The Diocese of Owensboro has announced the expansion of Grace Marriage to five new parishes — three in Owensboro and one each in Whitesville and Henderson. Brad and Marilyn Rhoads founded Grace Marriage in 2015, providing a structured pathway for couples to invest time, resources, and creativity into their marriage.
The Diocese launched pilot groups in 2019 and has continued to grow the program since forming the partnership. What began as a marriage ministry in Owensboro has spread across the country, forming alliances with upwards of 120 churches that span several denominations.
Brad began his professional career as an attorney, forming Rhoads and Rhoads in Owensboro, while Marilyn pursued a career in social work, interacting with children at Counseling Associates.
The two recognized that the current approach to mending marriages was getting more reactive as opposed to proactive.
“People were waiting until they were in a rough spot to seek help — that doesn’t work with anything,” Brad said. “We seek a more preventive approach to enjoyment. Couples that work with us will say to themselves, ‘We’re going to fight to make this thing great; we’re going to communicate, stay connected, and not let the world get busier.’”
Brad spent an early portion of his career in business coaching and thought the model they used in business could easily relate to marriages.
“The model was to get out of your business and work on your business — cast visions for what you want it to be like,” he said. “What if people were as intentional with their marriages as they are with their businesses — could marriages not just take off?”
The Diocese will launch its new series of four quarters this August and transition leadership to parish groups rather than the diocesan office.
“This fits into an overall vision for marriage formation for the Diocese based on what Pope Francis is calling for that also aligns with Bishop Medley’s vision for discipleship,” said Danny May, Director of Marriage and Family for the Diocese.
Grace Marriage offers traditional and virtual models — both of which seek to help marriages grow instead of just reacting to crises. Sessions generally occur every 90 days and provide spouses with a high-level meeting to plan the upcoming quarter. Brad Rhoads said unaddressed issues just grow over time and that the meetings offer an opportunity to celebrate victories and address issues.
While heavily used by the Diocese of Owensboro and several other churches in the area, anyone can participate in the program. The program is participant-paid and lay-led, though the church can offset some costs. Access their website here for more information.
Rhoads said that Grace Marriage and the Diocese of Owensboro share the same values as they pertains to marriage.
“The Diocese really values marriage and views it as an important sacrament,” he said. “We have the same heart for couples thriving and Christ being exalted — we really wanted to work with them.”
He said that most churches do a great job on the front end, but they need to keep supporting couples instead of just releasing them once people are married.
“We’re thankful for how the church lifts up the institution of marriage; we’re honored to help marriages thrive alongside them,” Rhoads said.