When a couple begins leading HomeBuilders Couples Series® small group Bible studies, many marriages are impacted. When two couples get involved, the impact can be even more far-reaching. That is the story of Rick and Cindy Sooy and Dan and Barbara Kerr.
It started with the Sooys and a 20-year-old troubled marriage. Cindy had finally reached the point of telling Rick that when their triplets turned 18 in two years, she was leaving him. She had tried in vain to get her husband to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, and now the threat of separation had finally caught his attention. They decided together to attend the conference that year in nearby Cherry Hill, N.J., with hopes that it might make some difference.
As they sat through the romantic conference getaway, they began to clearly understand for the first time about God’s blueprints for communication and resolving conflict. As they completed workbook assignments as a couple, they realized that the biblical principles they were learning could actually work. They left with a renewed hope.
It wasn’t long before they ended up with a group in their church doing the HomeBuilders Couples Series. One study in particular—Resolving Conflict in Your Marriage—caught their attention. It addressed so many issues they had faced as a couple for two decades. “The principles in the HomeBuilders Couples Series teach you what God’s blueprints are for marriage,” Cindy says. “When you apply these principles in your life, you can’t help but be changed.”
Rick and Cindy began to tell everyone about the life change they were experiencing and encouraged friends and family members to attend a Weekend to Remember conference. One of those couples was Cindy’s brother, Dan Kerr, and his wife, Barbara. For years, they Sooys kept hounding Dan and Barbara, until eventually they agreed to attend, in part just to get them off their backs.
Once the Kerrs attended, they quickly saw how much their marriage needed to improve. And when Dan heard there would be a special session during the conference to introduce the couples to the HomeBuilders Couples Series, he was interested. He had heard about the studies from Cindy and Rick, who had begun to attend a group through their church. As he and Barbara listened to the presentation at the conference, they decided not just to be part of a HomeBuilders study, but also to consider leading one at their own church.
A multiplying ministry
For several years now, the Sooys and Kerrs have been actively leading HomeBuilders groups, sometimes as many as three separate studies a week. Neither couple really has a clear idea of how many groups they have led—they lost track of that long ago. They do know that, between the two couples, they have led all nine of the different studies, some of them numerous times. There have also been no fewer than five couples who were originally part of their groups who have split off to lead groups of their own. Some of these couples are now every bit as active in facilitating groups as Rick and Cindy and Dan and Barbara have been.
Cindy speaks for both couples when she says that they feel the biggest beneficiaries of God’s blessings through the study of these biblical principles have been their own marriages.
“My husband and I feel Weekend to Remember and HomeBuilders have done more to build into our marriage than anything else in keeping us accountable to God, each other and other couples. We’ve probably done the HomeBuilders study Resolving Conflict in Your Marriage three or four times with couples groups. Just teaching the book caused us to stop and say to ourselves, ‘We’re trying to be an example to these couples. We need to be resolving these conflicts in our marriage also.’.” Barbara says that leading HomeBuilders group has made a most unusual impact on Dan. “My husband was never a communicator before. Now he’s facilitating these studies. It has been phenomenal. As time has passed, the Lord has blessed him tremendously with the gift of compassion for these other couples.”
The importance of vulnerability
Both couples agree that it has been their personal weaknesses and their marital difficulties that God has used to build a bridge to minister to others.
“When we first considered leading a group, we felt inadequate because of our own marriage,” Cindy admits. “But God reminded me that He wasn’t expecting us to be perfect, He just wanted us to share where we were, share about what He has done and what He is continuing to do in our marriage.
“The first thing we say to couples on the first night is that we’re not perfect and that we don’t have all the answers. We’re here learning just like you are and we learn from you, too.”
Barbara acknowledges that this type of vulnerability is one of the key dynamics of a HomeBuilders study. As couples hear husbands and wives opening up and admitting their shortcomings, they realize that they are in the company of others who can not only empathize with their difficulties, but will walk through it alongside them.
“People are always saying to us that they didn’t realize that other people are having the same problems they have,” Barbara says. “They say they always felt isolated as a couple or as individuals because they thought the problems they were facing were unique to them. That’s one of the biggest things that people say has helped them out—that they’re not alone in this, that there are other men and women and couples out there who are struggling with the same kinds of issues. That alone has allowed them to feel comfortable and has allowed them to open up to sharing more things.”
With all the positive results they have seen through their involvement in the couples’ Bible studies, both the Kerrs and the Sooys ardently state that everyone—even those in very troubled marriages—can benefit from being a part of a HomeBuilder study.
“Most couples come to the studies wanting to learn God’s purpose for marriage and how to make their marriage better,” Cindy says. “Some others see their marriages heading down a road they didn’t want it to go, and they decide to do something before it gets bad. There have even been some couples who, after they went through the study, realized that their marriage was in a little bit deeper trouble than they thought and that showed them that they really needed to go to counseling.”
As they look back to the time when they were first exposed to these marriage principles through the ministry of FamilyLife, both couples agree that there is no way they could have anticipated all that God would do in and through them. Neither the Sooys or Kerrs know what God has in store for the future, but both are looking forward to more years of leading studies and seeing God do great things.
*Note – The HomeBuilders Couples Series® is now The Art of Marriage® Connect Series.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2013 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.