The roads of Brad Rhoads’ life run on parallel tracks. The attorney practiced law full-time for more than two decades, yet as he devoted more efforts to marriage ministry, he felt the Lord calling him to transition to make that his full time work.


Brad began serving as a lay pastor of marriage in his church in 2012 in an attempt to proactively help marriages rather than pick up the pieces after they were broken. He worked with his church’s youth ministry for 10 years. As the teens grew up and began to marry, they saw the fruit of his decades-long marriage with his wife, Marilyn, and asked him to conduct their premarital counseling.


From Law to Ministry


While still practicing law, Brad discovered a coaching program that taught him to devote one day a quarter to intentionally planning his business. He noticed a correlation between the marriage classes he and Marilyn were leading and the business-coaching model that had been so beneficial to his law practice. Brad crafted content to develop a program to use those proven business practices to help couples intentionally build their marriages.

“It is so easy to make a difference in couples’ lives if you catch them before they encounter crisis,” he said. “You have to give marriage off the top time, not the leftovers, because there never are any leftovers.”

In 2012, Brad piloted a marriage-coaching program with 10 couples. All of them wanted to continue after the first year. When his congregation heard about it, almost 1/3 of the church of 350 signed on.


While he divided his time between ministry and law for a while, Brad realized his heart truly called him to be a marriage champion. He became an ordained pastor, and he and Marilyn expanded the program, now called Grace Marriage. The need became so apparent that Brad left his law practice in 2015 to devote his full professional attention to it. Grace Marriage has now spread to more than 120 churches, reached 5,000 participants and has been featured on Focus on the Family.


Marilyn holds qualifications in her own right, with degrees in psychology and social work. She was professionally employed as a counselor before leaving her practice to raise the Rhoads’ five children. The couple leads marriage retreats, writes marriage wellness materials, provides leadership training and leads quarterly marriage groups.


Grace Marriage draws its name from Romans 6:14, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace."

“We long to be consistent, kind and thoughtful, but that’s not our natural reaction,” he said. Grace Marriage helps couples model grace and forgiveness rather than withdrawal and consequence for each other’s inevitable failures.

“We teach them to extend grace and pursue their spouse when they are struggling, like Jesus,” he said. “To consciously think, ‘How can I be of most help,’ moving toward them, rather than becoming frustrated with their shortcomings and criticizing or pulling back.”

Unpacking the Grace Marriage Framework


Grace Marriage is structured so couples meet for half a day once a quarter. Each session includes a new participants’ guide with fresh material to stimulate conversation.


Lessons start with a biblical concept. Couples will think, take structured time to hear and be heard, and write down what application and implementation would look like in their lives. People are 42% more likely to do something if they write it down, Brad said.


Couples create time and space to have conversations they otherwise wouldn’t have —becoming intentional about planning the direction of their marriage— just like they’d purposefully plan their finances.


“Grace + intentionality = transformation,” he said. Later, participants meet as a group and share their insights to allow others to benefit from collective discovery, he added. And best of all, couples are encouraged to plan a get away to remember to enjoy time together.


Brad recalls that his marriage was not always healthy. As a young husband, he felt the pressure to provide and immersed himself in his career. His uncle dragged him to a Promise Keepers meeting, where he realized his mistake. “I was broken. I had taken a beautiful Christian woman and treated her poorly for a year. I told Marilyn everything would be different from this point.”


Now Brad and Marilyn personally practice what they teach others through Grace Marriage. They plan a getaway every quarter and intentionally write down wheat they want to do together.

“Struggles are inevitable. Satan has a way of making us feel alone,” Brad said. “But it is a lot more normal than we realize. We hope to create a culture where it is normative for couples to focus on each other – to realize that marriage tending is better than crisis care.”

What the Church Can Do


Brad’s vision is that every Bible-believing church would include a marriage ministry. A Communio study showed that 72% of churches don’t. He pleads with pastors to no longer view marriage ministry as optional.


“If you are in a church that doesn’t have an ongoing marriage ministry strategy, you need one!” he said. “Shepherding includes shepherding marriages. Discipling includes discipling marriages. If we are proactive and intentional, fun becomes a norm. We can change the paradigm of marriage, not just doing millions of complacent marriages. You don’t find many people coming into crisis counseling who say they are intentional about their marriage. Unless we change the way church and individuals do marriage, we will see the decline of marriage until it is gone.”


