With experts estimating the national divorce rate to be between 35 and 50 percent, Brad and Marilyn Rhoads set out on a mission to transform marriages with a proactive approach. Launching in Owensboro, Grace Marriage is now in nine states, 75 churches and is officially international with groups in Switzerland and Costa Rica. Over 4,500 participants now use Grace Marriage as a tool to enrich, protect and grow their marriages.
“We started it locally just at our church and it went really well,” said Marilyn, co-founder of Grace Marriage. “A few other churches started asking us about Grace Marriage and we just started praying if it was the Lord’s desire for us to do this full-time.”
Marilyn is a counselor who graduated with a psychology degree from Lipscomb University and got her Masters in Social Work from the University of Southern Indiana. Brad graduated Order of the Coif (top 10 percent) from the University of Kentucky College of Law and later started Rhoads and Rhoads law practice in Owensboro in 1996. He practiced law until 2015 when he transitioned to work full-time with Grace Marriage. During that time he was ordained as Pastor of Marriage at his local church in 2011 which gave him further insight into why such a program was needed.
“It’s really sad to see the effects of divorce rate and the effects that last for generations,” Brad said. “If you can help the divorce rate, thinking of those children’s lives involved, it reduces the complexities and helps stabilize families and affects overall cultural stability. When the family fractures it makes emotional complexities for decades.”
The complexities and pain divorce causes forced Brad and Marilyn to take a proactive approach, noting that many churches may offer premarital counseling, but married couples are often underserved and need a structured focus to help their marriages.
Couples participating will attend a Grace Marriage group once per quarter, typically on a Saturday, with areas of focus on gratitude, intimacy and communication and investment. That time commitment roughly equates to six hours every 90 days, where groups of 10-12 couples invest time, resources and creativity into their own marriage.
“It’s basically a platform that gives you space to work on your marriage,” Marilyn said. “A good portion of the day is time for you to talk to your spouse about your marriage. In a guided discussion atmosphere it really is helpful to the communication pattern. There are also group discussions and ways to implements the concepts learned into your home.”
During that day, couples will take time scheduling their quarter together, a concept Marilyn explained was to ensure life isn’t squeezing out your marriage. Brad and Marilyn know all too well the stresses involved in a busy lifestyle, with five children of their own who are involved in sports and the chaos of everyday life.
“Just planning together is huge. One thing we encourage is dating your spouse. We go on a weekly date and recommend at least bi-weekly,” Marilyn said. “I know it’s sometimes so hard to do with all the demands of life and kids. The best thing I feel I can do as a mom is show my four daughters what a good marriage looks like. Our kids know our marriage is a priority and I pray they see that and one day will make their marriage a priority as well.”
Grace Marriage believes, if you help couples on the front end, God’s design of marriage is beautiful when it’s done right. They have been blessed with many testimonials from both participants and church leaders on how equipping the local church with an effective, ongoing resource has been beneficial.
“In all areas of life it takes intentionality to achieve excellence,” Brad said. “Our trend is to work really hard at most areas in life and marriage is no exception to that. Our mission is that people would have really healthy marriages, marriages are stabilized and Christ is glorified.”
Churches are encouraged to inquire about offering Grace Marriage. Fees for the program vary from church to church along with dates and times offered. Grace Marriage participants do not have to attend the church where the group is being offered.
For more information on Grace Marriage visit https://www.gracemarriage.com or call 866-263-1052 to connect to a group near you.