A Core is a small group of Encountered Couples, meeting on a year-round, preferably on a twice-a-month schedule, who are committed to growth in their relationship with each other and with God. Core becomes a close, warm, supportive family.
A core is the central part of anything, like the apple’s core which protects the seeds that are necessary to continue life. Core is the center– the heart – of Marriage Encounter, and God is at the center of Core.
Is Core for us?
Core gives couples a time to be themselves in an environment of loving acceptance – a time to share with friends, to give and receive warmth and understanding, to recharge and relax, to feel safe and secure.
Core is a Christian fellowship of couples who pray together and share the joys and struggles of a vital, growing marriage.
Core helps keep and build on what was received on the Marriage Encounter Weekend. Core strengthens and nurtures couples by encouraging and helping each other continue living the Weekend through dialogue.
Cores help pass on the M.E. gift by promoting United Marriage Encounter Weekends and helping with loving tasks. They also help spread God’s love by encouraging and supporting couples’ involvement in their own churches as well as in Marriage Encounter.
Do not stay away from Core just because you are not dialoguing or are in a marriage disillusionment state. At Core you will have plenty of company!
“Core is like a warm summer rain shower that moistens the ground and flowers. It creates a renewal in us as a couple. We go to Core not because we have to but because we want to.”
“We especially need Core when we’re out of relationship. It’s a relief to find that other couples have problems like ours. Our sharing in Core brings us together. We went to Core when we weren’t speaking to each other after a fight; our Core family surrounded us with love and helped us become friends again.”
“If the Weekend was valuable to a couple, if the experience was something they want to keep alive and share, Core is a logical step. As we reach out to others, fulfilling another’s needs fulfills our own desire to be a worker in God’s world.”
A great high point for any Core happens when a couple overcome a problem with the help and support of their Core; when the couple and Core find an answer through prayer.
How To Start A Core?
Two couples willing to commit themselves to regular fellowship and prayer can start a Core with a goal of growing to 6-8 couples. For help, contact your Community Executive Couple, any active UME couple or the UME office.
To start, review this guide and plan your first meeting. At that meeting, choose your regular meeting dates and the three loving tasks (host, program, refreshments) for your next few meetings.
If there is a Core in your area, rejoice! A loving Christian fellowship, built by others’ pioneering work, is eager to welcome you!
Commitment to Core
Core is a voluntary commitment. Each newly Encountered Couple are encouraged to give Core a fair try (4-5 meetings) and then decide whether to make a commitment to Core.
Core is a serious commitment to attend regularly. Core is a high priority, but not an absolute priority. Commitments to church, family, and job come ahead of Core, but we ask each couple to try hard to keep Core meeting times reserved for Core.
How Does A Core Work?
Size: A Core needs about 4-8 active couples, but even if only 2-3 couples can attend, it’s worth doing! When you regularly have eight or more couples at your Core meetings, it’s time to “multiply” into two Cores. Ask for UME’s Multiplication Guide.
Extended Family: Each Core should also keep an Extended Family list. These are couples who are no longer active in your Core. Include them for prayer support, reminders of upcoming M.E. events, and occasional notes of encouragement.
Meeting Dates: UME encourages each Core to meet at twice per month if possible, and to meet year-round because of the benefit to the couples and their marriages. Meeting twice a month is very important because it helps build confidence and relationships and makes it easier to share feelings. If a couple have another commitment and must miss a Core meeting, they don’t have to wait a month, or two, for their next Core.
A Core may choose either the same day of the week (e.g., second and fourth Saturday) or two different days (e.g., first Monday and third Tuesday). Ask each couple to mark the Core dates on their calendars at least three months ahead.
Stick to your regular meeting dates so your couples can reserve these days for Core. It’s OK to change a date when your regular day falls on a holiday or there is a serious conflict, but try to make this change at least a month in advance after consulting all active couples.
Meeting Arrangements (Host Home, Program, Refreshments): Core meetings rotate among the couples’ homes. Meeting in the same home each time weakens a Core; see “A Core is Fragile,” page 6.)
Many Cores like to have three different couples take the three main tasks for each Core meeting: hosting Core in their home, presenting the program, and providing the refreshments. Some Cores prefer to have the host couple do all three tasks. Discuss and decide what your Core prefers.
