Pastor Nate Gibbons
Who wouldn’t want their church to have a caring environment where people from all walks of life can feel comfortable, grow spiritually, and lovingly challenge one another?
That’s what I want for Center Free Methodist Church, the church I pastor in Sarahsville, Ohio. And that’s the type of environment that God is creating with the help of FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders Couples Series®.
Building a sense of community
A few years ago some couples returned from a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and said they wanted to do a Bible study together. My answer was, “Great, but somebody besides me has to start it.” A lady in the church, April Miley, said she and her husband, Wayne, would facilitate it if I could be part of it. I agreed.
After talking with David Newell, a field representative for FamilyLife, we decided to do Building Teamwork in Your Marriage, a small-group study in the HomeBuilders Couples Series. We began the study in the fall of 2009 with five couples—including my wife, Stephanie, and me. We discovered it was fun and easy to lead. And loving relationships between couples seem to naturally develop in a HomeBuilders group.
Also, the homework is great because it challenges each husband and wife to build a healthy, Christ-centered relationship. It really opens up communication. When a husband and wife start learning together, and truly loving one another, they begin to say, “It’s not about me. It’s about somebody else.” When couples start to serve one another in their marriage, they also start to put others first in every other part of their lives.
As the HomeBuilders Couples Series was building a real sense of community, Greg Forshey started attending our church. He and I had coached T-ball together. Some of the people in the Building Teamwork in Your Marriage group made friends with Greg. He told us, “I’m just trying to find God. I need to change my life.” In October 2009 he received Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.
In December 2009, Greg’s ex-wife, Kim, and their two children showed up at church one Sunday. They continued to come Sunday after Sunday. Some couples from the HomeBuilders study group invited Greg and Kim to come to a Weekend to Remember with them in February 2010. Greg and Kim went and were remarried the following April.
The Forsheys got involved in a HomeBuilders study in the fall of 2010 and were very transparent about why their first marriage to one another had failed. Their honesty encouraged others to really open up. They said, “We totally lost our marriage and God has given it back to us.”
It’s kind of crazy what the HomeBuilders Couples Series is doing for our church—it has transformed it! In fact, we just had another couple from the HomeBuilders study get baptized. And all of the couples from the group showed up to support them.
Now everybody in the HomeBuilders group babysits for each other. We also share prayer requests by e-mail and text messaging. And we continue to meet in the summer when we’re not doing a particular small-group Bible study. We’ll have a picnic or go to somebody’s house just to be together.
Stephanie and I have formed some really close friendships through the Homebuilders Bible study. And it’s fun and encouraging to watch couples interact with one another. When couples going through a HomeBuilders study come to church on Sunday, they sit on the right side of the church with their families. By doing that, I know they are saying to me, “We’re here. We support you.” Do you know what that’s like for a pastor? It’s like having your own cheering section.
Our first HomeBuilders Couples Series group (now with eight couples) has now gone through three studies together: Building Teamwork, Building Up Your Spouse, and Improving Communication in Your Marriage. Everyone has become so close that we don’t want to separate. This fall we will launch a totally new, second HomeBuilders group.
We’ve found that the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and the HomeBuilders Couples Series complement one another. Often those involved in a study go to a Weekend to Remember as a group because it’s a terrific marriage checkup. This past March, Stephanie and I took eight couples to the Weekend to Remember—most of them were involved in a HomeBuilders group.
The HomeBuilders Bible studies are creating an environment in our church for couples to lovingly grow and challenge one another. Our church has just a little over 100 members. The impact of the HomeBuilders Couples Series has been huge.