The place of faith in the health of the family

The Institute of Family Studies[1] regularly monitors the health of the family and explores the relationship between the wellbeing of children and the quality of family life in all major regions of the world. The World Family Map Report 2019[2] explored the place of faith in the health of the family. 

This survey of nearly 10,000 people in 11 countries, including Australia, found that faith is “a force for good” in increasing levels of satisfaction in marriages and family life.  

This is a pivotal moment for churches to recognise that the Christian faith is of great benefit in supporting marriages and family life.  Children who are raised in stable marriages are more likely to have better mental health outcomes.  This is an opportunity for the local church to “put effort into supporting family relationships to be stable, safe and nurturing.”[3] 

Here are some snapshots results from the latest World Family Map:

The Christian faith helps marriages.  Couples who share the Christian faith enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to couples in secular or less religious relationships. Regular church attendance is good for couples and they are more likely to report higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction.

The Christian faith provide couples with the opportunity to share together in rituals or habits such as going to church and praying together.  These may help couples deal with stressful life events, have hope, and provide an opportunity to change destructive patterns of behaviour.

Regular church attendance is good for marriages.  Couples who attend church are more likely to place a high value on commitment.  The Christian faith places a strong emphasis on love, forgiveness, respectful behaviour and putting the needs of others above one’s own.  These are contributing towards the higher satisfaction levels reported in this study.

Churches provide networks that can support couples especially in times of trouble.  Being part of a church community provides couples with the opportunity to form supportive friendships – this support network is helping couples report high levels of relationship satisfaction.

“The family that prays together, stays together.”  Prayer is an activity that strengthens the bonds between couples and families.  Let’s encourage our couples and families to build the habit of praying together and making this a part of normal family life.  This can become part of some other normal habit or ritual such as a meal together – breakfast or dinner or the going to bed routine.  Use it as part of being joyful together, speaking words of love and encouragement.  This simple habit is good for marriages and it is good for our children.   

Marriage is good for our children.  Children raised in stable families do better in life.  Stability and nurture support the mental health of children.  Children born to married parents are more likely to have a stable upbringing.[4]

Stable families are also well placed to help churches build community for those who are single, who are lonely and disconnected.[5]

However, when it comes to domestic violence and infidelity, this report showed that faith provides no advantage.  Religion is not protective for the couples who took part in this sample.[6]  Men who were highly religious were not significantly less likely to engage in violence against their partners, or less likely to commit adultery than men who have no religious faith. [7]  This is an opportunity for churches to address relationship destroying behaviour – in particular violence.


[1] https://ifstudies.org/research/reports

[2] Ties that bind: is faith a global force for good or ill in the family?

[3] See Patrick Parkinson in a recent lecture about family and marriage and faith at New College in September 2020. Transcript

Video: See a summary of his three lectures in “After Christendom: How should we then live?” by Patrick Parkinson, (2020) 59 Case 4 at 8

[4] See Chapter 2 of the World Family Map.  At page 20.  2

[5] Parkinson, ibid, at 9.  “A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

[6] See Chapter 3 of the World Family Map beginning at page 30. 

[7] Parkinson, 8.

– by Keith & Sarah Condie

We feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Here are the final four steps we would like to suggest to you to to promote a healthy and strong relationship:


9. Build regular habits of connecting away from your children

Children, small children, lots of small children and babies are a blessing.  Often their needs and demands for attention make it difficult to carve out time for one another.  Here are some helpful ways to connect:

  • Daily – find a time in the day when just the two of you can chat – approx. 15 – 30 minutes. Make sure it’s a child free zone!
  • Weekly – set aside an evening or lunchtime where you can share together.

During COVID both these might be challenging, but can we encourage you to be intentional and give them a go.


10. Look outward together

How might you serve God’s people together?  How might you offer hospitality to another in a “COVID” appropriate way?  Looking beyond your own marriage will be good for your marriage and bring blessing to others.


11. Ask God to grant the Spirit’s fruit

Spending more time together can bring little irritations into focus. Rather than seeing the log in your partner’s eye and wishing that they would change, it may be more helpful to spend time reflecting on things that you could improve within yourself: Search out that speck of dust in your own eye and work on your own Christian character.  Wonderfully, we don’t have to do this alone! You can ask God for his Spirit to fill you with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22). If you are displaying these fruits, you will be an easy person to live with.


12. Do the Building a Safe & Strong Marriage course together

We have just launched an online version of our course, making it easy for you to do from the comfort of your home.  No need to organise babysitters or go out!  This five-session marriage enrichment course draws upon wisdom from the Bible and from some significant research into marriages. 

You can work through each session together at your own pace watching videos of us presenting along with interviews with married couples. The video content is interspersed with couple exercises where you have the chance to talk together through some questions to help guide your conversation and apply what you’re learning to your own marriage. 