Core Coordinators: One couple serve as Core Coordinators.
They give guidance and help, but don’t run the show.
It may be helpful for the Core Coordinators to make a schedule at least three months in advance and give it to all Core couples. For each meeting, schedule a host couple, a program couple, and a refreshments couple (all 3 can be done by same couple). A couple who can’t do their task on the assigned date should make arrangements to trade with another couple.
The first Core Coordinators for a new Core are appointed by the Community Executive Couple or District Coordinators. After they’ve served a year or two, the Core Coordinators choose their replacement couple. They should consult with other Core couples and the Community Executive Couple or District Coordinators.
Contact Couple: We suggest asking one couple to be Contact Couple for your Core (not necessarily the Core Coordinator). They phone or email to remind all couples of Core meetings and tell them about UME Weekends, other events, and prayer requests.
Recruiting: Each Core is asked to promote year-round for UME Weekends and hold information meetings every six months. Core couples can take turns hosting. Suggestion: schedule 2-3 information meetings within a two-week period. Then all couples can invite and bring guest couples to any of these information meetings. Please use UME’s Information Meeting Guide and the Presentation Guide.
Informal: Core is a living, growing family with informal organization; no minutes, treasury, committees, elections, etc.
Confidential: All personal sharing in Core is confidential, not to be repeated to anyone outside Core. This is a sacred trust.
Each item marked * is essential for all UME Core meetings. There is room for flexibility and imagination in Core, but these are the fundamentals that make your group a Core instead of a social club.
A Core meeting should last about two hours. Try to start on time and have your closing prayer circle 90 minutes later so couples who need to leave early can do so without missing the closing prayer.
Before the meeting the host couple should:
Arrange seating in as close to a circle as possible.
Make name tags for everyone if you expect a new couple.
Ask the program couple whether they plan a dialogue (10 & 10) or a communalogue.
- Warm welcome as couples arrive. If you have a new couple, give each person a name tag and introduce everyone. It’s important to start the prayer circle on time. If a couple arrive late, they can slip in quietly.
- * Opening prayer circle (the usual M.E. way, wife on husband’s right). Suggestion: light a candle. Host couple should begin and end the prayers. Invite all to pray, but don’t go around the circle.
- Sing the Marriage Encounter song I’ll Never Find Another You. Next, a Marriage Encounter Hug (hips together, left foot forward, count to three, take a step in, and say, “We love you.”) The song and hug are optional but fun; they help give your Core a warm start.
- * Relationship Sharing: Review this with your Core when you have a new couple, and as an occasional reminder.
- Relationship Sharing is an opportunity for each person to share briefly what’s currently happening in their relationship and how they feel about it – a “state of our union” report. Your first Relationship Sharing was on Saturday night of your Weekend, when you were invited to share on “How do I feel about our relationship now?” We focus on our feelings, not on events. It’s OK to share joys, struggles, and a brief summary of good or bad dialogues.
- Relationship Sharing is not confession time, garbage dumping, strawberries, or a report on how many days we dialogued.
- The Core Coordinators usually begin the Relationship Sharing. We encourage everyone to share, but sharing is optional and there should be no pressure. Don’t go around the circle; that might pressure someone.
- Look and talk to your spouse when doing Relationship Sharing, hold hands, and end with a kiss. It is very important to talk loud enough for all to hear.
- Keep silent as people share. There should be no comment or judgment on anyone’s sharing, not even helpful remarks.
- All sharing is strictly confidential and must not go outside Core.
- * Program: The program couple present a brief program, about 5-12 minutes. It can be a reading, poem, Scripture, music, tape – anything related to marriage. Husband and wife should each present part of the program.
- * Question for dialogue or communalogue: The program couple select a question related to the program and choose dialogue or communalogue. Most often there is a 10 & 10, but if it’s communalogue, ask the couples to write their love letters to the entire Core. The question should relate to the program and should ask for feelings. Ask everyone to write the question in a notebook. (Bring dialogue notebooks to all Core meetings.)
