A lot of times the best way to succeed at something new, is to follow the lead of others who’ve succeeded. That’s the idea behind Xenos’ Marriage Mentoring program. Long-term married couples meet with newly married couples to help them overcome the challenges of bringing their lives together, and enjoy the fruits of a healthy marriage.
Xenos elder Ryan Lowery initiated the program several years ago, after seeing difficulties among young married couples he shepherded. The program has grown from two mentoring couples to now 26 couples. The couples meet with younger couples for about 18 months, reading books together, talking through issues, and sharing stories.
John and Jill Cleary have been serving as mentors since the beginning, and John says his perception going in was that it would be content-driven—the couples going over marriage material—and somewhat formal. Instead he says mentoring is much more relational—the younger couples are helped through their growing friendship with the older couple. John says the younger couples often benefit most from hearing about Jill and his failures in marriage, so they understand that conflict and negative emotions need not doom their relationship.
John says his primary burden is that the couples learn to develop graciousness toward each other. “We want to normalize the fact that they’re both messed up and selfish, and that’s O.K. Instead of trying to be perfect in their marriage, we want to help them learn to extend graciousness to each other and move past being consumed with their spouse’s failings and weaknesses,” John says.
He says the biggest obstacle to this graciousness is the reality of the single life they have just left. “Many times as young people their solar system has revolved around themselves. In marriage, two solar systems combine—who will be at the center of this system? To succeed at marriage, it needs to be Jesus Christ,” John says.
Tammy and Matt Boone are long-time mentors, and also lead a home church in the college ministry. Tammy says they got involved because they had contact with a lot of young married couples who didn’t have other married couples around them. As a result, they didn’t have peers to bounce ideas off of, or with whom they could share their struggles. Tammy says, “By and large the college ministry is a singles’ culture, and sometimes navigating that as a married couple is a challenge. What does it look like to minister as a couple or as an individual, who is now married?”
Tammy agrees with John that the primary tool she and her husband use as mentors is the relationship they develop with the younger couple. “Most of the couples we have mentored will be life-long friends of ours,” Tammy says. “We really love being involved with this ministry because we think marriage is great. We want young couples to have great marriages. We’ve learned a lot from our many mistakes and we’re excited to pass that on.”
The Clearys and the Boones both say they, and their marriages have benefited from serving as mentors. Jill Cleary says it offers her and John something that has been hard for them to come by—a ministry they can do together. “For years we have served in many ministries, but as individuals. This is the first one where we can really be in the yoke together.”