A Risky Question

Photo Above: Communio President JP De Gance (right) speaks on a panel of civic and business leaders at AEI’s F.R.E.E. Forum (or Family, Religion, Education, and Entrepreneurship) on how healthy marriages are a vital ingredient for societal and human flourishing.

Raise your hand if you lived in a home at age 17 with your married, biological parents.

It was a risky question to pose to the audience from the stage.  The question was an adaptation from Dr. Regnerus’ family structure survey question, which Communio deploys with its church clients.

I asked it to a racially and politically diverse room full of civic, business, and church leaders at a forum organized by my friend Ian Rowe in Birmingham, Alabama.  This American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event attracted participants from across the Iron City and from across much of the country.

This event was AEI’s F.R.E.E. Forum, which stands for Family, Religion, Education, and Entrepreneurship.  Ian notes that these are vital ingredients for societal and human flourishing.

Now, let’s face it, if you have time in the work week to engage in this forum and conversation, you are part of our society’s elite.

Conversation earlier in the day touched on Pre-K and early childhood development.  There was conversation around education and work.  Ian had me join a panel to bring the conversation to the topic of family.

After asking my opening survey question, I looked out at the room and hands slowly raised.  Nearly every single person had a hand raised.

You could hear a few audible gasps.  I went on:

Look around you.  Do you think the fact that you grew up in a married home is an accidental part of your personal success, or do you think it was an essential ingredient to you being here? Any serious conversation around combating poverty and improving education must include a strategy around strengthening and encouraging healthy marriages.

It might not yet be safe conversation for polite company.  But that needs to change.  I’m happy to help that happen.

Any renewal of the American project requires the full-throated renewal of marriage.  And any cultural renewal of marriage must place faith and the Church at the center of the solution.

This is why Communio exists.

Consider this: despite the crisis in marriage and relationship health, 85 percent of all churches spend $0.00 on marriage and relationship ministry.

The relative lack of action from churches in this battle calls to mind the Ents from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  You’ll recall those were the giant, tree-like forest shepherds and protectors of the trees.  Like pastors, bishops, and church leaders in our age, they needed to be stirred into action to save Middle Earth.  But, once stirred to action – they became the most powerful force routing Saruman.

I’m telling you – thanks to both the generous support of our donors and the zeal of our innovative pastors – the Church is mobilizing.

When including all multisite church partners, Communio is now working with more than 170 churches.  This includes evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic partners.  Progress continues to accelerate.

Here are some highlights from just the last couple weeks:

  • The largest Methodist church in Kentucky – Centenary Methodist Church in Lexington –– has embraced Communio’s Ministry Engagement Ladder® framework.  More than 500 attended their fall festival and 20 percent of those who attended – 50 couples, 100 total adults –signed up to participate in their ongoing marriage ministry.

Couples were first moved into the Date Night Challenge that our church strategist helped them develop.Here’s the prompt for their November Date Night Challenge:

Attitude of Gratitude

When was the last time you thanked each other for the little things you do?

Both of you makes a list of 12+ specific things you’re grateful for. Cut up your responses, put them in a jar or container, and take turns drawing items while going for a walk or on a long drive admiring the fall foliage.

I promise your emotional intimacy connection will increase tenfold doing this activity!

Send us a selfie of the two of you with your gratitude jar or container and you’ll be eligible to win this month’s gift card to Malone’s.

Those couples are being moved into their growth journey – branded as Couples Connect where they’ll engage folks through a multi-week, facilitator-led, skills-based marriage program. They’ve also scheduled well-known marriage pastor and comedian Ted Cunningham in the Spring for a large couples’ outreach event.

  • Restoration Church in Denver recently completed a series for relationship health for 170 or so single young adults to teach and practice skills needed to form and maintain a Christ centered relationship and marriage.
  • Down in Fort Worth, two evangelical churches, Center Point and Cross Church each had Fall Festivals targeting married couples with children.  They combined to have 1,700 people in attendance with 584 registered through Communio’s outreach campaigns.

Stu Pendell, a pastor in senior leadership at Cross Church, is speaking tomorrow on our national pastors’ webinar at 3 pm ET about their experience and lessons learned.If you want to listen in, I’d encourage you to register by clicking here.

  • North of the DFW in Kansas City, 10 out of 11 participating parishes publicly launched their Full-Circle Relationship Ministries®.  These parishes have 12 month written plans along with measurable goals around church growth and relationships ministry. This has included some huge outreach events:
    • Prince of Peace in Olathe, KS held their Oktoberfest for families and couples with 1,700 registrants — 548 registered through Communio’s multichannel marketing campaign.
    • Ascension in Overland Park had 1,200 attend their Fall Festival with 600 coming from Communio’s multichannel campaign.
    • St Patrick’s in a working-class part of Kansas City had 497 registered for their Fall Hayride and Bonfire for couples held this past weekend.  In all, 437 or 88 percent of registrations came from Communio’s external campaign.
    • Many of these parishes are building toward a set of Advent Retreats focused on marriage enrichment leveraging the skills-based program Evermore in Love.  This program combines John Paul II’s Theology of the Body with practical skills enrichment.
    • Out in Montana, seven of the largest Protestant churches in and around Missoula are now signing agreements to begin their work with Communio along with one of the largest evangelical churches in Bozeman.  This will send us well over 30 collaborating churches across the state en route to eventually reaching 52.

On the Catholic side in Big Sky Country, the Cathedral of St Helena held their very first outreach as part of Communio’s larger support of the diocese. They estimated more than 1,500 attended with 6oo registering through Communio’s marketing campaign.

To put this in perspective, the entire metro area of Helena is 83,000 people.So, 1.8 percent of the entire metro area showed up in person for this one event.  Communio delivered to the Cathedral’s leadership emails, cell numbers, and full names through our registration system.

Isaiah, as you take a moment in Arlington to read this email, I hope you are encouraged.  The greatest threat to faith in Jesus and to the health of our nation lies in the collapse of the family.

Churches are increasingly getting this message. In fact, later today, at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore, I am told that Archbishop Cordileone from San Francisco is making a presentation that will largely cite research from my book Endgame on the central role the collapse of marriage is playing in the collapse of faith.  They’ll even distribute copies of this how-to-book to many of the attending prelates.

So, the message is getting out far and wide to those shepherds of the forest.  Churches across the country – evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic are hearing it and beginning to take innovative action to save the family.

Change is coming.


Pro-Natalism Is Not Necessarily Pro-Family

Civilization is in crisis. The birth decline continues to drop as marriage rates plummet and suffer from further delay. But how responsible is our culture for this? Does it play a role in family formation, making it intentionally harder to have kids? Would a more religious culture that encourages married couples to have more babies catch on?

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