Passionate about marriage and want to help couples build vibrant marriages?
Eager to strengthen and enrich your own marriage?
Want to build a better world for your children and their future families?
SPONSOR AN ENGAGED COUPLE!
If you are in a valid Catholic marriage, married more than five years and would like to support young couples in your parish, become a Sponsor Couple!
As a Sponsor Couple there is no formal training: you simply enroll as a participant in the Sponsor Couple course and make your way through it. The sponsor meetings take place after each lesson where you use the discussion guide provided to spark dynamic conversations with the engaged couple.
All Sponsor Couples have access to our Mentor Hub – a member only area where you can access additional resources, training and our mentor/sponsor forum.
You work collaboratively with your local parish leaders and other Sponsor Couples for supervision and support.
All The Facts
So you’ve been asked to accompany an engaged couple through the SmartLoving course. Thank you for your generosity – you will make all the difference in your engaged couple’s experience. You also will get a great deal out of it yourselves and you can check out some of the testimonials from mentor couples on the SL website.
You’ve probably got quite a few questions so let me explain how it works. Click any tab below.
From the Sponsor course information page select ‘enrol now’. This will add the course to your cart. You only need one account per couple.
Go to the checkout and enter your coupon code into the coupon field. This will zero the cart. The coupon can be obtained from your engaged couple. It was issued by email when they enrolled and is valid for 3 months. If you don’t have a coupon, the fee will apply.
If you wish to purchase print copies of the workbooks there is an additional charge. Add them to your cart and go through the checkout as normal.Enrol in Sponsor Course
Once you go through the checkout, you will have an account on our platform. You’ll already be logged in at this point, so just select “My courses” on the menu to go to your dashboard. From here, you can see all your courses. Access any member hubs from the menu.
If you want to access the platform in the future, there is a ‘login’ button at the top right of the SL site. Login
SL Engaged was first developed as a face to face course designed to be delivered by a trained mentor couple to one engaged couple at a time. The curriculum can also be adapted for use with groups many dioceses and parishes around the world have done this. Run over 6 sessions of 2-2.5 hours each, the course includes approx. 20 mins of DVD content in each session. Mentors are trained to present additional content not covered on the DVDs.
In 2016 we adapted the curriculum for a fully online delivery. We redistributed the content over nine lessons of approx. 1.5 hours each and incorporated the unit on fertility management (run as a take home activity in the face to face version). We used the same content and videos, and made additional videos and audio explanations to cover the material in the course that is usually presented by the mentor.
The addition of these video and audio files means that sponsors do not need to be trained in order to sponsor an engaged couple as the online course is completely self-contained. Navigating the course is fairly intuitive and thousands of ‘students’ have already successfully completed the course. We call these couples ‘sponsors’ to differentiate them from the trained ‘SL Mentors’ who run the face to face course.
Your purchase gives you access to the Engaged Hub and the Mentor Hub. The Engaged Hub has articles and extension activities that are referenced throughout the course. The Mentor Hub contains specific materials for Mentors and Sponsors. Some of this material is only relevant to those using our face-to-face curriculum, some applies to both Sponsors and Mentors. Take a browse sometime to explore the material available there.
From the ‘my courses’ page, select your course to see an overview of the lessons. Lesson 0 has introductory notes and a registration form. Please complete this so that we can keep in touch with updates to the course. Lessons 1-9 are the course itself and this is exactly the same as the Engaged couple version of the course with a few minor differences: the engaged version has a progression lock so that couples are required to do the course in order, time locks so that they are required to spend a minimum of 1 hour active in the platform before the lesson quiz activates. An 80% pass in the quiz is required to unlock the next lesson.
And at the end of the course, in Lesson 10, the couple has an online assessment which they both complete which generates their completion certificate and a report with their answers for their celebrant. Your Sponsor version of the course has no progression lock, no time locks, and no final assessment. We left the quizzes in place so that you could have some fun with them, but you don’t need to get an 80% pass to move on.
You and your engaged couple simply do the course in parallel in your own time and in your own homes, meeting up to discuss what you have learned using the discussion guides provided at the end of each lesson.
We recommend that you meet the first time to do lesson 1 together. This will give you all more confidence and a better insight into how much time you might need to leave between meetings. We recommend to pace the course at one lesson per week so that the course can be completed within 2-3 months allowing for a few skipped weeks with illness or travel.
As the course has practice tools to do between lessons, it is not practical for couples to do more than one a week without compromising the learning experience.