One of the key messages in the course is “little things every day” and you will be given lots of opportunity to start to recognise what these things are and how to build them into your relationship.  Here is an opportunity to change that statistic from Relationships Australia and make small but significant changes to your marriage – this will be good for you both, your children and your church community and will help you “weather this current COVID storm” together.


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf

– By Sarah Condie

Keith feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Here are four more steps you can take to promote a healthy and strong relationship. 


5. Move beyond the mundane

In recent months we’ve had lots of conversations around what it’s safe to do and what we are going to eat and therefore what needs to be on the shopping list. But intimacy deepens when we share feelings, hopes, fears and the like.  Next time you sit and have a coffee together or go on a walk try and have a deeper, more intentional conversation about the highs and lows of life since COVID began and share your feelings and thoughts with each other.


6. Remember the good times

What have been the highlights in your marriage?  Remember past holidays or fun connecting times – maybe scroll through some photos together of your last holiday. This will help you reminisce and share the memories you each have.


7. What makes you laugh?

Laughter can be an incredible circuit breaker.  We have had a hard few weeks recently and it was Keith’s birthday.  Sarah was still awaiting results from a COVID test and had to cancel plans we had made to celebrate.  We had no food in the house and an empty day ahead.  Keith went to the shops and bought our lunch and we watched a comedy film together.  In many ways it was a silly, trivial movie, but it made us laugh.   


8. Remembering the benefit of touch

Human touch has all sorts of benefits. It communicates warmth, builds trust, strengthens our bond with each other and the soothing impact is good for our health. But it’s easy to forget to embrace when you are together every day all day. Be more conscious and proactive and make the effort to touch. Hugs are great! And so is snuggling in close while watching tele and holding hands while walking together.


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf

– by Keith & Sarah Condie

We feel blessed to have had each other during this period of restricted social contact. For so many we know, social isolation has been just that – living alone, removed from the normal relational connections that encourage and nourish.

Even so, being in close proximity to your spouse nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.[1]

But even small choices and actions have an impact. Each week for the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing 4 steps you can take to promote a healthy and strong relationship. This is part 1.


1. Be alert and sensitive to each other’s differences

You may have heard it said that, “we’re all in the same boat” in relation to this pandemic. But as a friend of ours helpfully reminded us, “No, we’re all in the same storm, but each of us are in different boats.” This means that for each of us, our unique temperament and personal history shapes how we respond to this particular challenge.

In times of grief and stress like what we are all experiencing at the moment, our normal patterns of response are amplified. It’s almost as if we become one and a half times the person we normally are. One of you may withdraw under pressure and have a stronger tendency to crawl into your shell and not want to talk much, while the other of you might be desperate for company and crave together time – walking, talking, watching movies….


2. You still need to check in with each other

Just because you are continually inhabiting the same limited geographical space doesn’t grant power to read each other’s minds. Don’t assume you know how the other is travelling during this unusual time. Be curious! Be a gentle detective who wants to uncover the mysteries of the other so you can stay lovingly well-connected.


3. Don’t take each other for granted

Notice when a meal is cooked and appears magically on the table to eat and say thank you.  When the washing gets done and the house tidied, express your appreciation that these thankless tasks get done. Try and tell each other one thing that you appreciate about them each day.  This will help you notice the positives in your partner.


4. Listen, listen, listen

To listen well is a challenge at the best of times, but during periods of stress and uncertainty … it can disappear out the window. We have both found how easy it is to get distracted, lost in our own thoughts, and fail to pick up on longings and fears that when shared, draw us closer together. When your spouse is sharing something of significance, try to avoid shifting the conversation to yourself or telling them what to do. Stay in their moment and seek to be understanding and empathic. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18:13: “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”


[1] https://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/online-survey/MaySurveyResults.pdf

Strengthen marriages in your community through our new online course

We are thrilled to announce that the Building a Safe & Strong Marriage course is now available for couples to do online with our new e-learning platform. Moving the course online means that churches can continue to strengthen marriages in their community, regardless of the social distancing measures currently in place where you are.

In the video below, hear Keith & Sarah Condie, creators of the course, explain why they decided to move the course online, and how they believe it can help churches in a time of social distancing or restrictions on meeting in-person:

 

Discounts for group access

Churches and other organisations who would like to register a group of couples can do so with a special discount, which increases the more couples you register:

Number of couplesPrice/couple
2-5$47.50
6-10$44.95
11-15$42.50
16-20$39.95
21-25$37.50
25+$34.95

 

Register your group

If you’d like to run ‘Building a Safe & Strong Marriage’ at your church, or organisation, follow these easy steps:

  1. Download the registration form & fill it in

  2. Email the registration form to buildingmarriage@mac.edu.au

  3. We will then add your participants’ details to the online course platform and invoice your organisation for the number of couples you would like to register.

