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The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge

One Question a Week. One Incredible Marriage.



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About The Book

Transform your marriage with this revitalizing relationship guide that challenges couples to answer important questions together and grow in mutual understanding.

In our modern, fast-paced society, it is easy for couples to drift apart and suddenly find their marriages in need of serious help. If this sounds familiar, then Pastor Jeff Helton and his wife Lora have a challenge for you: sit down once a week with your spouse to answer a question together. It could be something as simple as “What makes you laugh out loud?” or as deep and challenging as “If you had one day left on earth, what would you say to your spouse?” or “Are you satisfied with our level of physical intimacy?”

The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge is a fun book specifically designed to spark open and honest conversation between partners at any stage of married life. Each short chapter includes an engaging question, a brief message, an encouraging quote, a Bible scripture, and a prayer. The short messages bring hope to rocky marriages by providing a safe, gentle space for discussing important matters, such as communication, conflict, in-laws, finances, children, sex, and much more.

By taking the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge, husbands and wives will find that their Friday evening talks—whether they laugh together, delve deep into the topic at hand, or plan and dream for the future—may be the only time they spend in close conversation that doesn’t involve the kids, the checking account, or who took out the trash. Spend a few precious moments together once a week with this book, and you will ultimately see your marriage transformed.


The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge INTRODUCTION
What Will Your Marriage Be Like on Your Fiftieth Anniversary?

In 2009, we traveled to Bismarck, North Dakota, to celebrate Lora’s parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. My in-laws have spent their entire marriage in vocational ministry—serving as missionaries in Indonesia and Malaysia and traveling around the globe. Overall, they have aged really well and have remained in good health. As we watched the slide show of their fifty years together, I was struck with the reality of what fifty years do to a person’s hair color, muscle tone, skin elasticity, and waistline.

At the time, Lora and I had been married for twenty-two years, and I found my mind wandering and wondering about what our fiftieth anniversary would be like. More accurately, I started thinking about what we would look like. I did the math. I’ll be seventy-seven. Lora will be . . . well . . . less than that.

I glanced at my in-laws and thought, What will we look like? Will there be more wrinkles? A few more pounds? What color hair? Will I even have hair?

If we ever do stop and think about what our marriage will be like at fifty years, we all too often think only about the external—the physical. But the truth is, there’s a far more important question to ponder: Should the Lord allow us to make it to fifty years of marriage, what will we be like at our fiftieth anniversary?

In other words . . . will we finish strong?

• Will we be thriving? Or will we be surviving?

• Will we be enjoying an intimate and connected marriage? Or will we be two strangers living in the same home?

• Will we intentionally be wise in how we spend our days? Or will we foolishly let the months and years pass by?

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90 is the oldest psalm and was written by Moses toward the end of the time of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. Those days were filled with challenges, grumbling, frustrations, and difficulties. Throughout the psalm, Moses reminds the Israelites of how quickly this life passes by: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (verse 4). He also reminds them that we have only a finite number of days: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (verse 10).

Every time I read those words from Psalm 90, I’m reminded of how quickly time goes by. We recently celebrated twenty-five years of marriage, and it feels like our wedding day was only yesterday. It seems like our children were just born, and yet two of them are in college and our younger two sons are in high school. The past twenty-five years have flown! And for that matter, fifty years fly by as well—especially in our marriages.

When we first start out on our marriage adventure, it seems that we have forever ahead of us. And then, life happens. Babies come along. Career paths change. School starts. Finances get tight. And before you know it, life is going faster than you realize.

In the midst of all of this, many couples become passive in their approach to their marriage and wake up one day wondering what went wrong. They operate their marriages in what we call default mode: things happen without planning or intentionality or effort. Instead of the default mode, we need a proactive approach for our marriages to grow. The call that we’re sending out is this: Get out of the default mode in your marriage. Live at a higher level! There has to be a plan. The old adage is right: Fail to plan, plan to fail.

When marriages are not actively nurtured, they tend to go into the default mode. Usually this means that our sinful nature will be more active than our desire to please God. The default mode is where selfishness grows and flourishes. Here criticism of your spouse is accepted and even encouraged by friends. It is where fantasy tends to have a greater pull than reality and where hope for a better marriage dies.

In the default mode, we get stuck in ruts. Perhaps you have had the exact same fights with your spouse over and over again, without acceptable resolution. Most couples do, because most couples live their marriages on automatic. When you get right down to it, the main problem is often that couples do not prioritize the time necessary to keep a marriage growing and alive.

A proactive approach to marriage says that this relationship is so important to you that you are going to actively ensure its success and health with preventive medicine and a focus on growth rather than crisis management. Therefore, you are willing to put in the time and intentionality required to ensure your success.