While this is an online course, the workbooks are essential and each participant will need his/her own copy to do the activities. You can download and print a PDF of the activities or purchase a print copy from the SL store.Buy Workbooks
The ideal is to meet up after every lesson, in the mentor’s home with just the two couples. However, you can also meet less frequently covering two to three lessons at once if time is scarce.
You can also meet in a different location such as at the parish or in a café.
For couples who live remotely or are travelling, these meetings can also be done over Skype, Facetime or What’sApp or other VOIP service if necessary.
And some parishes prefer to meet in groups with several engaged couples at once, perhaps with the priest also in attendance.
The point is, the meetings are completely flexible in terms of your scheduling and format.
Make sure that the engaged couple has completed the lesson before getting together. If they haven’t, we recommend you reschedule as they won’t be prepared for the discussion.
When you get together, after the usual catch up and sharing in hospitality, say the prayer together from the Lesson. Then simply use the ‘Discussion Questions’ at the end of the Lesson to stimulate discussion. Be prepared to share meaningfully of your own life and experience and encourage both fiancé’s to share their thoughts and discoveries. Allow about an hour for this discussion, more if you are covering more than one lesson.
A detailed guide to the meetings is listed below and in the Sponsor course and Mentor Hub.
This happens to us all at some stage and it’s perfectly ok to simply say that you don’t know. For technical problems with the platform, get them to use the ‘Help Centre’ on the course platform. They can also use the ‘Got a Question’ form on that page for clarification of content. Or, you can also do some research and come back to them with a response or refer them to your parish priest.
If serious issues surface it’s important to remember that it is not your role to be a counselor to this couple. Even if you have counselling qualifications, we recommend that you be clear that you are not in a professional counselling capacity. If you are not sure how to handle a situation, there are a couple of things you can do. Please refer to the Pastoral Care guidelines in the Mentor Hub and if appropriate, confidentially consult your parish priest, or contact us via [email protected]
At the conclusion of the course, your couple will complete their final assessment which generates a certificate and report with their answers. This is emailed as a PDF to them and to their celebrant. The celebrant may want to meet with all four of you, or with just the engaged couple. Although it is not required, we recommend that you follow up with your engaged couple after the wedding to make sure that they know they have someone they can turn to if they experience difficulties.
For now, you’re done. But if you’ve enjoyed the journey, there’s nothing to stop you from sponsoring another engaged couple. Or you may be interested in training to become one of our SL Mentors. There are also other online courses on the SL platform that you may be interested in such as The Marriage Kit, BreakThrough or SmartFertility.
In addition, many parishes use SL to build a parish marriage ministry using the course to renew the marriages of parish couples and build a support network for the newlyweds and indeed for all couples. SmartLoving has additional resources to support parish groups who want to meet regularly to support each other and grow even more in their relationship.
Ready to Start?
Only $55 AUD
Includes access to the Sponsor Couple course, Engaged Member Hub and the Mentor Resource Hub.
“We loved our marriage seminar and got so much out of it. It was so good, we didn’t think it could be topped. Then we started mentoring engaged couples and we’ve been blown away by how much more we’ve got out of it. It’s brought us so much closer.”
“We knew the theory of being a sacrament, but we didn’t really experience it until we became Sponsors. Seeing how those young engaged couples respond, week after week, to our personal sharings allowed to experience our sacrament having a direct impact.”
“We’ve been running marriage preparation for years and were reluctant to switch over. So glad we did. This is a brilliant course, and it’s really easy to get up to speed on the new content.”
Sponsor Couple Information
- Wondering what do you need to do? Relax! We promise you, the course is will do all the heavy lifting: it’s designed to facilitate itself for the engaged couple and for you.
- Each of the nine Lessons take approx 1.5 hours to complete. They include video explanation, summary notes, individual reflection and couple activities.
- Additional audio instructions are available if needed, and each lesson includes reading and couple activities in the member hub for those who want to dive deeper into the topic.
- Quizzes at the end of each lesson are designed to ensure that participants have understood the key concepts and have completed the activities.
- You can get access to the course by clicking the button. If you have a coupon code, use it at the check out.
What’s the difference?
The two courses are identical in content and structure. The Sponsor course however has no time locks or progression locks and no assessment at the end of the course. Nor do Sponsors need to gain 80% to pass the lesson quizzes – phew!
To accompany the engaged couple on their journey to Matrimony, to provide:
- Hospitality and welcome. Make sure your meeting space is welcoming and always include food and drink of some kind (after all, Jesus did most of his teaching around a meal!)
