The divorce rate in Australia has steadied—that’s good news. However, 75% of Australians under the age of 35 have never been married, over 900,000 couples are cohabiting rather than marrying, and almost one third of our nation’s children are being born to unmarried couples.
Those facts are concerning enough, but consider this: 60% of Australians do not even know someone who is an active churchgoer, let alone truly following Jesus. A research campaign into the condition of “the church” in Melbourne, a city of four million, discovered that on average less than three people per church per year are becoming believers in our 10,000 churches across the greater metropolitan area. In the 34 and under age group, only 4% attend church. Our challenge in FamilyLife was how to reach out to this demographic who would never really consider attending something offered by a church.
In response to this, FamilyLife Australia has been on the move with a new weekend marriage conference called “Love that Lasts—a relationship getaway” designed to reach out to the general public—particularly unchurched couples (married or cohabiting). We piloted our first event in Melbourne the first weekend of June for 34 couples. The conference covers topics like resolving conflict, sexual intimacy, communication, and roles. Sessions are covertly built on biblical principles with the final session on Sunday morning offering a personal testimony and a gentle challenge to faith.
The pilot event was a success, and many attendees shared how the conference had positively affected them:
“We came with a huge issue that had been boiling for some weeks. This weekend gave us the time, space, frame of mind, and motivation to communicate, forgive, and work on some solutions. It was a gift in the midst of some really hard times. Thank you.”
“The topics have prompted so much discussion on issues we have not talked about before. Great preparation for married life.”
“It has made me see three things I am doing that are damaging our relationship: the ways I react, the ways I communicate, and the ways I critically focus on the 20% negative instead of the 80% fantastic attributes my husband has.”
One of our staff chatted with a young woman during the weekend who shared that she was raised in a Christian family but had spiritually drifted over the years—she described herself as a “heavy-drinking party girl.” As a result of this weekend she now plans to reconsider her relationship with God, and she expressed interest in being involved with our ministry so that she could do something positive for others. She is now on a journey to discover what being a Christian is all about.
Two more relationship getaways are scheduled during August—one in New South Wales and the other in West Australia. The conference is generating interest in many places, so we are now making plans for 2012 in a number of locations around the country.
For more information about this conference and for details on upcoming events, visit www.lovethatlasts.com.au.