- * Dialogue (10 & 10) or communalogue:
a. If you dialogue, there should be enough places for couples’ private dialogue. A quiet corner, hallway, bathroom, steps, or porch will do. Either the husbands or wives stay and write their love letters before joining their spouse. Set a timer for about 11-12 minutes. When time is up, ask those who stayed to join their spouses for 10 minutes of dialogue. Again, set the timer for about 11-12 minutes to allow for “travel time.” When time is up, ask everyone to return to your meeting room.
b. If you communalogue, everyone writes a love letter to the whole Core. Don’t try to write an endearing quality for each person; there won’t be enough time. Each person can stay put or go to another room to write. They won’t need private rooms. Set a timer for about 11-12 minutes. When time is up, ask everyone to return to your meeting room. Everyone is invited to read all or part of his or her love letter to the group, or summarize the love letter. This is optional, with no pressure.
- * Open sharing on dialogue question:
- This is a sharing of feelings on the question and on your dialogue or communalogue. Begin with “now” feelings in response to your dialogue or communalogue. It helps if the Core Coordinators or program couple repeat the question, “What are my feelings now after our dialogue (communalogue)?” The Core Coordinators and program couple should be ready to share early.
- Loving discussion (thoughts) is OK, but only after feelings have been fully shared. Stay away from judgments, arguments, and strawberries.
- Give everyone an opportunity, but avoid any pressure on anyone to share. Don’t go around the circle and don’t be afraid of silence. An informal, back-and-forth sharing works well if everyone focuses on feelings. The Core Coordinators join in the sharing along with the other couples. There is no “leader” during the sharing.
- * Closing Prayer Circle: Do this before refreshments and the business meeting, so some couples can leave early if necessary. The host couple usually begin and conclude the prayers. Remember any prayer requests.
- * Business: This is led by the Core Coordinators. Keep it short: no more than 15 minutes. Most Cores find it works best after the closing prayer circle. Business may include some or all of:
- Future Core meetings: dates, host couples, program couples, and refreshments couples.
- Announce UME Weekend dates, other M.E. events, and other helpful M.E. information.
- Plans for information meetings and promotion.
- Twice a year, hand out new Core lists, including your Extended Family.
- Secret pals: Put the names and phone numbers of the couples who are present on slips of paper. Each couple draw a name. Give your secret pals prayers and some kind of anonymous message or small gift before the next Core.
- Share good dialogue questions.
- Prayer requests.
- Refreshments and Social Time: This is not a gourmet dessert contest! Any simple refreshments are OK. Keep in mind any special dietary needs of your Core members. No alcoholic beverage is served or consumed at any UME function, but strawberries are OK!
How Can We Keep Our Core Alive And Well?
- Evaluate Core every three to six months.
- Is our Core becoming routine?
- Are we being open?
- Is our discipline slipping?
- What needs to be changed?
- Do we fully understand Relationship Sharing (purpose, “how to,” etc.)?
- Plan social events and family events for your Core.
- Periodically review key points in this guide at Core meetings.
- Be sure all couples are contacted 3-4 days before each Core meeting. Give everyone full information on Core dates, places, tasks.
- New couples help keep Core alive and growing.a. Invite newly Encountered Couples in your area to Core.b. Welcome new couples warmly; let them know they are loved and accepted as they are. Explain the structure and format of Core. Let them share at their own pace. Encourage them to observe until they feel comfortable sharing. Ask them to tell about themselves and their family, jobs, etc. It’s fun to do this over refreshments.
- Pray for your Core and invite others to pray with you.
A Core Is Fragile and Can Die If You:
- Skip Core meetings when you’re busy or tired.
- Let it become a social club or a gourmet dessert competition.
- Omit Relationship Sharing or let the personal sharing be quick and shallow.
- Violate the confidence of anything said in Core.
- Leave God out of your Core.
- Forget Core discipline, or share strawberries instead of feelings.
- Have long or draggy business meetings.
- Meet in the same couple’s home each time; calling it “the Johnsons’ Core.”
- Fail to contact all couples 3-4 days before each Core meeting.
Closing Thoughts: Core is . . .
- a commitment to share ourselves, our vision, and our love.
- a vital way to have a stake in each other’s marriages.
- a channel through which the Holy Spirit works in our lives and uses our couple power.Enjoy!