- Practical support, meeting with them and being available to them to discuss issues and answer questions about your relationship.
- Spiritual support, praying for them and with them.
To be a role model – model for them a couple who is growing in their relationship and in their faith.
- It’s important that you do the course yourselves. Watch the videos, answer the questions and inventories, do the activities together – this is where you as a couple will experience great blessing.
- You can’t really be a Sponsor couple unless you both, husband and wife, participate in this. If your spouse is unwilling, there are other ways you can be involved.
What you are not…
- … a theological expert or relationship guru – so you don’t need to have all the answers.
- … counselors – you do not need to fix them or make moral judgments about their choices.
- … course examiners – you are not there to pass or fail the couple in the course.
This will probably take place by either phone or after Mass at church.
- Check that they have an account on the SmartLoving Online platform.
- Make sure that they have print copies of the workbook. They (and you) cannot effectively participate in the course without it. Each person needs their own copy (2 per couple) which can be printed from the PDFs available on the course platform or purchased through the eStore.
- Set a date and place for your first meeting. Allow enough time for you and they to complete Lesson 1 beforehand, or you may prefer to plan to complete the first lesson together, all four of you.
- Before the couple arrives
- Make sure you’ve completed the lesson including the activities. This will give you fresh examples to share from your own relationship.
- Hospitality – any practical things, like tidying up the space, settling the kids, preparing a snack etc.
- Spend a few minutes in prayer, place yourselves into the presence of God and invite God into your meeting.
- Greeting the couple
- Start with a social catch up – wedding plans, work in the past week etc.
- Offer refreshments
- In the First Meeting: Establish the guidelines for the meetings.
- Confidentiality – everything said here, by either couple is confidential. You won’t be repeating details of conversations to others and you’d like them not to share details of your private relationship with others too.
- Your role: clarify that you are not counsellors. You’re not there to fix them or to pass or fail them in the course. Your role is to accompany them on their journey to Matrimony.
- Transition from social to deeper conversation.
- How are things going for the two of you? How’s your relationship travelling?
- How do you feel about what we talked about last session? Do you want to revisit anything from there?
- Review the Current Lesson
- Use the Discussion Questions at the end of each Lesson to begin your conversation, but don’t be limited by them. Let the conversation develop naturally.
- You don’t need to answer all the Discussion Questions, but if you find the conversation drifting off topic to superficial things, use the guide to bring it back on focus.
- Equally, if the couple has something that’s impacting their relationship that they want to discuss with you, don’t be constrained by trying to complete the full list of questions.
- If something comes up to which you don’t know how to respond, just ask if you can get back to them with an answer or refer them to an appropriate person like a counsellor, your parish priest, or the local SL coordinator.
- For a summary of the learning objectives of each lesson, refer to the Celebrant Guide to the Course Report.
- Wrap up
- Plan your next meeting allowing sufficient time to complete the lesson activities. For notes on how many meetings to have, and where to have them, see the FAQs below, or refer to the SL Parish Sponsor program notes.
- Say a prayer together (eg, the Lesson Prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, or Hail Mary etc)
- Make sure that the couple completes the final assessment and includes the celebrant/supervisor’s name and email address. This will send a copy directly to him, along with a link to the Celebrant’s guide.
- The celebrant may want to debrief with you about your experience. Remember to respect the privacy of the engaged couple in any discussions you have with other sponsors or parishioners.
- How often should we meet? Ideally, meetings will take place once a week or once every two weeks until all lessons are complete. This allows sufficient time to do the course work, including the couple activities and practice the relationship tools. For most couples, sickness or family/work commitments will disrupt the routine at least once in this time, so it’s fine to reschedule to accommodate your availability.
- We’re really busy and can’t meet up for all nine lessons – can we still be Sponsors? We get it – busyness is a fact of modern family life. It’s not ideal, but you can reduce the number of meetings by covering more than one session at a time. However, we would recommend a minimum of three meetings in total. Obviously, you’ll need a little more time during the meeting to cover the discussion questions, and more time in between to allow both you and the engaged couple to complete the online content.
- Where should we meet? Ideally, meetings will take place in your home, the native setting of your domestic church. This is the environment in which your sacramental relationship is based and is the most potent way for the engaged couple to experience you as a couple with all your sacramental gifts and charisms. While you should tidy up to make your meeting space hospitable for your guests, you shouldn’t feel that you have to put on a grand display. Just be yourselves!