  4. Couples will be emailed their login details and can begin enriching their marriage using ‘Building a Safe & Strong Marriage’. Your group has access to the course for 10 weeks from your start date.

 

A taste of the online course

The online course is easy to use and takes couples through each session at their own pace.

 

an open laptop sits on a bed with the marriage course on the screen. Flowers are in the background.

Couples can do the course at home during a time of social distancing.

 

Grab a tablet or a computer and you’re ready to start the course.

 

Participants watch course content, interact with questions and spend time discussing their marriage.

 

 

The online course features all the same content as the original, packaged on an e-learning platform.


This year. It’s been tough, hasn’t it?

In Australia we have experienced devastating bushfires, drought, floods and now our world is experiencing a global pandemic.

Social restrictions and lockdown have presented many challenges for those working and parenting from home. Being in close proximity nearly all of the time can be a challenge for the best of marriages. A May 2020 Relationships Australia study on the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions found that 42% of people experienced a negative change in their relationship with their partner.

‘Building a Safe & Strong Marriage’ has responded to these challenges by re-packaging our marriage enrichment course into an online marriage course. Hear a little about the course from its co-creators, Keith & Sarah Condie:

The course is easy to purchase and, once you’ve registered on the online learning platform, you have 10 weeks to complete it at your own pace.

Each session deals with a different aspect of marriage: from friendship and communication, to sex, spirituality, and God’s design for marriage. And because disagreements and conflict are a part of every marriage, we talk about how to manage conflict gently.

‘Building a Safe & Strong Marriage’ Sessions

Session 1: God’s design for marriage

Session 2: What damages our connectedness in marriage?

Session 3: Building the positives – friendship and communication

Session 4: Building the positives – sex and spirituality

Session 5: Managing conflict gently

 

A Look at our online marriage course

 

 


Have you seen Tim & Myhn in Session 5 of Building a Safe & Strong Marriage? Watch their powerful story of marriage conflict, determination and resolution in full here.

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage is the culmination of Keith & Sarah Condie’s work of over 15 years of encouraging couples and helping them to work on their marriages. Here’s what others have to say about this marriage course:

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage encourages self-awareness in relationships, the key to any change. I particularly appreciate the combination of sensitivity and humour, which helps create space for thinking about even the most challenging topics in relationships. The course is careful and enriching and brings together biblical content with research on healthy relationships. It will be challenging but fruitful for any participant.”

Lauren Errington, Mental Health Social Worker and Family Therapist

 

“The Building a Strong & Safe Marriage course is a well-crafted, engaging and easy to use resource. It reflects the decades of experience that Keith Condie has as a theological lecturer at Moore College, and the many years of experience that Sarah Condie has as a pastoral care worker in churches. We have used this with couples from our church and found it to be a blessing to those who participated. The video looks just gorgeous, and the high production values make it an attractive and easy to use tool. We will definitely be using it again!”

Edward and Jane Vaughan, St John’s Darlinghurst

marriage course dvd and books

What does Building a Safe & Strong Marriage look like?

In this marriage course, there are five sessions each lasting about two hours.  During the sessions you’ll watch some video content from us, Keith and Sarah, hear from couples who have also taken the course, watch interviews with couples with a range of experiences and pause for reflection and thoughtful exercises to do as a couple or on your own.

What do you cover in the marriage course?

We look at God’s design for marriage – what does the Bible say about marriage; research on what makes a marriage work; what damages our connectedness in marriage – the problem of shame, hiding and blame; and the warning signs that a marriage is in trouble.

“little things every day”

We then help couples with building the positives.  We have a saying “little things every day” and we explore how couples can work on their friendship, how they communicate, their sexual relationship and finally we look at the spiritual dimension they share. Finally, we provide couples with some tools in managing conflict gently.

Watch this video to give you a taste of the course:

You might say to me “my marriage is going fine, I don’t need to go to a marriage course!”

I’d like to ask you to think about a car for a moment.  They all need to be filled up with petrol regularly and then every so often, they need “a grease and oil change”.  Marriages are a bit like cars.  You can take them for granted, but if you don’t put petrol in the tank and they never get that grease and oil change, they won’t work.  You will turn that ignition key and nothing happens.  If one in three marriages in Australia end in divorce, then I would like to suggest that all marriages could do with a bit of help and an investment of time and space.

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage will benefit all couples. Believe it or not, each time that we have presented this course, it has helped Keith and I reconnect, talk about some issue that needs to be discussed, or just helped us not take each other for granted.  It is so easy to forget to say thank you….

it has helped Keith and I reconnect

Think of it like a date night!  Set aside one night a week for 5 weeks, or a weekend, to take the course.  Whether you are cruising along happily or feeling a little stressed and disconnected, the course content is designed to enhance your marriage, enabling you to understand its strength and weakness and how you can improve it.