I was having a discussion the other day with a friend about how we prepare for a career these days. He had gone through the typical school trajectory and was sitting on a liberal arts graduate degree. The discussion was whether to spend the money for a post-graduate degree or not. He was bemoaning the feeling that he wasn’t equipped to enter the job market with any particular skills. Then he made this statement that I thought was pretty astute:
“How did we lose the apprenticeship programs that have been around for hundreds of years?”
I pointed out that perhaps those apprenticeships are still around for a lot of careers, they just might be labeled differently. For example in the counseling world they are called trainees and interns. In other fields they are probably called other things. I understood his frustration, and I think a better question might be why couldn’t apprenticeship be an option much sooner in the career process.
Likewise, I wonder why formal marriage or relationship preparation isn’t a mandated part of the educational system. Nearly everyone forms some kind of interpersonal arrangement, usually marriage. Wouldn’t it be great if we could exit high school or college knowing how to communicate well, resolve conflict, handle money and raise children? It seems more universal than solving a quadratic equation.
For so many people the only preparation they receive is watching their friends and family “do” relationships. I suppose that is a kind of apprenticeship, but for many maybe not the best, or perhaps even destructive.
Along with specific marriage classes, one of the most practical solutions within the church are mentorship programs. Sometimes those are formal programs, but often they take the form of peer groups. In our church, Christian Assembly, we call them life groups. They might be either same or mixed gender groups, but for relationship growth, experience counts. Nan and I never had the advantage of having people in our lives that did marriage well. It wasn’t until we entered counseling after having been married for more than 15 years that we had the kind of guidance that promoted a healthy relationship.
I am definitely not against remedial relationship work. A lot of what we do falls into that category. But I can tell you from experience that front end preparation and in vivo mentoring is much less painful and way more fun. In our men’s group we had a great mixture of younger and older members. Many of us were married and had at one time or another fallen into relationship pits and had to dig ourselves out. We always enjoyed having the youngsters laugh with us at our misadventures.
So are you connected? Do you have community to help you stay in the process and on track? Do you have experience and are sharing it with others? Or do you need to step out and get involved?