Every few years, in an attempt to ensure we’re keeping up with current lifestyle trends, we’ve thought about taking the TfM weekends online. The thought has always quickly dismissed as we lament what couples would miss out on.
Surely, there’s no way they could have a life changing experience without getting away from their hectic lives into the safety and privacy of a fully catered environment where they can build relationships with each other and those attending the weekend. How would we be able to ensure God was at work in these couples?
Come 2020 and the pandemic, our residential weekends ground to a halt and suddenly we had no alternative but to consider how to make an online weekend work so that we could continue to reach couples, especially during this time of such challenge on marriages. So we started to think and plan assuming naturally that it would never come close to the residential experience.
We took our weekend programme and condensed it to two days, tweaking as much as we could to ensure that there was a lot of space for couples so that they could have plenty of time away from the screen. We decided to make the weekend non-interactive so that couples could focus solely on themselves, rather than watching other couples or themselves on video which we knew would be draining.
To ensure that our core value of intimacy was still met, we booked consultations between the facilitator couples and couples attending both pre and post the weekend. The pre-consultation gave the facilitator couple a chance to set the scene and ensure couples had everything they needed for the weekend. The post-consultation gave us a chance to ensure another of our core values was being met, by praying with each couple and ensuring that their key take homes could be embedded.
In addition, we added in a Question Time session where couples could send us any question about marriage and we answered them in conversation between both facilitator couples. We ensured all questions could be asked anonymously so we could cover all the taboo areas.
As we approached the weekend, we became really excited as we saw that it might actually work! In our pre-weekend consultations, couples repeatedly told us that they wouldn’t have accessed a TfM weekend otherwise due to pricing, location or family circumstances (it was easy for one couple to find childcare for their three children for two separate days but they would have struggled for a whole weekend).
During the weekend, we consistently prayed for each couple between sessions (as we would do on a residential weekend) and chatted with the other facilitator couple to ensure that things were running smoothly. We also ensured that all couples had access to us should they need it. We encouraged couples to take time on the Saturday night to enjoy a romantic meal together and sent them some resources to help with this. This is another of our core values as we knew they would need precious time to relax together after potentially intense discussions during the day.
As the weekend drew to a close, we began our post weekend consultations and were blown away by the power of God at work in each couple. ‘Life changing’ was repeated to us a number of times as couples gave testimony of what God had done in their marriages. In addition, they were all really enthusiastic and grateful to have had the experience in their own homes. It had given them much needed space and privacy. One couple mentioned that rather than go away, have a mountain top experience and then come back down to earth with a bump, they were grateful to be living in the same space where they had made some important decisions. They felt it grounded those decisions.
Of course, an online weekend isn’t for everyone and there’s still something very precious about getting away from distractions together but we are excited to reach more couples than we ever could have and share God’s plan for their marriage in this new and dynamic way.
Find out more about our online weekends here.