If you only need to catch up on any one part of our Cornerstones series, just click one of the post titles below to go directly to it. If you're just now finding out about the Cornerstone blog posts, we've collected them all in one place for you here. Enjoy!
What is the Problem?
Think of 5 married couples you know. Imagine them in your head, standing in a line, facing you. Smiling faces. Holding the hands of their spouses. Now, take one of those couples away. This is the reality of marriage in Kosciusko County, Indiana. Roughly one out of every five marriages in this area has ended in separation or divorce. That may not sound like a lot, but it amounts to more than 6000 people, living right here in our neighborhoods. Not Easily Broken exists to see this number dwindle. Whether that involves preempting the problems that might surface in a marriage through our premarital program, helping maintain quality, satisfaction, and commitment in our marriage program, or building supportive communities through our families program, (all 3 of which we'll discuss more on Wednesday) we're dedicated to the success and longevity of marriage and family relationships.
And let's make no mistake, marriage and family are deeply intertwined. The majority of divorces involve children, which means hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids in Kosciusko County alone are watching their parents' relationships fall apart. Now, for some of you, akin to my wife and ministry partner, Carly – what I just said is all you need to know. Thousands of people, our friends, coworkers, kids in our schools, are living with the pain of brokenness in their homes every day. You’re asking, “Where do I sign on to help with this?” We'll get to that in more detail on Friday. For now, if you want more info, skip down to the bottom and click the "I Want to Help" button.
Others of you need the stats. I get it. There are so many different problems facing so many different people. You need to know, "what does this particular issue actually look like for these people?" Well, here you go: Child poverty is significantly more likely in households with divorced or unmarried parents, and 40% of all kids experience divorce before they reach adulthood. Less than 20% of divorced people and only 15% of separated people describe themselves as happy. People getting married today have, on average, a 40 to 50% chance of getting divorced. One 2010 study shows that relationships among people without college degrees are growing increasingly unstable and unhappy, which accounts for roughly 60% of Kosciusko County citizens. Divorced individuals are, on average, not likely to live as long as married individuals, more likely to be problem drinkers, less likely to have successful careers, less likely to have children who experience academic success and emotional stability.
Before we wrap up this post, let us clarify that we know these statistics are just that - stats. They're numbers, averages, and they do not and cannot reflect accurately the individual experiences of every single divorced or separated person. We completely understand that behind every broken relationship there's a story, maybe even a couple of stories. We do not, in any way, intend to reduce those stories to a statistic. What we are trying to communicate is that divorce and separation are life events that affect dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people we know and love right here in our community, often in difficult, painful, and complex ways - they tend to make people less happy, make their kids' lives harder, and decrease their likelihood of success in other areas of life.
There are resources available to help. We just want to be one of them.
Why Do We Need to Exist?
We need to start this section with a disclaimer, just to be extremely clear: while we're going to be talking about some of the ways in which licensed mental health or marriage counseling and pastoral counseling aren't sufficient to address this problem, we have ZERO objection to these resources on any kind of principle. But just like addictions and other mental health needs might need to be treated by a combination of Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery, individual therapy, and medication, the complex problems of the rise of instability in families and the decrease of longevity and satisfaction in marriages need to be addressed by a variety of resources. Let us explain why pastoral and licensed counseling aren't enough.
Beyond the fact that the statistics are headed in the wrong direction to indicate that these two resources alone are adequately addressing the problems, there are a couple of other factors. Most of them relate to one way or another in which both of these avenues for addressing marriage or parenting issues are too limited for the necessities of everyday life with a spouse or child. Licensed counselors, for instance, keep office hours, don't usually give out their personal cell or home phone numbers, and have strict guidelines about where they can meet and how they can interact with their clients in public. They're often not available for emergent situations and so can sometimes leave clients in a tough spot. There's also the problem of the clinical setting and nature of the profession: the inherent differential of power between client and counselor, the formal office space, diagnoses, etc. For many people, these clinical aspects are a deterrent for seeking help from a counselor at all. Not to mention, licensed counseling can be quite costly, depending on where you get it. Again, let me us be clear that this is not to say that licensed, professional counseling has no merit. To the contrary, having well educated, highly trained, closely regulated and supervised mental health professionals available to assist the ongoing problems that people experience every day in their lives is something this world sorely needs more of. But when it comes to the budget constraints of a young couple in college planning a wedding, or the volatile nature of marriage in crisis, licensed counseling can fall short of fully addressing the issues.
