Marriages That Work
Of Lenawee County
A 501 (c)(3) Corporation

Strategic Plan

(2003)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Our Mission: "We advocate and strengthen marriage through education."
 

Who We Are:

Marriages That Work was formed in 1996 to address the problem of divorce and failing marriages in Lenawee County. In 1997 we sponsored the largest interdenominational gathering of ministers and civil officials for the purpose of addressing a specific social problem in the history of the county. The result was a policy adopted by 58 churches and all civil officials in the county who do weddings to require minimum premarital education. The requirements include a premarital inventory, along with education in communication skills and conflict resolution. The adoption of this policy attracted both national and international interest, with media inquires from as far away as Europe.

Since 1997 Marriages That Work has trained local ministers, lay ministers and marriage counselors in the administration of both Foccus and Prepare / Enrich, two nationally recognized premarital inventories, and the skills needed for mentor couples. Prior to this effort only 10 people in the county were certified to administer Prepare, now there are over 75. We have also run workshops for PREP®, a communication skills program developed at the University of Colorado and used internationally.

Marriages That Work has also developed a brochure, We had our baby ... Now What About Sex?, to address one of the major stresses many couples face after the birth of children. This brochure is available free at Bixby Hospital, Herrick Hospital and most of the Ob / Gyn and Pediatrician Offices in the county for all women who give birth. This brochure has been adopted for use by other organizations across the United States.

Marriages That Work is currently developing a number of additional programs to strengthen marriages, reduce the number of out of wedlock child births and increase the involvement of fathers in the rearing of children.

Why We Do What We Do:

There have been an average of about 520 marriages and about 435 divorces per year over the past five years. These divorces have effected roughly 4,500 children. It has approximately 125 Christian churches, about half being main line denominations. Unfortunately, many of these churches do not have any ongoing, comprehensive marriage ministry.

Consider:

. Problems at home make unproductive and inattentive employees.

. Divorce and unmarried childbearing are among the major causes of poverty for both women and children.

. Parental divorce (or failure to marry) increases children's risk of school failure and reduces the likelihood children will graduate from college.

. Both divorced men and women have higher numbers of alcohol related problems, leading to higher levels of drunk driving and other social problems.

. Divorce tends to lead to fathers not being active in the lives of their children. Families with the father absent make up 63% of youth suicides; 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of all persons in prison and 90% of all homeless and runaway children.

. Children living with a step father are 6 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than those living with both natural parents; 14 times more likely when living with the biological mother alone, 20 times more likely when living with the biological father alone and 33 times more likely when their biological mother is cohbitating.

We want to actively involve the faith community since Scripture defines marriage as of fundamental importance to God. Moreover, Mal 2:16 tells us "'I hate divorce,' says the LORD God of Israel." (NIV) Since this is part of the belief system of the faith community, they should want to be active partners.
 

Our Goals
 

Goal #1. Expanding public education through mass media and targeted messages to high school students, college students, clients of local Family Independence Agency (FIA) of the State of Michigan, service clubs, church groups, etc., relating to such issues as: the value of marriage, the importance of strengthening marriages, the problems associated with divorce and on the importance of having children in the context of a healthy marriage, as opposed to out-of-wedlock childbirth. .

Goal #2. Using Connections, the relationship course for teens, in all High Schools and Junior High Schools in the service area. (This includes private schools.) An effort would also be made to reach home school children with this information either through home school organizations or churches.

Goal #3. Expanding the use of premarital education for couples intending to marry and marriage enrichment skills and information education for existing marriages. This will include, conflict resolution, communication skills, financial budgeting for marriage, sexuality and related intimacy issues, and dealing with children.

Goal #4. Establishing on going step family programs and support groups. This would provide education on issues unique to step families to help such couples improve the chances of successfully blending two families into one.

Goal #5. Provide support and skills training for "at risk couples." "At risk couples" include all marriages that have a markedly higher statistical chance of divorce than the general population. At risk marriages include when a child of the marriage dies (illness or accident), couples who married young, i.e. under age 22, especially in their teens, couples who had long term cohabitation, serial cohabitation, or cohabitation resulting in the birth of a child before marriage.

Goal #6. Providing mentor couples for not less than 50% of couples getting married in a church: "before you tie the knot, let us show you the ropes."

Goal #7. Working with the faith community to educate ministers on the need for and the use of skill based premarital education, premarital inventories and ongoing comprehensive marriage ministries.

Goal #8. Working with the faith community to establish a prayer support team for all couples getting married in Lenawee County.

Goal #9. Establishing an active liaison couple network with individual churches.

Goal #10. Reaffirming and strengthening the role of the father in the home, without diminishing the equally important role of the mother.

Goal #11. Partnering with members of the local bar association to develop a core group of family law lawyers, who agree to recognize and work toward reconciliation as a desirable goal in most divorce cases.

Goal #12. Expanding the service area from Lenawee County to also include Hillsdale County. Eventually, we would also like to include Jackson, and Monroe Counties and change the name of the organization from Marriages That Work of Lenawee County to Marriages That Work of Southeastern Michigan.

Contact: Joyce Faulhaber, Executive Director 517-266-8525,
or Judge Jim Sheridan, 517-264-4655.

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