Brad correlates the breakdown of marriage with family dysfunction. “Home influences a child more than weekly church programming,” he said. “We pour thousands of dollars into children and youth while leaving the marriage space empty.


Where to Start


Grace Marriage makes it easy for churches to begin or build on existing practices. The ministry creates and provides curriculum and equips lay leaders to help a church on-ramp a Grace Marriage program. They will provide all the collaterals to launch: messaging, email templates, tablecloths, social media, and promotional videos that churches can personalize. Church support specialists are prepared to help a church walk through the process of getting started.


“We know a lot of things that work and a lot of things that don’t work,” Brad said. One of their new offerings has been to re-configure into six one-hours sessions to be a better fit for churches that use a small group model involving large sanctuaries with less classroom space. They’re also planning to add content from various experts like Dr. Juli Slattery, a highly respected speaker in the field of physical intimacy.


New, Online Platform


The ministry launched Grace Marriage at Home to offer a virtual platform. Brad compares the subscription-based electronic coaching product to the “Peloton for your marriage.” Each video session includes 10-15 minutes of teaching, time for structured communication and a downloadable worksheet to help direct thoughts to apply the concept. Topics will address things not usually mentioned from the pulpit, including biblically informed messages about sex and intimacy taught by leading experts.


Every two weeks, the site drops a date night idea ranging “from JV to Major League,” Brad said, “depending on how creative they want to be and how much fun they want to have.” Date ideas include: recreate your first date, cook a fancy meal together by candlelight, ride along with your spouse while golfing, or choose your own date, with the freedom to be selfish. His goal is that couples look forward to each installment more than their next Netflix episode.


Book Release


Grace Marriage is releasing a book titled The Grace Marriage, co-authored with Brittany Tarr Cragg. The book is about living out God’s grace in marriage and includes real life examples of how God’s grace is played out in the marriage context. “We no longer live in frustration because grace will set us free,” Brad said.


Brad dreams of adapting Grace Marriage concepts to a seminary course to teach pastors to be wonderful spouses, how to live well, and to set boundaries.

“Many ministry marriages are stagnant and dominated by ministry — flat marriages and lonely wives. The pastor’s wife should be the most well-loved woman in that church. The sheep rarely pass their shepherds,” Brad added. The response of seminary students has been, “We don’t hear this often. There’s this huge push toward academic and theological excellence, but not much push for excellence in the home.”

Grace Marriage has something to offer marriage champions on any end of the marriage ministry spectrum —whether you are an individual looking for an inspiring date night idea through Grace Marriage at Home, a church inspired to ramp up a marriage ministry or anything in between. To learn more, visit Gracemarriage.com.


Updated: 7 days ago


How are men and women supposed to relate to each other in today’s culture? Whereas the clichéd romantic comedy/Disney movie storyline still depicts the scenario “boy meets girl, boy marries girl, and they live happily ever after,” a popular female musician defiantly sings, “My name is NO. My number’s NO. My sign is NO.”


How can a woman hope to be able to answer yes to a proposal if she’s so busy saying No to an introduction?

Despite societal questions concerning gender and masculine/feminine roles, most women still hope for marriage and motherhood sometime in their lives. But too many of them follow the cultural narrative that tells them to put off marriage until they have achieved career success.

According to author and relationship coach Suzanne Venker, this misleading message damages the chances of women achieving the marriage and family they desire. Suzanne has gleaned wisdom from decades of research, her life coaching practice, and interviews with leading thought leaders in the marriage and family realm, which she’s incorporated in her seven books and hundreds of contributions to various media outlets.

The word brave comes to mind to describe Suzanne, as she boldly and publicly says things others are afraid to say. She advocates for traditional values, like placing marriage and motherhood before career, and honoring and embracing the designed differences between men and women to help marriages thrive. Married herself for 23 years, with two young adult children, Suzanne coaches couples to develop practices that will help them achieve marital success.

“The secret to lasting love rests in the masculine-feminine dance,” she posts on her site. “Once you master it, your relationship will no longer be difficult. You'll be moving with the biological tide, rather than against it.”

Suzanne is not afraid to stick to her guns despite opposition – appearing on shows like The View, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Fox and Friends. Her 2012 Fox News article, “The War on Men,” remains one of Fox’s most read op-eds in history.

In Suzanne’s latest book, How to Get Hitched (and Stay Hitched): A 12-Step Program for Marriage-Minded Women, due out in August, she offers to help “marriage-minded” women balance ever-shifting cultural expectations with the reality of a ticking biological clock.


