GREENFIELD — Warren Petry knew this was going to be out of his comfort zone. But he felt like he and his wife were supposed to move forward anyway.
When they heard an announcement at church seeking seasoned married couples to be mentors, it caught his attention.
“If that’s what you feel, I will walk alongside you,” Cheyanne Petry remembers telling her husband.
So the Petrys became one of several couples at Brandywine Community Church trained to become Marriage Mentors. Each of those couples meets with and encourages another couple who has sought mentoring.
The Petrys are a blended family, and the blending wasn’t easy, Warren said, but he thought perhaps if they could share things they’d already been through, they could help someone steer away from possible mistakes.
“I just felt like maybe our experience could help somebody else,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re really alone in something, but all kinds of people go through those things. I think there’s some level of comfort in that.”
Jim and Tammi Flood launched the Marriage Mentors group at Brandywine. They’d been offering marriage counseling through the Wellspring Center that operates in the Brandywine building at 1551 E. New Road.
But over seven to eight years, they noticed a trend among the couples they had counseled. When they were able to stay in touch with a couple — if they ran into them at church and could chat casually, or maybe occasionally text and see how they were doing — that couple seemed more likely to flourish after the course of counseling concluded.
“The ones that we intentionally stayed engaged with … those are the couples that thrived,” Tammi Flood said.
Maybe, thought the Floods, some couples don’t need counseling as much as they could use mentoring.
Sometimes, couples early in their marriage will see an issue as a crisis, Jim Flood said, when maybe they need someone farther along to say, “How about you look at it from this viewpoint?”
So the Floods trained through Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott’s Marriage Mentoring ministry. The Parrotts wrote The Marriage Mentor Manual, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, among other books. In an infographic-style video on their website, they cite a study suggesting that 84 percent of people in church want a marriage mentor but only 22 percent say they have one.
Then the Floods turned to the Brandywine congregation seeking mentor couples. After they trained those couples, they began accepting applications from couples seeking mentoring.
“I’m really excited about this new ministry at Brandywine because it is meeting such a vital need,” Mark Wright, senior pastor at Brandywine, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “… Research shows that couples who have marriage mentors are happier and healthier. Having seasoned and experienced married couples walk alongside less experienced married couples is discipleship at its very best.”
Mentor couples can choose what kind of mentorship they’ll provide: Insight for couples preparing to marry, encouragement for couples who are fine but want to improve their marriage, or help for couples facing crisis and/or a need to repair a relationship. The two couples work out how they’ll meet, whether over dinner or at someone’s home.
As much as possible, couples who seek mentoring are paired with a mentor couple who’s navigated similar situations, such as blending a family, or parenting a child with special needs, or struggling with addiction.
If a couple is facing deeper issues, their mentors can suggest additional resources, such as a financial class or counseling. The Floods also support mentor couples by checking in with them and seeing if they have questions or need help. “The good thing is you’re not in it alone,” Warren Petry said.
The Floods are willing to train mentors if another church wanted to start its own Marriage Mentors program. It’s recommended that mentor couples have been married at least five years. That congregation would also need a facilitator couple, the role the Floods fill at Brandywine.
The Petrys hope that, by participating as mentors, they’re part of helping bring down the divorce rate.
“I hope their marriage survives and their relationship with their children flourishes,” Warren Petry said of the couples who seek mentoring.
“And their relationships with the Lord,” chimed Cheyanne, “to change the family tree and keep it whole.”
Mentoring, she said, “is just walking alongside someone in life and encouraging them — and letting them know that getting to the other side is a great place to be.”
FINDING A MENTOR
Couples seeking a mentor can contact the Wellspring Center at (317) 462-2015 or [email protected] Churches wanting help launching a Marriage Mentors group can also use the number and email address. Or they can learn more information at Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott’s site, marriagementoring.com.