Good morning, Five Minute Families! This past weekend we hosted a marriage retreat here at Clear View Retreat. Marriage retreats are so restful and rejuvenating. Why does a family camp ministry such as ours spend time hosting marriage retreats? Because a strong, godly marriage is the foundation of a strong, godly family just as we said in the three-part series about marriage we did last year.
The great thing about spending time with other couples, whether they are in a norm or storm of life - is that we get to glean new ways of applying God’s relationship principles. This weekend one wife shared how she really liked how her husband had begun asking her “Stop. Start. Continue.” questions. I had never heard of that. A quick internet search shows several websites that focus on team building activities, such as one called Retrium. That site describes this communication skill this way: “Start Stop Continue is a simple technique for an action-oriented retrospective meeting.” In a marital relationship, we should never run our conversations like the Board room; however, we want to take this concept that has been researched and used successfully in team building and current business management practices and relate it to the family unit.
Communicating with one another is at the heart of all relationships. And, communicating effectively can be hindered by many things. No matter how much we study our spouse in order to deepen our relationship, we cannot read their minds. We might get pretty good at reading their nonverbal communication and thus it seems we are good at reading their minds, but it just isn’t actually possible. We are not God.
One way for a couple to simplify communication when there are many distractions around is to adopt the “Stop. Start. Continue.” method of giving and receiving feedback. Of course, please remember this great biblical principle from Colossians 4:6 before you just simply let your feedback fly: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.”
So, onto the particulars of “Stop. Start. Continue.”
Ask your loved one, “In our relationship, what would you like me to stop doing?” Make sure that you each understand if the action being stopped is to be temporary or permanent. If you are confused by your loved one’s answer, it is ok to ask further questions as to why or how. Make sure, however, that you do not get offended or that if you begin to feel offended, you ask for either clarification or a break from the conversation to pray about the hurt. We are not to lie to one another, so if your family member is asking you to stop something, you need to be open to receiving their honest answer.
Next, ask your spouse, “What would you like me to start doing?” Proverbs 25:11 tells us that “[a] word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.” When your spouse asks, take this opportunity, this “right time” to be transparent about something you would like your spouse to do for you.
Now, ask your spouse, “What would you like me to continue doing?” Applying Proverbs 16:23: “The heart of a wise person instructs his mouth; it adds learning to his speech.” we see that we have a chance to build up and give encouragement to our spouse when they have been doing something well.
Two great “But God” truths that should be foundational in all of our relationships that join well with the three points of the “Stop. Start. Continue.” technique are:
1. We must think well of our spouse because God is in them. When two people are walking with the Lord, indwelled with the Holly Spirit, truly, the best in them is God. So, as you look on your loved one, remember that you are looking upon one of God’s children.
2. And, remember to think well of yourself. We are often toughest on ourselves, but God lives in us as Christ-followers and while we may need correction from time to time, we have the best of the best in us and that is all He sees, so let’s shine in our marriages and families.
We encourage couples to begin using this practical skill to jumpstart difficult conversations. We need to be aware that something we love doing for our spouse may be something they ask us to stop. We must be willing to have open dialogue about the needs, wants, and concerns of each other. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us that we must “[b]e kind to one another and tenderhearted.” Once you as a couple have had a chance to practice the “Stop. Start. Continue.” feedback, make sure that you begin having those “Stop. Start. Continue.” conversations with your children.
May God bless and keep you; may His face shine upon you this week as you live a life filled with five minute segments that build into greater moments of loving one another. Be blessed!