Evansville, Ind., 2008; $40, study group starter kit; additional copies, $10 each
The Christian Family Movement has a 60-year history as a fellowship of families who conscientiously build their relationships on a faith foundation and put their beliefs to work in their daily lives. CFM also is known as an association that provides sound resources for small study groups.
Jay and I were a newly married couple in Chicago with no acquaintances outside of work when, after four months or so, we saw in our parish bulletin an invitation to a CFM information session. The possibility of meeting other young couples lured us to the meeting where we signed up to be assigned to one of several groups being formed.
Soon we were engaged with other couples in thought-provoking discussions and purposeful activities, and we formed friendships that persisted long after our growing families dispersed to the suburbs and other places.
CFM materials have evolved over the years, with new programs added, familiar themes updated and meeting styles adjusted for contemporary couples. Yet the same method has proven valuable through the decades: observe, judge, act. CFM gatherings, after prayer and Scripture reflection, focus on a three-part social inquiry.
1. Observe: Group members investigate their topic and report on their findings.
2. Judge: The group evaluates the situation and discusses what a Christian could do to effect change.
3. Act: Participants choose from among suggested actions or devise their own ways to change the situation.
CFM’s premise is that God forms Christian families that reflect on God’s word in light of their experiences and then act on what they learn.
“Marriage Makes a Difference” carries out those CFM basics in ten chapters. After the first chapter, which is ideal for new groups, any or all topics can be chosen according to interest.
The book addresses Christian teaching about marriage and cites papal and bishops’ documents on faithfulness, service, family planning, hurtful behavior, aging and other issues. Each chapter includes suggested opening and closing prayers, one or more Scripture passages, a commentary on the topic and recommended methods of observation such as reflection questions, interviews and data gathering.
Except for the first session, participants should use the “Observe” section ahead of time so they can report their findings during the meeting. Following discussion about observations, the group uses questions posed in the “Judge” section for dialogue and then chooses ways they intend to act on their conclusions.
Actions might directly benefit a couple or family (“Spend time talking to your children about how God is working in your life”), touch a neighbor (“Reach out to a newly engaged couple”) or provide a community benefit (“As a group, sponsor a marriage education program”).
At the end of the small book is a good bibliography of works cited and additional resources, both print and Web-based. There is a note about where group leaders can obtain extra help and pages to write down the names of group members and their contact information.