service with the couple, lack of participation Reasons for non acceptance Fear that it will be as difficult for the child as it was for them Fear that child will be less active Fear that child will convert Parents may feel they have failed personally Parents may feel one church is superior to another Strength of religious identity in the family

    Slide 67:Parents and Acceptance

    Possible reasons for non-acceptance: Negative perception of other denomination. Fear child will become less active. Fear that child will change affiliation. Fear they have done a poor job as parents. Fear child will have problems in the marriage Change seen as act of disloyalty.

    Slide 68:Parents and Acceptance

    Many parents are supportive, or are indifferent to the issue. Many parents who have difficulty with interchurch relationship eventually grow to accept it. Siblings can pave the way for greater acceptance.

    Slide 69:Acceptance Within Churches

    Interchurch couples can experience lack of acceptance in churches: Some clergy may not participate in a religious ceremony. Individuals may experience pressure to change. Being excluded from church activities. Failure to acknowledge interchurch couples exist or have special needs.

    Slide 70:Dealing with Lack of Acceptance

    Focus less on what others think and more on what you think is right. Dont personalize criticism. Seek to discover what is behind the lack of acceptance. May need to gently confront and educate others. Seek support from others.

    Slide 71:Acceptance - Application

    Exercise One - Have couple discuss one or two areas where they experience a lack of acceptance, and how to handle it. Exercise Two - Have couple discuss joining (or even starting) a group for interchurch couples.

    Slide 72:Additional Resources

    Mental health referrals Additional resources on communication skills programs and premarital inventories Evaluation form Resources on various denominations Resources on prayer books for couples Additional books and websites for interchurch couples

    Slide 73:Pilot Study Results of Providers

    86% thought the program would be either extremely helpful or very helpful to interchurch couples. 86% said they would either definitely or probably recommend the program to interchurch couples. Those who frequently worked with interchurch couples were more favorable than those who occasionally or seldom worked with them.

    Slide 74:Pilot Study Results of Providers

    % who rated unit as extremely or very helpful: Communication skills - 76% Problem-solving skills - 89% Managing religious differences - 86% Exploring values around marriage - 74% Building a religious & spiritual bond - 79% Changing religious affiliation - 86% Religious upbringing of children - 84% Finding support and acceptance - 72%

    Slide 75:Contact Information

    Lee Williams School of Leadership & Education Sciences University of San Diego 5998 Alcala Park San Diego, CA 92110-2492 williams@sandiego.edu 619-260-6889