Couple’s Marriage Ministry Opens Door to Use LFYS with Public School Teams

Marty and Debe Tobin

Marty and Debe Tobin

Pastor Marty Tobin and his wife Debe have been leading marriage workshops for more than two decades.

Typically, at the close of each session, workshop participants crowd to the front to speak to the couple. Some ask for additional counseling. Others ask the Tobins to speak at a retreat or invite them to their church to present a workshop. More than once, husbands and wives who were on the verge of a split prior to the conference are now committed to reconciliation and ask for guidance.

One day, a retreat participant approached the Tobins with a different request. Would they consider conducting a team-building workshop using the Leading From Your Strengths profile and process with her staff? Since the Tobins had experience facilitating Leading From Your Strengths workshops with other small businesses and teams, they didn’t think twice. Of course, they’d be willing.

But the request wasn’t for a ministry group or a commercial business team training. It was for a workshop using Leading From Your Strengths with the staff of a local elementary public school. The school administrator saw how the LFYS content could impact her team.

That invitation opened the door for the Tobins to impact hundreds of teachers in local schools … who in turn, influence children and families every day.

It Started With the Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver

In the 1990s, Marty and Debe were introduced to the four temperaments described by Gary Smalley and John Trent in their groundbreaking work, The Two Sides of Love (1990). The LOGB model characterizes four major personality types as animals: Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver. “That model revolutionized our marriage,” says Marty. “As we used it in our coaching and counseling, the LOGB model brought clarity to many couples with whom we were working.”

Soon, the Tobins became aware of workshops led by John Trent and Rodney Cox that incorporated the LOGB model into what is now known as the Leading From Their Strengths process. Ministry Insights had created a suite of products that made the strengths concept accessible to couples, families, and teams. Together, Marty and Debe became certified in LFYS Level 1 and Level 2 as well as the Different By Design marriage curriculum.

Soon, the Tobins incorporated the LFYS process into a variety of ministry environments.  In Marty’s role as an executive pastor, he uses the profiles as a regular part of team-building as well as in the hiring and onboarding process.  Together, he and Debe work through Marriage Insights profiles with engaged couples as well as for couples in counseling. And the profiles are a key element in Different By Design marriage conferences that Tobins lead in one-day events and during retreats. Marty typically presents the nuts and bolts of the material and Debe adds stories and depth.

It was during a Different By Design conference that the school administrator approached Marty and Debe about ministering to public school teachers, staff, and administrators using LFYS.

Build Understanding With One Simple Question

As a result, Marty and Debe led a team-building workshop for this elementary school staff, which included individual grade level steam sessions along with administrators. “We were privileged to have a front-row seat as these teachers’ attitudes changed,” says Marty. “They acknowledged differences in other team members, which they’d previously seen as weaknesses, and saw how those differences were strengths that benefited the team.”

One kindergarten team included an Assertive problem solver – a Lion – who was unaware that she continually took over decision making without considering the Reflective nature of other team members.  Another team was packed with Optimistics – “Otters” – who processed information with plenty of enthusiasm while having lots of fun and fellowship together. Yet without a Realistic on this team, the members struggled to follow through and complete their lesson planning.

The Tobins used a simple question to build understanding in these diverse teams: “As you begin the day, what is your ultimate goal?” Teachers listened carefully to each other’s answers and came to a greater understanding of how they might learn from each other, rather than compete or be in conflict.

Not only did the workshop build greater team unity at different grade levels, but the principal later reported that he used the profile content to communicate more effectively with each teacher in ways he or she could best receive and respond.

And now, the principle of strengths can filter down to students and families.

One of the Most Rewarding Experiences

Since then, referrals have led to additional opportunities. Marty and Debe have conducted workshops with four school teams – three public schools and one private school – with staff ranging from 39 team members to 61 team members. Debe’s 25 years of experience as an educator brings real-life relevance to the sessions.

Yet no matter who they’re working with – families, couples, teams – Leading From your Strengths is the first tool the Tobins use to get the process going. The profiles give clarity, build unity, and highlight the value each individual brings to a team and each spouse brings to a marriage – and they’re based on biblical principles.

“We could share many stories of enlightenment moments that we’ve experienced as couples and team members use the Leading From Your Strengths profiles,” says Marty. “But working with school teams has been one of the most rewarding.”

Which demonstrates how God can use one area of ministry to move you into another.

Marty serves as Executive Pastor at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church (Pleasant Garden, NC) and gives direct oversight to the ministerial staff, men’s ministry, and marriage and family ministry. Debe encourages women through her life experience as a wife of 39 years, mother of two, women’s ministry leader, and an elementary educator. The Tobins are Different By Design and Leading From Your Strengths certified facilitators, which they present to couples, families, church staff, small businesses, and schools in marriage and family retreats, team building workshops, and counseling. Marty and Debe make their home in North Carolina.

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