Preparing Marriages for the Challenges of Leadership
MarriageStrong founder Sharon Hargrave with seminar participants. Photo by Zack DeBruyne.

MarriageStrong founder Sharon Hargrave with seminar participants. Photo by Zack DeBruyne.

This month Calvin Seminary had the pleasure of hosting Sharon and Terry Hargrave, founders of MarriageStrong, for a four-hour introduction to the relationship-strengthening MarriageStrong program. Normally a nine-week course, MarriageStrong seeks to “change the way married couples see themselves and others within a relationship.” Sharon saw the need for this sort of program during her work as marriage and family therapist and professor at Fuller Seminary, where she desired to see seminarians and their spouses flourish rather than falter in ministry contexts. Now, MarriageStrong has grown “beyond the seminary setting… to serve academic campuses, in overseas programs… churches, Christian organizations, and other leadership venues.”

MarriageStrong is “committed to helping couples develop valuable relationship skills that will not only help their marriages, but also dramatically change the way they interact with others in their families, friendships, places of work, and within the Body of Christ.”

One of the fundamental scriptural texts of the curriculum is Ephesians 4:22-24: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The goal is for couples to live out of the new self, living out God’s declared image in the context of marriage.

With an emphasis on putting off the old self, Terry and Sharon recognize that “what one does in marital conflict is what one will do in conflict with everyone else.” MarriageStrong seeks to understand each individual’s reaction to conflict, and how this can impact the marriage for better or worse. Their goal is to “…help guard against burnout, unrealistic expectations, and feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that often exist in leadership marriages.”

The seminar drew over 50 Grand Rapids-area pastors, therapists, psychologists, as well as seminary students, faculty, and staff. We thank God for the work of MarriageStrong and the Hargraves, and look forward to seeing the fruit of stronger, more vulnerable, and more Christ-like relationships within the Church and its leadership.


– Zack DeBruyne

Calvin Theological Seminary