We find it interesting that one of the struggles we have with couples whom we are counseling is getting them to commit to time each week with each other. Many insist that the time isn’t there. If you’re one of these people, we would like you to consider how much time you spend:

• Watching television

• Working extra hours

• Going to movies

• Working on a committee

• Reading

• Talking to friends

• Watching or participating in sports

• Shopping for fun

• Doing your favorite hobby

• Playing on the computer

• Doing volunteer work

• Attending or running church activities

We contend that if you have time to do any or many of these activities, you have time to spend on your marriage. Are any of these more important than your marriage?

“Wait a second!” you might say. “Church activities are on that list! Isn’t that a good thing on which to spend time?” Of course, but we’ve met many good Christians who help out at church yet treat their spouses in a very dishonoring way, not giving the spouse the time she or he deserves. We greatly believe in serving Christ by volunteering at church but believe that the church would grow stronger and more authentic if members would prioritize having a godly marriage even over helping at the church. Our position is that if you build a healthier marriage, you will have more energy and actually be more effective in helping at your church.

The state of many marriages is busyness. We often see it in the couples we counsel. It’s not that they don’t love each other. It’s not that their problems are so great that they can’t deal with them. Often, their lack of intentionality to grow and guard their marriage has them in a place where they don’t feel connected anymore. They’ve stopped being vulnerable and intentional. Intimacy suffers. Weeks or even months tend to pass without having an honest dialogue about how their marriage is really doing. But that’s not how things started.

Nearly every couple who stood in front of a church on their wedding day exchanged vows and longed for an intimate, authentic, and growing marriage. No one stands there with their fingers crossed during the “to have and to hold” part of the vows. We were excited and confident and hopeful for what the future had in store. That’s how Lora and I started our marriage. But around year six, we found ourselves busy with children and, in many ways, going through the motions of our marriage. And then four great couples reached out to us, and we began to connect with them weekly, spending most of our time together intentionally growing our marriage through authentic and vulnerable communication. Through those nights, we developed a plan that led us to deeper intentionality in tending to our marriage.

Every marriage can benefit from an intentional plan. What if there was a tool that would help you have a weekly intentional conversation about your marriage—a tool that would help you grow in spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy?

That’s where The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge comes in!

The challenge is simple and fun. Each week as a couple, you will spend a few minutes answering one question that has been designed to help you have open and honest conversation as you connect with and enjoy each other. Some weeks you will laugh as you travel down memory lane together. Some weeks you will be challenged as you evaluate different aspects of your marriage. And other weeks you will dream and plan for what the future can become. Our hope is that The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge will give a troubled couple new hope, a happy couple a tool for ongoing closeness, and a newly married couple a unique way to know each other more deeply.

Intentionally growing intimacy in your marriage is such a valuable investment. The return on this investment brings a benefit far beyond your marriage. All of us are leaving a legacy through our marriages to our children and to our friends. We can choose the kind of legacy we leave; it may be a legacy that is marked by a lack of intentionality or even apathy. Or we can leave a legacy marked by an intentional way of connecting and enjoying the years ahead so they don’t just pass us by.

Let’s thrive, and not just survive, on the way to our golden anniversaries. After all, getting to fifty years starts with fifty Fridays!

The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge 1 A FRESH START

How will we use the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge each week?

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

—Psalm 90:12

Life is busy. Among our jobs, hobbies, work, and shuttling kids—it’s easy to stay so busy that we miss intentionally caring for and growing our marriages. Date night can become less frequent. Tender moments slip away. Heartfelt conversations vanish. And then we begin to wonder what’s going on with our intimacy.

If we’re going to enjoy a healthy, God-honoring, intimate marriage, we must intentionally invest in each other. By saying “yes” to the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge, you are declaring your desire to grow your marriage in spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy. Accepting this challenge means that you’re going to commit to a weekly intentional time to proactively engage with and talk about your marriage.

Today’s question should lead you to think through your expectations and some of the logistics for the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge. Take some time together to discuss how you will use each week’s question. For example:

• When will you discuss the question? (Bedtime might not be a good idea!)

• Where will you discuss the question? (Let me recommend face-to-face, not over the phone or by e-mail.)

• Who will be responsible for initiating that time? (Husbands, this is a great opportunity for us!)

• How will you decide who answers the question first? (Rock, paper, scissors?)

• Will you commit to spend some time praying with each other at the end of the discussion?

• What will you do when one of the questions creates some tension?

• Would this be a good time to start a journal together?

Don’t let any of these questions create pressure. There’s not a right or a wrong way to do this. What works for your marriage is what matters. Remember, the purpose of the challenge is to encourage communication together. Sometimes it’s hard work. But it’s always worth it. So develop an intentional plan for how you’ll use the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge and then jump in!

Communicating is often a burdensome task, but it is a task that must be accomplished for a marriage to be complete. When communication falters, the marriage is in trouble. When it fails, the marriage is virtually doomed.

