Steps Toward Developing a Marriage Curriculum—Part II

July 12, 2012

To give you an idea of where I am headed in the next few posts, let me outline the general plan for how to develop a curriculum on any topic. The foundational work of such a plan is important, because it sets the direction for the whole project. It reveals the starting point for discussion, and offers the measure for success at the end. As you read through this outline, think about its application for a course on marriage in your church.

1. Set the overall learning goal for the course. This is the “big picture” statement of what one hopes to accomplish by getting people together around a topic.

2. Unpack the overall goal by describing more specifically: what does one want the students to know (information), to feel (emotional impact), to do (together in class activity as well as in application elsewhere), and to become (transformation).

3. Identify for each of the stated goals what behavior or response in class would indicate the student is learning. (These are called “learning indicators”).

4. Gather the resources and devise class activities that will give the students a chance to process the information, judge its value, practice new skills, or otherwise demonstrate that they are “getting it.” (There are several sub-tasks under this heading.)

5. Design an evaluation tool to measure success of the class and compare/contrast its actual outcome with the overall goal with which one started.

The above outline is enough to get us started, but the process of designing a new class curriculum includes several more steps that will be included as we go along.

So now, in reference to a congregational study on marriage, as directed by this year’s General Assembly, we start with Step I, the overall learning goal for the course.

I would propose the following overall goal for a course on marriage:  “The purpose of this course is to arrive at an understanding of marriage that can be affirmed and practiced, with joyful confidence and a clear conscience, in the church.”

Arrive at an understanding of marriage:  the point is to explore the meaning of marriage, and will, no doubt, include discussions of creation and natural law, covenant keeping, community, and love. The question of whether a marriage can occur between two people of the same sex will be addressed early, since, from a biblical perspective that subject comes up in chapter one of Genesis.

That can be affirmed and practiced: our efforts will be based on what we believe in order to know how to act (“truth unto goodness” [F-3.0104]). It would not meet our goals to determine that we believe one thing about marriage but are allowed to do something else.

With joyful confidence and a clear conscience: The effort here is to determine what is life-giving, based on true knowledge and correct authority, and what is moral and ethical. This goal also captures the need for a decision we embrace and carry out as part of our Christian discipleship.

In the church: The scope of application is the church, not the society, because we understand our position relative to the world to be “in but not of” the world. It is possible that we will come to a conclusion that is counter-cultural, and if so, we bear it and live it joyfully as a witness to the world of the Kingdom of God.

We may refine this purpose statement as we go along, but this is a good start. In my next post, I will unpack this goal in terms of “know, feel, do, become” goals.


12 Responses to “Steps Toward Developing a Marriage Curriculum—Part II”

  1. Gene Says:

    “Natural Law”? I don’t see any conversation going anywhere when one brings into it a concept that itself a great many, perhaps most, of the potential participants consider not even worthy of being addressed and ridiculed Rev. Naegeli

    So called “Natural Law” being involved makes this whole enterprise a non starter for any meaningful discussion with almost everyone I know on the progressive side of the debate. Accordingly, if we have any hope of having a real discussion, I think both sides (yes, progressives also) need to first start defining terms, understandings of what certain terms mean to us (separately or collectively) and what the goals are. Othewise, we wil just start talking past each other.

  2. Bruce P Greenough Says:

    Mary, why not a “biblical understanding” as stated in the purpose?

  3. Jodie Says:


    Can’t wait for the Genesis argument. My lawfully wedded love-of-my-life wife of thirty years is my one and only wife because Eve was hand made from Adam’s missing rib?

    (That would mean she was his genetic sister. Twin, even, except for getting the chromosomes mixed up…)

    Sorry, but the Genesis story is going to be a tall hill to climb in defining marriage. Show of hands: In how many marriages has (or does) the Genesis story carry any weight whatsoever?

    How did it figure in your marriage?

    Very curious. I am all ears.


  4. Linda Lee, mukilteo Says:

    Let’s not forget that Jesus quoted and referred to the
    Genesis story regarding marriage saying In Matthew 18:4-6
    ” Have you not read that He (God)who made them at the beginning (Genesis) made them male and female, and said
    ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ‘ …..
    Why do you, Jodie, give so little weight to Jesus words?
    you sound like you are claiming to know more about genetics than your creator, God.

    • Jodie Says:

      Jesus, in a speech against divorce, did quote that passage. But when it came to letting divorce in the door, nobody mentioned it. Why now?

      Don’t get me wrong. Better late than never.

      We need to put the whole thing on the table. All of marriage. Because as an institution, Christian marriage is in a shambles. I see no difference there between right and left and everywhere else.

