It WON’T have been perfect, it MIGHT sometimes have been far from pretty – but you’ve hung on through thick and thin and you’re still married. Congratulations. You’re an ideal fit for an Explore volunteer!
And even if that’s not you, there are a number of other ways you can make a real contribution towards making marriage meaningful to teenagers.
What is Explore?
Formerly called Students Exploring Marriage, Explore is a unique, national, schools-based educational charity. Its mission is to train and place ordinary married couples into controlled classroom settings where they allow inquisitive students the privilege of lifting the lid on their marriage. In the light of what they are told, pupils are encouraged to consider their own hopes and fears for the future.
Is that REALLY necessary?
Independent research reveals that over 90% of young people hold very real and deep hopes for a long-term, meaningful, stable relationship – probably marriage.
BUT less than 5% have ever had a detailed and open conversation with an adult on the practical realities of forming and sustaining a long-term commitment.
It means the majority of teenagers are anticipating taking one of life’s most significant steps wholly unprepared. They have no-one they feel comfortable turning to turn with worries about how to form intimate relationships, handle family finances, exercise trust, and resolve conflict.
Could YOU be the answer?
Explore needs couples brave enough to answer questions honestly and openly. Have you got what it takes – the courage and willingness to talk about your marriage experience...warts and all? Knowing that what you say could have a profound effect on a young person’s future life?
No, I/we couldn’t be a couple. But I’d still like to be involved
Explore needs adviser-coaches, too – facilitators who stay discreetly in the background while students set the agenda with their questions. Adviser-coaches will hold classroom discussions with the students before and after the question sessions.
Explore also needs prayer partners, financial supporters and management committee (Local Community Action Group) members.
Yes, we might be willing to volunteer at the ‘sharp end’. What’s the commitment?
After training, couples and adviser-coaches need to be willing to spend an occasional half-day in a Norfolk school as part of an Explore team, say once or twice a year.
At a half-day conference, a volunteer couple will, typically, be asked to face two 30-minute sessions of questions by small groups of 15-17-year-old students who will have been through a sensitive briefing session with school staff and adviser-coaches first.
While students are granted the privilege of asking any question they like, they are requested to respect the confidentiality of the conference room – and are informed of the couple’s right not to answer any specific question if they are uncomfortable with it.
Will I be expected to ‘preach?’
No – quite the opposite in fact. Although prompted by Christian concern, and drawing volunteers largely from within church circles, Explore has to be careful to live within the terms of reference of an educational charity and does not overtly promote any “religious” values.
Do pupils take it seriously, or is it all a bit of a laugh?
After each conference or workshop, pupils are asked to complete feedback forms. The majority rate the exercise as beneficial. Here are a few typical comments made by teenagers after attending an Explore session.
- “We have been able to have dialogues with these couples that we could never have with our parents – much less our teachers”
- “A chance to discuss issues that aren’t raised at school”
- “It really makes me think about who to marry and why”
- “It is good to meet people who help you make sense of your own relationships”
What’s the next step?
If you would like to know more about becoming an Explore volunteer, please contact co-ordinator Karen Nice
or on 01603 470731.
Karen will be pleased to answer all your questions. Karen also has copies of a locally-produced DVD, on which couples, headteachers and pupils Explore has worked with in Norfolk in recent years speak frankly of their Explore experiences.