The Premarital Mentoring Ministry at Citylight just made sense to Karen as a place where she could serve. The large group ministries were good but she really liked the one-on-one ministry and the impact it can have on individuals. Plus she loved young adults. Her heart is tender toward that season of life and plus she was about to have a few young adults in her family. Two of her four sons were graduating in the near future. Her plan was to serve these couples and maybe walk away with a better understanding and insight on parenting young adults. What she didn’t expect was the impact that this ministry and these couples would have on her marriage.
With the acceptance of her husband, Tracy and Karen Cogdill attended the first marriage conference at Citylight as mentors. At that time, they were married for about twenty years and at Citylight for a few years. They were also involved in a City Group. Parenting their four sons, however, was their life. Their boy’s plans and needs consumed almost all of their time and Tracy and Karen loved it. They were proud to be parents but that first premarital weekend did something to each of them. It gave them an awareness of the fact that they were parents that were just living married lives.
“We didn’t get it,” Karen admitted with a smile. “By the time the second premarital weekend came around, Tracy and I didn’t like each other.”
“With all seriousness,” confessed Karen, “This ministry has helped our marriage. Our marriage is better than it’s ever been.”
At that first conference, Tracy and Karen didn’t know what to expect. They knew they would be paired with a few couples afterwards. Marriage mentors are for premarital couples who desire a mentor couple and are then typically matched at the conference which takes place in the Spring and Fall of each year. Prior to meeting with each couple for the first time, Tracy and Karen would receive from Citylight completed questionnaires by each couple. These answers to the questionnaire would give Tracy and Karen some talking points to begin with and a time is then set to meet.
“For me it was being open enough to realize I was learning as much from these couples as they were learning from Karen and I,” Tracy stated.
Tracy continued with “we had to allow God to work through us to then guide these couples toward what we already were taught by God.”
“We have not always been intentional in our marriage,” declared Karen. “When we started to understand this necessity, Tracy and I just wanted to help these couples to not wait as long as we did and to understand each other from God’s perspective from the beginning.”
Little by little, Tracy and Karen worked as a team and the more they did this, and with each couple, truths were revealed to everyone.
“My favorite part is where the couples go through their answers with questions on who is going to do simple stuff,” Karen said. “Things like who’s going to do the dishes, make the bed, take the trash out. You just assume it will all work out.”
Karen explained that “each person has expectations. These expectations most of the time reflect how their mom or dad did it. When you try and bring two completely different families together, that’s where disagreements can start. Everyone brings some sort of baggage. Having a mentor can help bring awareness to these things and it provides a safe space to process it before marriage. This has been an eye opener for every couple.”
Tracy and Karen both shared that by having a mentor couple ahead of time gives framework to these kinds of conversations that then have helped prevent miscommunications while in the early seasons of marriage.
Tracy added “we are a different resource than their own particular family. Each family naturally takes the side of their own family. You have to have other people in your life. You can’t rely just on your family. Couples will fight over these things. Karen and I can help by bringing up these topics early on. I enjoy helping each of them to understand one another, the men and the women. Going through all of these topics have also changed our marriage...how we think so differently, and our needs are so different. To know this upfront can be amazing!”
“And you know what?” Tracy exclaimed. “God never asks you to do those things that are natural. Karen and I were not intentional about navigating these topics on our own and now we are. This ministry has given us new insight on all of this for our marriage too.”
With each couple and with each marriage conference they attended, Tracy and Karen’s desire and awareness for others and for one another continued to grow. They couldn’t stress enough how vital this ministry can be for couples and encourages all premarital couples to walk with a mentor.
“Just allowing God to do the work polishes us all, especially Tracy and I as we mentor,” Karen conveyed.
“As a mentor couple we can start showing them a different walk,” Tracy interjected, “when we start showing them something different because of our experiences it can make a huge difference. We have loved every single couple.”
Karen also encouraged other couples to become mentors, even if they feel inadequate or their marriage is not perfect.
“To invest into other people is what we are called to do,” declared Karen with encouragement and grace. “Even if there is hesitancy...once you start getting in and doing it, it feeds your soul. If you have been married for any length of time, you know a bit on what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to be perfect in order to walk with another couple. You share experiences with the mentee couple and it’s wonderful. We are not called to do this role, to walk alongside others in life, because you are an expert. God works through you to do this.”
“The great thing is you don’t have to know everything,” Tracy added. “It’s just investing in each couple, through relationship and time. Karen and I know too that we are going to learn from them. We are not counselors but are there to listen.”
After some thought, Tracy made this call for other seasoned couples...“Discipling or mentoring is teaching someone else what God taught you yesterday. It doesn’t require training to do this. Having mentored couples in this ministry, Karen and I now solve our own problems more intentionally and faster. It’s been an unexpected perk, to get back and receive more than we gave. It’s a blessing that God has given us. We now have a better relationship and it’s made me a better man.”
In the beginning with the mentoring ministry, Karen was hoping to gain a better awareness on how to parent and walk alongside her boys as they entered adulthood. Today, after God changing her through mentoring others, Karen is now living out her true identity...a kind wife who gives the control over to God and leaves the changing of others to Him. This is the best kind of parenting she could ever give her sons at any stage of life. And God’s timing is always perfect. Tracy and Karen’s oldest son recently got engaged. They have been given another opportunity to use their tools that they have been given from the mentoring ministry.
“By the grace of God, Tracy and I stuck together,” Karen conveyed. “One of my prayers is that our son and his fiancé will have an older couple that points them back to Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great to have each of our sons surrounded by mentors? It makes mentoring others even more personal for Tracy and me considering we can be that to another couple.”
Tracy and Karen look forward to serving and encouraging more couples, including their sons as they grow into men and have marriages of their own. They praise God and are so thankful that they can now look forward to their own marriage, to more days where they can tell one another ‘I will always love you’ and mean it. A sweet unexpected gift but also the best mentoring they can offer anyone especially to their sons.
The Premarital Weekend is a Friday evening and Saturday morning conference that is offered each Fall. Any engaged or newly married couples are welcome to sign-up and attend the weekend regardless of whether or not they attend Citylight. This weekend is designed to help engaged couples prepare for marriage well by pointing them to a Christ-centered understanding for marriage. If you're interested, the next Premarital Weekend will be August 20 - 21 at the Midtown location. Learn more and register at citylightomaha.org/marriage.