The Archdiocese of Detroit just launched a two-year pilot initiative to equip three large parishes with Communio’s marriage-strengthening model.

Work is already well underway at St. Regis, St. Owen, and St. John Neumann – the three parishes Communio, with support from the archdiocese, has recruited to participate in the project to build out and implement their own Data-Informed, Full-Circle Relationship Ministry®.

Communio’s lead Church Consultant for this Detroit project, Jared Smyth, hosted the first of a two-part strategic planning process with 9 staff and volunteers at St. Regis – a large suburban parish in Bloomfield (photo above).

The team was shocked to learn that 39 percent of married couples on the parish registry matched Communio’s predictive model for divorce.

“The entire presentation was very enlightening and fostered great ideas,” said parish staff. “I wish there was more time!  I couldn’t believe how many marriages in need there are in our own church that we just don’t see.  It’s the 60th anniversary of our church, and I think Communio is really going to help us make it a year focused on outreach.”

In the coming days, Communio will reconvene with this team to set measurable goals and an engagement strategy to solve for these and other needs uncovered in their relationship health assessment. More on that in a moment.

Similar to Communio’s recent Church Network launch in Pittsburgh, this new Detroit Church Network will equip parishes with our proven change model, marketing and technology services, and consultative support to pivot toward marriage and relationship-focused evangelization and engagement in 2021 and beyond. The project is catalytic in nature, meaning that Communio trains and empowers existing church staff and volunteers to adopt its own Full-Circle Relationship Ministry®. This ensures that each parish ministry becomes self-sustaining by the end of the two-year contract period and no longer requires the influx of philanthropic funding to keep the ministries active.

Here’s how it works:

  • Diagnosis – Communio equips a parish to run a mobile survey at all masses on a given Sunday to understand the unique marital and relationship needs of those in the pews. This is conducted either by the pastor or a parish staffer during the homily. Communio also provides aggregate analysis of publicly available consumer product data of the parish’s membership and those in the community around the church to uncover additional risk areas.
  • Planning – Communio helps parishes set clear and measurable 24-month mission outcomes and activities to solve for needs uncovered in the data diagnostic. This includes helping them build out and implement their own Ministry Engagement Ladder® – a strategic framework Communio uses to help a church move a large number of people – both from inside and outside the church – through a series of outreach events, ongoing engagements, and ultimately into skills-based growth journey that transforms relationship health.
  • Implementation – Communio provides ongoing consultation with the church to execute its customized plan, recalibrate when necessary, and provide additional training resources as they build out a Full-Circle Relationship Ministry®. This involves equipping the church with a full suite of technology and marketing services to execute all its outreach efforts into the community. Communio develops custom ad creative and deploys outreach campaigns on behalf of the church inviting the community to virtual and in-person events and experiences hosted by the parish.

This three-step approach is underway across our three Communio-supported parishes in the Detroit Archdiocese.

Back at St. Regis, Communio helped the parish complete its initial diagnostic phase.

In addition to challenges uncovered within the parish (recall 39 percent of married people have similar consumer purchasing behavior as those who divorced in the last 12 months), Communio’s diagnostic showed there are significant needs in the community within a 5-mile radius of the parish:

  • 6,686 married Catholics not already connected to St. Regis show similar consumer purchasing behavior as those who recently divorced.
  • 2,984 of these married people have children in the home under 10 years old.
  • Meanwhile, 1,334 are cohabitating with children, a home environment that research shows is the most fragile of family structures.

In the coming days, Communio will host a follow up planning meeting to help St. Regis nail down two-year mission outcomes and its Ministry Engagement Ladder® – a calendared plan of outreach and engagement experiences designed to draw members of the parish – and those hurting in their community – into their new relationship ministry.

St. Owen and St. John Neumann are slated to complete their diagnostic and planning phases by end of July.

The Detroit Archdiocese has not been immune to priest shortages, changing demographics, declining mass attendance and the subsequent church closings that have roiled dioceses across the Rust Belt.

In late December, the archdiocese announced it is grouping its 216 parishes into 51 “families” — each made up of three to eight parishes sharing priests, staff, and resources. The move is part of the archdiocese’s overall Unleash the Gospel initiative which, in large part, seeks to re-structure parishes to become “radically mission oriented”.

Within this context, the archdiocese has brought in Communio to pilot its model with parishes across two families. If proven effective, this effort will expand.

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