She recently posted, “The conflict between work and family hasn't changed in the least, but what gets more attention now is women’s (a) inability to find a marriageable man and/or (b) complaint that men aren’t doing enough on the home front to make it all work.”

In our guts, her statement rings true. Haven’t we felt the tension between the messages of equality and feminism and traditional masculine/feminine roles? Suzanne doesn’t care if her message isn’t popular with the “in” crowd. How to Get Hitched is for the “marriage-minded woman,” and if that’s not you, feel free to stay in your own lane. Suzanne developed this book not just from research but from first-hand examples of the women she sees in her coaching sessions.

Suzanne plainly states that the cultural narrative has taught women to believe “flat out lies.” Her 12-step program as posed in How to Get Hitched articulates a “massive mind shift that allows women to construct lives that match who they really are and what they really want, versus what they’ve been told they should want.” She clarifies that the book is “less about finding a man and more about finding you.”

The book’s program is framed as a detox to offer women “a new roadmap” to life and to love. At the root of women’s unhappiness and frustration, Suzanne claims, is that they’ve absorbed four lies the culture tells:


1. Marriage + motherhood = jail

2. "Never depend on a man"

3. Sex is just sex

4. Career success will (and should) define you


How to Get Hitched counters these lies with 12 action steps to help a woman get married and stay married. “If you’ve been planning your life around these lies, you will fail,” she said.


Suzanne particularly disdains the trend for people to take years in young adulthood to “find themselves,” perhaps leaving behind a healthy relationship to put career first or because others deem the couple “too young.” She asks, “Do you think the guy will be just standing there waiting for you if you remove yourself from the equation? You will experience far greater growth inside a relationship than you will outside of it.”

Suzanne mentions the options for women are different than in the past in that marriage doesn’t necessarily have to result in children immediately. But she points out the very real possibility that when women follow the cultural expectation and wait to look for a man with whom to settle down and have kids once they’ve established their career, they will notice a scarcity of eligible men.

“When I get down and deep with the 99% of my clients who are married (who are consulting with Suzanne because of marital problems) and ask, ‘Why did you get married at the time?’ they tell me they wanted a baby.” They were willing to overlook potential problems and settle for the guy who was available because they were up against the clock. “What no one talks about is that there is a dramatic negative to waiting so long to decide to get married.”

A taboo subject: premarital sex. Suzanne wonders if it is realistic to expect people to remain sexually abstinent during the decade of their 20s if they plan to postpone marriage. You can’t advise both things, she says.

“How do you want women to handle sex and relationships while they wait ten years for marriage? You’re just throwing them to the wolves. People are hooking up, living with people, collecting all kinds of heartache. You need some middle ground. You can’t simultaneously say “no premarital sex,” and “oh, by the way, don’t get married until you’re in your 30s,” she said.

Another countercultural idea: A woman does not respond to being the primary breadwinner in a marriage the way a man does, Suzanne stated. “Gender role reversal is supposed to be progressive and forward thinking. But men and women want and need different things in marriage. When the wife is the primary earner, she becomes stressed out. She becomes resentful and ultimately loses desire for her husband, and so the sex dwindles. “Nobody wants to talk about this, yet it’s the reason most of my clients’ marriages are struggling. They’re completely unbalanced.”

“Ultimately, this is about making decisions early on about what you want as a woman (that we’re not allowed to talk about) and then constructing a life accordingly.”

Suzanne tells some of her own story in her 2017 book, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage. “No expectation has been more damaging to women and to marriage than the feminist notion of equality. Notice I say the ‘feminist’ notion. That’s because a marriage can be equal, or equal enough, if you define the term differently,” Suzanne posts on her website.

“The equality you’ve been taught to embrace suggests men and women are interchangeable, and they are not. Marriage can be team oriented without both partners living identical lives.”


Suzanne helps women understand how to be a wife, which is very different from being a girlfriend. Men don’t like to fight with women. “When a woman nags or complains, a man thinks she’s looking for a fight.” One of Suzanne’s strategies is for a woman to turn a complaint into a positive statement of desire, which tells her husband what she wants as opposed to telling him what he’s doing wrong.

Suzanne recalls these messages were not the ones she was taught growing up. “It has been trial and error for me,” with a history that includes the dissolution of Suzanne’s first marriage in her early adult years.