      Even we who are fortunate enough to be happily married only once need to put our house in order before we can go around telling others who is in a Christian marriage and who is not.

      That is why I am curious.

      • Chas Jay Says:

        Jodie, I hope you chastised the More Lights for having Eugene Robinson as their guest since he divorced his wife and left his kids in order to be with a man. Of course I know you did not.
        The liberals were the ones that pushed for “forgiveness and compassion” toward those that divorced and now use it as their weapon against conservatives to promote changing the definition of marriage

  5. Linda Lee, mukilteo Says:

    So, Jodie, you re saying that because we are not living a perfect life or have perfect Christian marriages, we should not lift up God’s best or encourage each other to live a life worthy of God’s calling. Humility, then God’s grace, and access to
    Forgiveness, as well as access to God’s Holy Spirit to live
    Into holiness are important themes even in the area of our family relationships. God calls some to lift up and proclaim truth. I am aware there is not one interpretation accepted in this denomination, but now is an opportunity to get the church to renew their commitment to a truth about marriage (and divorce) based on God’s word. God gives us boundaries, even boundaries for marriage, for our good, and for societies well being and so we will not reap the consequences of behavior that brings adverse consequences. Some are called to this ministry, some are called to intercessory prayer. We should be willing to struggle to know God’s will in this important matter.

    I think that is what Mary’s idea of a good curriculum about marriage is all about.

    • Jodie Says:

      Well, OK, but you do realize that God’s word does not limit the definition of marriage as being only the relationship between a man and a woman, right? Jesus himself extends the definition to encompass the relationship between Himself and the whole Church – that’s casting a pretty wide net. As does Paul when he quotes Genesis.

      For me that’s the superior biblical model.

      How it translates into a time and culture independent definition of the human contract between marriage partners, that’s a wide open field. I don’t think it’s ever been done before. But it includes things like fierce allegiance, self sacrificing and all suffering love, indissolubility, and so forth.

      And yes, upon penalty of being convicted of hypocrisy and self righteousness, we must not demand of others a standard we cannot meet ourselves. Which is probably how we first turned a blind eye to the issue of rampant divorce. But if we can pull that beam out of our eyes, maybe we will see clearly enough to address whether marriage can or cannot be applied to same sex couples. Personally I don’t see why not.

      Yet I am still curious…

      • Chas Jay Says:

        Jodie, you are a hypocrite. You supported the removal of the ordination standard of “chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage.” How can you sit there and tell conservatives they must get their houses in order first when you wanted the very standards removed from the Book of Order?

  6. Linda Lee, mukilteo Says:

    Hopefully a discussion of marriage will include what Jesus Christ says about the relationship between Christ and His Church.

    As far as demanding others live up to a standard…..demand is a misused word here. Scripture is spoken, and you choose to live by it or not. There is no demand on people, even when we share verbally our convictions, there is freedom of those who listen and hear. We agree with God…..that we cannot live up to the standard, but we must also say that God does have standards and is Holy. It is a standard based on a blessed miracle and grace of God and work of the Holy Spirit which we proclaim not out of arrogance, but out of love for others.

    I must say that “listening” to your point of view helps me understand both is sides of the argument….thanks for that!

    But this is Rev. Mary’s blog….so I will leave this dialogue now.

  7. Jodie Says:


    I don’t know to what I owe your hostility, but the reason the PCUSA voted to change the wording of its ordination standard was precisely to get away from the hypocrisy involved in the selective enforcement of a standard nobody could satisfy.

    At least now we have a standard that can be satisfied and enforced honestly.

    I will not respond to any more personal name calling.


  8. Chas Jay Says:

    You since hostility because light has been shown on your twisting and lies. Nobody could satisfy? Does that mean that you have been unfaithful to your wife? That’s what I assume since you made that statement. There are people that do live by the chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage standard and they were/are not candidates for ministry, deacon or elder.
    You twist to say that Jesus was referring to the relationship between Him and the Church which is true, but it was the comparison of how Christ enters our hearts, or “cleaves” to us like a man cleaves to his wife. Cleave includes the sexual act (consummation of marriage) that only takes place with a man and woman because it’s biology, or nature. Two men are not able to “cleave” and two women are incapable of it as well. You also mentioned Paul, but you ignore what Paul wrote about it being an abomination for a man to lie with another man like he would a woman.
    Christ said “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me.” In this we become one in Christ just like a man and a woman become one in marriage. Christ, asks to come into our hearts just like a man asks a woman to marry him and Christ comes into our hearts like a man enters a woman.

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