—R. C. Sproul, The Intimate Marriage

About The Authors

Photgraph © Jimmy Chaffin

Jeff Helton has spent twenty-five years as a pastor working with men, marriages, and families, and he coauthored Authentic Marriages and its companion workbook. He has earned two masters degrees from Wheaton Graduate School in New Testament theology and communication and founded WellSpring Coaching and Consulting. Jeff and his wife Lora live with their four children and their boxer Miah in Franklin, Tennessee.

Lora Helton has been married to Jeff Helton for twenty-four years and is the coauthor of Authentic Marriages and its companion workbook. She is a graduate of Taylor University in Indiana and Wheaton Graduate School, where she earned her MA in clinical psychology. She currently works part-time at WellSpring, counseling women and partnering with Jeff in their work with married and pre-married couples.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (September 3, 2013)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476705002

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Raves and Reviews

"Most couples desire a loving, supportive marriage in which husband and wife are helping each other reach their potential for God. However, many couples do not have a plan for creating such a marriage. In The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge, Jeff and Lora Helton provide a plan. I highly recommend it."

– Gary Chapman, Ph.D. author of The Five Love Languages

“The 50 Friday Marriage Challenge is a terrific adventure worth your time and focus! The Heltons have masterfully woven together fifty questions that will result in you growing closer to God and one another.”

– Dr. Dennis Rainey, Host of FamilyLife Today

"I’ve been married to my beautiful wife Sharon for thirty years. We’ve laughed, worked, played, talked, and argued our way through some pretty incredible times, and trust me, it wasn’t always easy! Marriage is hard work, but it’s the best, most rewarding work I’ve ever done—and it’s something you need to work at, too. In The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge, Jeff and Lora will walk you and your spouse through a fantastic year-long discussion that will totally change your marriage!"

– Dave Ramsey, New York Times best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio show host

"Most men avoid ‘talk about the relationship’ conversations, fearing the inevitable feelings of inadequacy and unmet expectations. But Jeff and Lora Helton have developed fifty conversation starters that will have you relishing your time together. You’ll not only strengthen your marriage, you’ll have fun in the process!"

– Marshall Shelley, Vice President, Christianity Today

“I have had the privilege of knowing Jeff and Lora while they were on staff at our home church in Brentwood, TN. When my husband Stu and I were approaching the twenty year mark of marriage, we felt the need to recalibrate and take some time to get to know each other again. With the constant pull of his work, our kids, and my years of traveling, we had come to a place of ‘coasting.’ We didn't want to be one of those couples whose kids went off to college and they sat staring at one another not knowing who each other were anymore. Many of the suggestions in this book are questions that Jeff had us ask each other. Whether married one year, twenty years, or fifty years, we could all use a tune up. Marriage is worth it.”

– Denise Jones, Point of Grace

"Sometimes you recommend a book based just on its content. Other times you might recommend a book because of your relationship to the author. And occasionally you recommend a book based on both. I have the privilege of knowing and serving with Jeff and Lora Helton. The principles and concepts of this book are far more than content; they are the realities of married life being lived out, modeled, and shared by these two wonderful friends. The Fifty Friday's Marriage Challenge will do just that; it will challenge you to rethink, refocus, and recommit to your marriage. This is not just another book on marriage, this is a book of encouragement written by two very authentic people who are committed to helping others build better marriages."

– Rick White, Senior Pastor at The People's Church in Franklin, TN

“The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge is a fun way to use conversation starters for husbands and wives. They open the door for meaningful discussions in a non-threatening way. Praying for and with one another is a way for your marriage to thrive and survive. Learning more about each other makes for a solid, exciting relationship. Lora and Jeff cover real issues with tried-and-true ways to have a strong, healthy marriage. We have enjoyed going through the book ourselves and look forward to sharing it with those we mentor.”

– Marsha and Jack Countryman, best-selling author and creator of God’s Promises line

“I remember the year that Jeff and Lora wrote these questions--one Friday after another, after another, after another. And I remember the change that God wrought in them--Jeff in particular--as I saw the very questions he was asking re-shape and refine his own heart. It will do the same for every couple who refuses the ‘default mode’ and chooses to take the challenge.”

– Lloyd Shadrach, Teaching Pastor, Fellowship Bible Church, Brentwood, TN

"The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge is a fun and practical approach to strengthening marriages. Each challenge is thought provoking, intentional, and encourages an opportunity for true intimacy. We've personally encountered Jeff and Lora's love and counsel in our own lives. What a treasure it is to now have access to their wealth of wisdom through this book. If you're willing to take the challenge, you will definitely be inspired to pursue the marriage God intended for you to have."

– Joe Katina, The Katinas

"This book is a true gift to all of us who are seeking stronger marriages. Jeff and Lora have provided us with an incredible guide to help challenge and revitalize our relationships. My wife and I are so thankful for The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge."

– Pete Wilson, Pastor and Author of Plan B

“This book is a true gift to all of us who are seeking stronger marriages. Jeff and Lora have provided us with an incredible guide to help challenge and revitalize our relationships. My wife and I are so thankful for The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge."

– Pete Wilson, Pastor and Author of Plan B

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