“In our opinion, the number one thing that causes marriages to fail is selfishness. The truth of the matter is that without God, we are unable to love like we should.” Choose to Stay ministry founders, Ty and Jamie Pipkins, believe that the root of all divorce is selfishness but the Bible provides a clear guide for what constitutes real love and gives us much to consider as the holiday celebrating love approaches. “The Bible teaches that God IS love. He gave us plenty of examples on how to love but the most obvious one is found in John 3:16 when God so loved the world that He gave us His very own Son. Nothing about that says selfishness.”
After personally experiencing the negative effects of divorce on a family and struggling in their own marriage, Ty and Jamie began looking for answers and developed a passion for seeing couples overcome marriage-destroying difficulties. “Ty’s parents divorced when he was 7 years old, but the effects of the divorce still lingered. He always struggled with feeling like he could never be good enough for his parents and longed for their approval.
Those issues carried over into his church life as he always tried to do everything he could to please God when all God really wants is a relationship with His children,” recalls Jamie.
Ty’s experience of being from a broken home and the demands of being in full-time ministry was a recipe for disaster. “In the beginning, we were very immature; two strong-willed personalities who fought constantly. The one foundation we had, however, was that we both loved Jesus, even if we really didn’t understand what that should look like in our daily lives.”
Becoming parents after only 14 months of marriage and many hours away from each other while Ty was at work left the couple with nothing to offer each other or their marriage. “There’s an old saying, ‘You can’t pour out from an empty cup’. Ty and I found ourselves empty with nothing to pour into our marriage. Even worse, we lacked the discipline to spend time with God allowing Him to fill us so we could love like He loves.”
After 11 years together, the couple found themselves on the brink of divorce. “One Sunday night we reached the end of the rope and decided we were willing to do whatever it took to see a change. We didn’t want to give up. We didn’t want a broken home for our kids. So we surrendered it all to God and began to make some changes. We didn’t know how it would all work out, but we were committed that we were going to stay together no matter what.”
Ty and Jamie have been married for 21 years now. The experience of working through the hard years of their marriage and spending almost 20 years in church ministry have ignited a passion and prepared the Pipkins to encourage, uplift and equip couples to follow Christ’s example of forgiveness and begin the process of reconciliation. Focusing on principles obtained from the book of Nehemiah, together they developed Choose To Stay, designed to teach couples to overcome obstacles in their marriage and realize that there is another choice.
“A strong marriage is based on love, respect, unselfishness and knowing that with God’s help we can make it through any situation in our lives. These same qualities seem to be missing in our society today and one way to bring that back is to start at the very core relationship of humanity, marriage,” says Jamie.
Just as Nehemiah was grieved by the distress of God’s people because Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed, Ty and Jamie felt burdened by the condition of the institution of marriage. “The description of the condition of Jerusalem can easily be used to describe the condition of the marriage covenant in our society. We are deeply troubled by the lack of respect and commitment shown to marriage today. Marriage was instituted by God. With this in mind, we feel compelled to help couples build a place of safe boundaries where they can begin to see God heal their marriage.”
Choose To Stay retreats generally include 4-5 ministry sessions, games and activities and a date night, as well as a morning devotion and a time of worship on the last day. “Our goal is to create an environment for couples to begin to open up to each other while taking a break from the everyday pressures of life, as well as provide information that will help ensure success in their marriage. We are committed to this because we believe every marriage is worth it.”
As a non-profit organization, Choose To Stay, raises funds needed to provide marriage retreat opportunities at no charge to the couple. In addition to hosting marriage retreats, Ty and Jamie are available for speaking engagements and shorter, local marriage seminars. Long-term vision for the ministry includes pre-marriage events and the building of a marriage enrichment center. For more information, visit choose2stay.org.