More than ten years ago, my husband and I attended a Marriage Encounter weekend. The experience was a positive one, so I was interested when the editor of Marriage Partnership asked me to report on two contrasting approaches to marital improvement—the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment and FamilyLife Conferences.
I hadn't heard much about either organization, so I didn't know quite what to expect. I thought the FamilyLife event would be more oriented to '50s-style Ward and June Cleaver marriage, while the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment would have more of a '90s feel. I was wrong, but in ways I never expected.
Mass Scale Marital Improvement
FamilyLife Conferences don't do things on a modest scale. Rows and rows of chairs—almost enough to accommodate the crowd of 1,600—are set up in the ballroom of a Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. This conference was booked to overflowing, though an identical event was held just three weeks earlier, and the conference staff is negotiating with the hotel for an emergency third edition for the following month. Why the overwhelming demand?
The most significant reason is FamilyLife's high-profile status as a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, which in the past 46 years has touched the lives of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world. With so many people aware of Campus Crusade's work, they can feel comfortable with the style and content of a FamilyLife Conference. The group assembled in the Hyatt ballroom is diverse: newlyweds and elderly people; pregnant women and people using wheelchairs; interracial couples of every combination.1