Suzanne calls women to reclaim their femininity, which she calls “a woman’s greatest power.” Women have “thrown away their feminine gifts in how men and women are designed to work and have thus made relationships competitive rather than complementary. When a woman changes her attitude and thinking, the guy comes around because men are naturally responsive to women.”

The feminist attitude says, “Why do I have to do all the work?” The right attitude is, “Wow, I have a lot of power here.” A woman can “light up the room when she enters it, or she can drain all the energy in the room. Just being aware of how the male brain works goes a long, long way.”

Suzanne’s coaching practice is built upon the material espoused in her books. After a free 30-minute consultation to ensure a woman will be a good fit for her program, she offers a 6- or a 12-session coaching package. She also notes on her website that she’s “not a passive coach.” Suzanne offers concrete feedback, as well as practical solutions that work.


“There will be no ‘And how does that make you feel’ going on. It’s not that I don’t care how you feel. It’s that I’m passionate about getting to the root of the problem, and talking about your feelings won’t accomplish that. Adopting new behaviors will.”

An unusual feature of Suzanne’s coaching — she promotes open communication with her clients via a texting app. “They need access to me,” she said. “It allows me to help someone put changes into action in the moment.”

“My coaching is about teaching women how to be married,” she said.

At the end of the day, men and women are not wired the same. While both men and women deserve equal dignity and worth, each has a primary role for which they are better suited. This doesn’t mean there’s never any overlap or that all relationships will function in the exact same way. It just means the more people rely on their natural instincts, rather than forcing themselves into the equality box, the more successful they will be.


Women have been sold a lie that they should and could “have it all”—all at the same time. The supermom ideal isn’t sustainable in real life. Women can, however, have most of what they want out of life if they pursue it in piecemeal fashion.


And in the right order.


Find more about Suzanne, her views and her life coaching practice at https://www.suzannevenker.com/. Find more about her latest book at howtogethitched.net.



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Have you ever felt stuck in your relationships? Like you and your spouse keep fighting about the same old things? Do you wish you could take back those harsh words and stop over-reacting emotionally when you feel hurt? The founders of The Relationship Resource understand exactly where you are coming from. They’ve developed a process based on their decades of counseling experience that helps free people from emotional bondage and opens doors to move their relationships forward in health and wholeness.


Renewing Minds, Restoring Hearts … that’s the message The Relationship Resource wants to share in a world where so many are hurting from broken relationships. Founders and Co-Executive Directors Jeff and Robin Reinke share a passion to help individuals break through pernicious cycles of emotional pain to freedom and peace.


As the pastor of the Marriage & Family Ministry at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, Calif., for 25 years, Jeff’s been faced with plenty of couples in crisis. He realized more than a decade ago that despite the church’s best efforts, people were still struggling to overcome personal issues that negatively affected their relationships and kept their lives in turmoil.


He noticed that even though the church was sponsoring Bible studies and events, and people were meeting individually with counselors, he didn’t see a lot of change in the church.


“It didn’t seem like people were transforming into more loving, Christ-like people,” Jeff said. “What does it mean to become a mature, transformed person? Everyone had a different definition.”

Jeff sought ways to better support those interested in making long-term, lasting change in their lives and marriages. His wife, Robin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, continued to see the fallout of trauma in her 30 years of practice. Their many years of hands-on experience helping strengthen and restore marriages in the Christian community led them to the work of Gary Oliver, Ph.D. and Dr. Terry and Sharon Hargrave, who helped The Relationship Resource design a model for healing marriages after severe trauma or a major break in trust.


The hallmark of the program is the 12-week skills session, which incorporates spiritual, neurological/biological, psychological and relational components, all tethered to the Word of God. Participants will identify how they see themselves, including messages learned from family of origin and life experiences. They’ll identify their triggers, pain and peace cycles and learn how to renew their mind through the power of Christ. A trained leader walks alongside and disciples each participant.


The Relationship Resource team recommends each spouse complete the men’s or women’s skills course prior to starting the joint MarriageSkills together. In the individual sessions they’ll learn to understand the language and address their own emotional issues before they are ready to move forward and work with their spouse on their marriage.


“To heal, they have to go to the depth of their pain, to identify the underlying emotional lies and find out what’s triggering them. Then they can be more emotionally self-regulated to understand how to take responsibility for their words and actions,” Jeff said.


“The primary attack on the human soul is the issue of identity,” Robin said. “If we cannot be sure of who we are and Whose we are, we will be confused about what we are to do. The workshops were created to offer every person help to become skilled and mature in healing and renewing the mind. The most powerful weapon to become victorious in the battle is the Word of God and living out His truth in our daily lives.”

