Are divorce rates the same for Christians and non-Christians? Statistics cited in the media for years would lead you to think so. Drilling deeper into the details of Christian couples’ relationships that include an active, daily prayer life, regular church attendance and seeking out mature, longer-married couples for counsel and friendship may prove to discredit questionable statistics.
“When we got married, we thought we had it all figured out,” said Houston’s First member Ken Kapp, who celebrated 29 years of marriage with Cindy at the end of June this year. “It surprised us when things kind of started to unravel in the early years. It was as if God said, ‘Hey, if you think you can do it on your own — go for it!’” The Kapps decided, in fact, that they could not do marriage without God.
After about 15 years of actively seeking the Lord and working through some of their own marital bumps and potholes, Ken and Cindy began helping with premarital counseling through the Julianna Poor Memorial Counseling Center at Houston’s First. Beginning in 2000, they were asked to assist with weekend workshops — 11 couples at a time — going through the Preparation for Marriage Program. Seven years into the program, the Kapps agreed to meet in their home to work through the premarital curriculum with an engaged couple who was unable to attend the workshop. This meeting became the prototype for “2-on-2,” a personalized counseling ministry for nearly- and newlyweds.
Now, engaged couples who prefer a more in-depth approach to marriage preparation may choose 2-on-2 as a counseling option. “2-on-2 exploded!” said Ken. “In just a short time we had to start limiting the number of couples we counseled.” Ken and Cindy have mentored more than 230 couples through the program over the past eight years. Only eight other mentor couples are facilitating 2-on-2 currently, a number that cannot support the demand for the program.
“The Kapps were very open and honest with us about their marriage and encouraged us to learn from their mistakes,” said Porter Nelson, a former 2-on-2 mentee with Chelsea, his wife of four months. “They were so hospitable as we met in their home each week. They fostered a safe and welcoming environment where we felt comfortable opening up to them about anything and everything that had to do with our relationship.”
Premarital counseling opportunities also include the Newlywed or Close Life Bible Study, a 50-week curriculum that includes marital hot-button topics such as communication, finances and resolving conflict. “There is a 90 percent-plus success rate for couples involved in the preparation for marriage and Newlywed or Close programs at Houston’s First,” said Ken. “We figure the divorce rate in the programs to be about seven percent.” Spending time learning God's principles and how to apply them in marriage creates an environment for lasting success.
Though mentoring opportunities are scheduled through the Counseling Center, the Newlywed or Close Life Bible Study allows couples the flexibility of starting anytime. And, they can work their way through all the modules until they are finished. “Marriage is vital,” said Cindy, “and biblical counseling is needed in our society. Many young couples haven’t had parents that modeled a good marriage. They need someone they can observe — and who has a heart for mentoring them.”
Ken and Cindy admit to not having a perfect marriage. No one does. As they walk with Christ in a committed marriage and have opened their lives to help young couples build their own strong marriages, they hope to encourage others who feel called to do the same. “Married couples who have a willingness to spend time with those just starting out are needed as mentors,” said Cindy. “And what a blessing it has been to build solid relationships with these couples. Even after they get married, they know if they have trouble in their marriage, they can always call us.
This personalized approach to our church’s Preparation for Marriage Program enables a mentor couple to adapt content to meet the needs of the couple they’re mentoring. Curriculum is provided for you, and you schedule meetings based on what works for both couples.
Due to the high demand of the 2-on-2 program, the waiting list of nearly- or newlywed couples wanting to connect with a mentor couple is growing. Contact Rebecca Hixson ( Rebecca.Hixson@HoustonsFirst.org, 713.335.6469) about how you can make a difference as a 2-on-2 mentor.