Pastoral counseling has some of the same problems as licensed counseling does, with one important addition: time. Most churches. even large, wealthy churches, have a staff that is remarkably disproportionate to the number of congregants the church is meant to shepherd. Pastors are constantly being asked for their time and attention, and most often their is just not enough time of day to meet the demand. Many of our clients have expressed not being able to meet with their pastors as often as they would like or need. Especially in a college town like this one, where many young people are here from out of state, access to their most trusted spiritual advisors becomes even more limited. This lack of availability is why finding spiritual mentors and investing in small groups is so important for every believer, but then the problem of training comes into play. Many small group leaders and members are not adequately trained to address the tougher questions of marriage and parenting.
While spiritual guidance from pastors and mental health counseling are both highly valuable and necessary resources, many times they are insufficient to offer the kind of support necessary to properly shepherd engaged couples to their wedding day, promote health and emotional wellness within a marriage, or train parents and children in the skills they need to grow lasting relationships in a community context.
Where Do We Come in?
prepare/enrich assessment program - engaged and married couples
When working with couples, there are three things that really define and set apart the way in which Not Easily Broken serves the people we work with. The first is the Prepare/Enrich assessment. This incredible tool is one of the most insightful and informative relationship assessments available. The assessment takes between 30 and 60 minutes to take (each person takes it separately). Once it's complete, we schedule a one hour session to go over the results. The assessment covers about a dozen different relationship aspects: communication, conflict resolution, partner habits, financial habits, sexual satisfaction, parenting beliefs, spiritual beliefs, etc. It measures both how positively couples feel about all the various aspects, as well as how much they agree about them. Subsequent sessions are scheduled to go over specific aspects in more detail, primarily those that revealed either significant disagreement or that both parties have negative perspectives of. These follow up sessions comprise the bulk of the program, supplemented by any other issues couples bring to the table that they'd like to discuss. The assessment also covers a stress index, personality profile, relationship dynamics, family of origin priorities, and current relationship priorities.
The second distinction is our availability. Need sessions in the morning? We can do that. Over the lunch hour? No problem. In the evening, once the kids are in bed? We get it. Need to talk on the phone, over Skype, or by text? We'll make it work. We'll meet at your home, at our home, a quiet coffee shop - wherever you feel comfortable. If you have a fight with your spouse at 11 o'clock at night, you wouldn't call a counselor, and likely not your pastor - you'd call a close friend. That's how we hope and expect to work with you. As friends - as community.
The final distinction of our ministry is cost. Whether engaged, married, or just dating, when you're a couple working with Not Easily Broken, we don't charge you. The only thing that costs money is the Prepare/Enrich assessment, which is $35 per couple, and that's Prepare/Enrich's fee, not ours. We'd make that free, too, if we could! But community shouldn't cost money. We believe community should be a fact of life, especially among God's people, as second-natured as breathing. We want to remove as many barriers as we can to community, so meeting with us is free!
Sensory Play Classes - Kids ages 1-5 and their caregivers
Life is moving FAST. As technology replaces imaginative play for kids, and as we cram family time into car rides and grocery store lines, our kiddos' worlds are getting more hectic and fractured. Young children especially need time to play, to get messy, to spend no-agenda down time with their parents and caregivers. Even more than academic training, these little ones need to engage their 5 senses, learn to employ their imaginations, and develop social skills that will allow them to form meaningful relationships in life. And when we teach these concepts within the greater context of a God who loves them and wants to be their friend, we build a foundation for a faith life that is often hard to grasp as an adult.
Enter Sensory Play Classes. You and your littles can join us for an hour once a week to hear a piece of God's story and play together through activities that will captivate your child's attention while developing their minds and hearts. We make shaving cream clouds and paint rainbows. We go fishing in the "sea" for Jonah and close the mouths of Daniel's lions. We use the light table to explore the stars that God spoke into existence to light up even our darkest nights.
Want to join us as we investigate the world God made and learn about our place in it? Want to spend a few minutes unplugged getting messy and making memories? Sign up and try a class out for free!