- Our home really isn’t suitable for hosting meetings… can we still participate? We understand that some families may find home-based meetings unworkable and so meetings could alternatively happen in parish facilities or at a local park or café.
- Do we need to get babysitters for our children? Absolutely not! Your children are part of your sacramental witness. While it’s appropriate for the engaged to have some interaction with your children such as when they arrive and leave, it’s not appropriate to have children constantly interrupting your discussion. If they are very young, schedule the meetings for a time when you can give your attention to the engaged such as after bedtime.
- What if there are not enough weeks until the wedding to complete all the lessons? While we don’t recommend doing more than one lesson per week, we appreciate that in some cases a compacted format might be the only option. This is fine as an exception, but we wouldn’t encourage this as a routine. Alternatively, you could continue the sessions after the wedding, but in general we find couples often lack the motivation once married so it is generally preferable to do as much as possible before the wedding.
- What if one or both of the fiances do not live in the parish? Meetings don’t have to be done face to face, although obviously, it’s preferable. You can use video conferencing such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, or even telephone, to have your meetings.
- Does my spouse need to be involved? To be a Sponsor COUPLE, yes! To effectively model an actively growing couple, you need to participate in the course, and you can only really do that with your spouse. If your spouse doesn’t want to be involved, you can contribute to the Sponsor mission as a prayer support or administrative volunteer.
- Does my spouse need to be Catholic? Ideally, both spouses would be baptised, committed Catholics. At the very minimum, your spouse needs to be supportive of the teachings of the church and a participant in parish life. If you are unsure whether you can fulfil the obligations, we recommend that you first do the course together as a couple for enrichment, without an engaged couple. While it is not the goal of the course, many couples of mixed faith find participation in the course helps to clarify their faith commitment and many non-catholic spouses subsequently take steps to become fully accepted into the Catholic faith.
- What happens if the engaged couple refuses to participate or comes to meetings without having done the activities? You should make a reasonable attempt to encourage the couple keeping it amicable. Remember, you don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. If the couple persists in evading the course, you should speak to your priest about it, or contact your local SmartLoving coordinator for advice. One possible solution is to have them do the course at your place when they first arrive (allow 90 minutes for this), and then join them for 30 minutes to discuss the questions together before they do the Quiz.
- What happens if the engaged couple has serious issues that we believe will possibly lead them to later divorce? It’s not the role of the mentor couple to ‘pass or fail’ their engaged couple, however if you have serious concerns, you should encourage the couple to get some professional advice. It also would be appropriate to privately alert the celebrant without divulging details of your discussions or breaching your commitment to confidentiality. Sometimes, a celebrant will lodge a file note with the wedding records that can be retrieved should annulment proceedings be subsequently initiated.
- What happens if the couple breaks up or if the course stimulates conflict? The course is designed to flush out any taboo topics or unresolved issues. It can sometimes be painful for the couple, and awkward for the Sponsors. A small proportion of couples discover that they are not well suited to marry and break up. Be at peace with that – this is a good outcome! We count these as success stories because in all probability they would have broken up anyway – better to do so before the wedding and before they begin a family, than afterwards. Your pastoral care of the fiances in the following months is even more important. Make sure that they know that you are praying for them and that you are available if either one would like to talk.
- What do we do if the couple needs help on something and we don’t know what to do? You are not expected to have all the answers. It’s fine to tell them you’ll check and get back to them at the next meeting. Your parish priest or diocesan counselling agency can also be consulted for suitable support services if needed.
- Our couple has invited us to their wedding…should we go? This is not unusual and you should feel free to attend if you would like or to decline. As their sponsor you have already given generously of your time, so you should not feel obligated to spend a lot on a gift: usually something small like a wedding crucifix or religious ornament is appropriate. It would also be appropriate to decline the reception but to attend the church service, in fact, it’s nice to do attend the church even if you are not formally invited.
- Can we sponsor another couple? Ideally, each engaged couple will get a new sponsor couple. This facilitates more married couples experiencing the benefits of SmartLoving and creates the opportunity for sponsors to continue contact with their now newlywed couple. However, if new sponsors are hard to find, by all means take on another engaged couple.
- What happens after the course is finished and the couple is married? There are lots of options for you to continue your growth as a couple. Visit the SmartLoving website for other online courses. You might also be interested in some of the leadership development opportunities. And you can always get involved with supporting additional parish events like couple gathering nights, significant anniversary celebrations and support for spouses in distress.