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With summer in full swing, Communio-supported churches are ramping up creative outreach into their communities to support marriage and relationships.

You can get a good sense from this 36-second clip of what these community-oriented experiences look like in Catholic and Baptist contexts.

Recently, First Burleson, a 130-year-old Baptist congregation in the Fort Worth suburbs, and St. Michael Church, a 70-year Catholic parish in Fairfax, Virginia, hosted 230 and 130 people respectively at their latest rounds of community outreach as part their new Full-Circle Relationship Ministries®.

Outreaches like this are happening at Communio-supported churches across the country – with an expected surge of more than 50 outreaches already expected for this fall – all designed to help churches to put couples and singles on a multi-step journey toward greater relationship health.

Meanwhile, work is rapidly picking up steam in the Rust Belt as part of Communio’s Pittsburgh Church Network which launched earlier this year. Just the other week, Communio hosted the first of a two-part strategic planning process with more than 50 staff and volunteers at Holy Spirit parish – a large parish in New Castle, PA (photos below). The parish is the first to jump on what will be an ecumenical network of the five large Protestant and Catholic churches in Allegheny County. Each church will be equipped to run its own Full-Circle Relationship Ministry®.

“I expected this meeting to be like pulling teeth,” said one attendee after the Holy Spirit meeting, “but it was the exact opposite.” 

Whatever the opposite is of pulling teeth, one hopes it sounds like it’s something good.  The next week, Holy Spirit’s new 10-member ministry “task force” reconvened to lock in clear and measurable mission outcomes (goals) and mission activities (a strategy) to achieve those mission outcomes. More on that in a moment.

But first, back in Texas and Virginia, First Burleson and St. Michael’s are deep into execution of their new Ministry Engagement Ladders® – the multi-step strategy that helps a church move their members and those in their community through outreach, ongoing engagement, and into a skills-based growth journey where marriages are transformed.

  • First Burleson’s recent Date Night outreach was their first large-scale, in-person experience since the start of the pandemic (photos below). They had live music from local singer/songwriter Josh Weathers, childcare, fun activities for couples including a photo booth, games, and axe throwing, and food trucks with authentic street tacos, sandwiches, hot wings, and dessert.

Ahead of the event, Communio helped the church run a digital outreach campaign to drive couples to a registration page branded for the church (You can view that page by clicking here). More than 60 percent of all event registrations came in from this outreach campaign. During the night, the Burleson staff was thrilled to see 15 couples register for their re|engage series – the skills-based marriage enrichment content the church is using for the growth journey rung of their Ministry Engagement Ladder. This meatier programming will be promoted throughout their summer and fall relationship ministry activities.

  • Over in Virginia, St. Michael Catholic Church hosted its second Bags & BBQ outreach on a hot Sunday afternoon (photos below). The parish organized an outdoor picnic with grilled barbeque, craft beer, live music, yard games, and a competitive cornhole tournament with a $150 grand prize. More than 30 percent of the 130 in attendance were not members of the parish, which provided an amazing opportunity for their team to invite attendees to the parish’s next ongoing engagement – Dine & Dance – in August.

Dine & Dance is geared as a date night for dating, engaged, and married couples and will include a catered dinner, drinks, and a professional salsa dancing lesson. Since October, this medium-sized parish has moved more than 350 unique individuals through similar outreach and ongoing engagements experiences – more than 50 percent of which are not parishioners. Having built relationships with couples, the parish is flowing people into its new small groups where content from Alpha’s Marriage Course will be delivered.

Back at Holy Spirit in PA, Communio is helping this parish get started on its own Ministry Engagement Ladder.

Communio comes to this parish at a time of major consolidation for the Pittsburgh diocese due, in large part, to a collapse in mass attendance and the growing priest shortages. In the last 12 months, 15 parishes collapsed into one Holy Spirit parish. It is in the face of this new reality that Communio is stepping in to help Holy Spirit deploy a creative evangelization strategy to transform their community by improving relationship and marriage health.

During their initial townhall meeting, Communio reviewed survey and modeled data on the relationship health of the parish and surrounding community. Here are just a few of the topline findings:

  • 17 percent of married couples in the pews self-reported struggling in their relationships.
  • Married women in the pews are 35 percent more likely to report struggling in their relationships than their husbands. Since a marriage is struggling when only one member of the marriage is struggling, this means far more than 17 percent of the total marriages in the parish are in a difficult season.
  • Among singles, there exists a huge sex-ratio imbalance of 76 percent women to 23 percent men. Marriage scholars tell us that these kinds of female to male imbalances significantly reduce marriage rates.
  • Within a 10-mile radius of the parish, 8,109 married people show similar consumer purchasing behavior as those who divorced in the last 12 months.

This data review set the stage for a productive brainstorming session with all 50 staff and volunteers to come up with outreach and ongoing engagement ideas that would be attractive to couples both from inside and outside the four walls of the parish. You can see an initial list of event concepts the group came up with by clicking here.

On July 6, the new 10-member task force responsible for implementing the parish’s new Full-Circle Relationship Ministry reconvened to iron out its top three measurable ministry outcomes for the next two years. This includes selecting ministry activities and building out their Ministry Engagement Ladder (collectively forming their strategy) with calendared events to achieve those outcomes.

The parish plans to leverage its September 1 parish picnic as its first community-oriented outreach instead of just something for existing parishioners.

They have already rented space at a large local park for the kickoff to their Full-Circle Relationship Ministry, which will include live music, an old car show, food and drinks, and games for kids. Communio will help them design a multi-channel marketing campaign inviting members of the community within a 10 mile radius of the parish site.

Communio is mobilizing and equipping the Church to address this nation’s most central crisis – the family crisis.

Live music and dinner at First Burleson’s Date Night outreach, Fort Worth, TX.

Axe-throwing activity at First Burleson’s Date Night outreach, Fort Worth, TX.

Cornhole tournament and St Michael’s Bags & BBQ outreach, Annandale, VA.

Communio townhall at Holy Sprit parish, New Castle, PA.

Outreach brainstorming breakout session during Holy Spirit townhall, New Castle, PA.

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For the past 50 years, the constant drumbeat from the news media, popular entertainment, and from all other cultural influencers has been this: The nuclear family, consisting of one child or more living with both a married mother and a father, is a dinosaur on its way to extinction. But new information is showing the opposite - there is hope for the family and hope for the future of marriage ministry.
On this episode of "Moment of Truth," Nick and Emma sit down with Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, to discuss the sorry state of marriages in the United States, the impact of healthy families on our culture and economy, and how the impact of COVID-19 might not be so bad for our marriage rate in the years to come. Get insight that will help the future of marriage ministry in your church by checking out the link below.