“My responsibility is to live in a place of peace and walk in the Spirit,” Jeff agreed. “Unhealed wounds from our past will be transmitted and transferred to the current relationship. Understanding how to be more loving begins when we identify the lies (from our past),” he continued.


The skills sessions teach a four-step process:


1) Assess your feelings… you can’t change what you can’t name.

2) Identify how you cope … natural instincts, anger, withdrawal (called the pain cycle)

3) Combat the deceitful feeling with the truth …What is the lie? Do I feel devalued, disrespected and unsafe? What is the truth? I am greatly valued in Christ. Focus on the truth rather than the lie. (peace cycle)

4) What is your new action that would be contradictory to your natural action? Become more loving, take responsibility. Be curious instead of angry, be present instead of withdraw, and be open and honest instead of controlling.


The more a person practices the peace cycle and focuses on truth, the more they will create new neuropathways that actually change the brain. “We get better at what we practice,” Robin said.


Jeff has been meeting with a group of young men for the past eight months. “Their lives have changed. They’ve told me, ‘I can’t go back to just doing a Bible study.’” He mentioned being in studies before with couples where, “We talked about the Bible, but we never knew they were getting a divorce. It breaks my heart. We had been in a study together for years, but no one knew they were struggling.”


People find The Relational Resource because they are in pain. “Pain is a transformational agent,” Jeff said. “I don’t care how long you have been married. You can still get some practical application tools to deepen you to connect more to God and each other. People realize in the workshops that there are areas they didn’t want to talk about. God is always going deeper to transform us and set us free.”


While The Relationship Resource does work with individuals, their heart is to grow leaders who will disciple and equip others to become spiritually and emotionally healthy through the power of Christ. The annual refreshing, encouraging and worship weekend titled the Marriage Getaway for couples is back on in Palm Springs this year – scheduled for September 24-26.


The Relationship Resources also hosts numerous workshops and classes both in their Southern California location as well as across the country. They even managed to continue to disciple 700 people via Zoom or in-person even through the COVID shutdowns, Jeff reported.


Jeff tells of their audacious vision to impact the area north of San Diego by changing the hearts of the leaders of the churches. “We dream big but start small,” Jeff said. He leveraged relationships with pastors built in his more than three decades as the FCA High School director in the San Diego area. It doesn’t hurt, either, that his name is still recognizable as a three-time NCAA National Champion pitcher for the University of Southern California in the mid-1970s (as well as a sixth round draft pick for the Detroit Tigers.)


Jeff wanted to make The Relationship Resource curriculum inclusive to all churches, so they targeted the marriages of church senior pastors and wives for a getaway sponsored by local business leaders. “We wanted to love on them and talk about how to be a catalyst in their church. The pastors felt safe with each other, which created a platform for the message.”


Often couples come to the skills sessions or workshops and realize a transformation in their lives and marriages. “They see the miracle,” Robin said, “and it’s a ripple effect. They want to be facilitators of a group to give back now that they are in a fruitful season.”


“It is so rewarding to see people grow,” Jeff echoed. “They can’t wait until their next group.”


One local example of how The Relationship Resource has equipped a church and invigorated a marriage ministry is at River City Church in New Braunfels. Harry Taylor and his wife, Karen, lead the Marriage Ministry Team for the growing congregation of 800, many families with young children. River City New Braunfels kicked off skills sessions and held MarriageSkills courses even during COVID. Some groups felt comfortable meeting in person, and others chose Zoom, but they kept it going, Harry said. Despite the obstacles, they even trained two facilitator couples.


As soon as travel opened up, Jeff and Robin presented a Marriage – Built to Last workshop live in New Braunfels this April as a great encouragement to inspire people to get involved. “The title says more than what you might think on first impression,” Harry said. “These are skills they can apply and use to really make their marriage better. This is a very personal, 8-10 week program, where you meet face-to-face with a facilitator and three other couples. People feel equipped.”


He has been working with a group of young married Gen Z guys. Most told him, “I wish I would have learned this when I was single,” Harry reported. “We now have young leadership being raised. Young couples want to see transformation.”


You and your church can replicate the experience of River City New Braunfels and see the relationships, marriages and families in your congregation thrive. Find more information at therelationshipresource.org. If you are local to San Antonio and would like to connect with Harry Taylor to learn about how The Relationship Resource has equipped their church, he can be reached at haka598@gmail.com.





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