Who Are We?
Paul tells me all the time that I am a really tall 4 year old, and he's not entirely wrong. I just love to play and explore and get messy. And I love how God made little kids to develop by engaging the world through play, investigation, and wonder. So, a few years after getting my B.S. in Biology from Grace College, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be on staff at Mission Point Community Church for three and a half years in the children's ministry department. Getting to help design the early childhood classrooms and implement an excellent, play-based curriculum has been one of my favorite work experiences so far!
I love the intersection of early childhood development (how they see, process, and learn about their worlds) and the planting of faith in the heart of a child. While my educational background and work experience may make it look like my life has taken an odd route, I can look back and see how God had a plan all along. Understanding some basic neural biochemistry and basic human development processes has been invaluable as I've sought to work with young children in a faith-based education system. I'm not just passionate about seeing children become friends with Jesus early in their life - I have the education and work experience to break down for parents just how their kids are interacting with big, abstract concepts like miracles, salvation, and eternal life, and how they can begin to implement these lessons from infancy.
I am a hopeless romantic. I cry at the end Titanic. Actually, I cry at several points throughout Titanic. My favorite movie of all time is Crazy, Stupid, Love, and I somewhat secretly believe that the main problem with romance in the modern world is that there aren't enough people being Robert DeNiro at the end of Silver Linings Playbook. Also, I love movies, if that wasn't already obvious. I went to undergrad for a film degree, ended up with a theater degree, and then went to work for a publisher... because I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I know I've always loved stories. Even more than writing them, or watching them, I love helping other people write their own stories - which is what I think drew me to an education in counseling. Actually, I take that back - God drew me to an education in counseling, an education I had no interest in before I started it. But I think that's why I discovered that I loved it.
After graduating from Grace College with a master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I went to work at Warsaw's local homeless shelter. I designed their chronic homelessness rehabilitation and self-sufficiency program, and couldn't be more grateful for my time there. I launched out from there directly into this ministry.
My parents had what I call an "untraditionally" broken relationship when I was a kid, and for as long as I can remember I've had a passion to ensure that what my parents endured doesn't happen to anyone else. I guess I'm a sort of relationship Batman. I don't know if I can help every marriage in the world, but I'm going to start with my Gotham City and see how far I can get. Also, like Batman, I think my main strength in working with the couples we see at NEB is that I'm a relationship detective. Thanks to both my education in counseling and my natural bent, I'm able to take the information that I get and extrapolate unusual and abstract connections and relationships in the complex and evolving dynamic between two people. I have specifically and intentionally chosen to forego state licensure as a counselor in order to take advantage of the freedoms and flexibilities that the ministry approach offers.
How Can You Get Involved?
So, if you've been following this series this week, you know:
- What the problem is: the increasing rate of broken marriage and family relationships in our county.
- That there's a gap in what counseling and pastors can do to address this problem.
- How Not Easily Broken is trying to step into the gap: by providing guidance, support, and community to couples and families in need.
- Who we are and what God has done to equip us to step into the gap.
Now the question is, what can you do to partner with us? We are so glad you asked. Here are 3 easy ways YOU can get involved.
1) You can utilize our services to strengthen your own relationships! Come to a sensory play class with your kiddos. Take the Prepare/Enrich Assessment with your spouse or fiance. Or just bring the questions you have from that reoccurring fight and lets talk about ways you can communicate better with your significant other. To register for our services click the button below. Or feel free to share this post with someone you love who might be able to benefit from meeting with us!
2) We love being able to offer our services to people for free, but we cannot do that without the help and support of our donor base! Currently, we are asking people to pledge to donate a certain amount each month for the next 6 months, but even a one time donation in any amount is so helpful! (For a little context....$5 pays for one child to come to a class and $20 covers a couple session for an engaged or married couple.) To donate to Not Easily Broken click the button below.
3) You can actually get involved in the work we are doing by volunteering with us! We are always looking for help in an array of different areas... assisting with sensory play classes, photographing events, helping to manage social media outlets, or even offering marketing and fundraising expertise and assistance! None of what Not Easily Broken does gets done without your help! If you're interested in hearing more about any of these opportunities click the button below.