De Gance: Move Marriage From Just a Subject of Theology to an Object of Ministry

Photo above: Communio President JP De Gance speaks to seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis on the “mindset shift” that needs to occur around ministering to marriages to produce truly fruitful evangelization the 21st century. Most of these seminarians will lead their own parishes in 24-36 months.

By: JP De Gance

I’m fired up.

Just wrapped up an all-day workshop Monday for nearly 60 seminarians in St. Louis at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary 

You cannot help but get energized after being with such a large group of young men dedicated to Jesus who’ll pastor many tens of thousands of souls through their lives in ministry. 

Right now, I’m writing you from Broward County en route to Vero Beach for a planning meeting with one of our parishes. Will swing back tonight to Fort Lauderdale to speak to Legatus members in my childhood hometown of Fort Lauderdale.

The academic dean of that seminary in St. Louis, Dr. Ed Hogan, invited Communio to come out and organize the nearly seven-hour interactive workshop where our team focused on creating a mindset shift in the men: 

To effectively evangelize in the 21st century, we must go from seeing marriage as a subject of theology to an object of ministry. 

More on that powerful experience in just a moment.

This Catholic workshop came a week after our Protestant and Evangelical team ran our second Marriage Collaborative in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with 12 evangelical and Protestant pastors and church leaders from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and nondenominational churches.  These churches in total account for more than 15,000 regular Sunday attendees.

I was scheduled to attend that gathering as well but Secretary Buttigieg and the FAA had some other plans for me and all US travelers last Wednesday.  These Marriage Collaboratives are working meetings where our church engagement and church strategy teams in North Texas roll up their sleeves with pastors to share best practices for evangelizing through marriage and relationship ministry.

This included long-time, large church partners with Communio such as First Burleson and Fellowship of the Parks – but also included pastors from new partner churches and churches considering a new partnership. 

Now, this past weekend, one of the largest churches in Austin, Texas, Life Family – a church of more than 6,000 just deployed Communio’s first-party survey at their main campus to get an overall grasp of the relationship health of their people. 

We’ll unpack this survey data during our upcoming strategic planning session along with data gathered from Communio Insights®, our proprietary software with ministry models built from our national consumer data file.  Their leadership includes their lead pastor Randy Phillips of Phillips, Craig, and Dean – one of the all-time best-selling Christian music bands.

Our strategist and engagement team will help Randy and his team set up measurable goals to strengthen relationships and marriages and grow their church through a 24-month written plan.

This is just one example of the many new church partners Communio is onboarding during this winter church trimester. 

And, let’s face it, the need is huge – 85 percent of all churches still report spending nothing in the areas of relationship and marriage health.  Marriage sits at a historic low and the number of children born without married parents remains at historic highs. 

America leads the globe in the share of single-parent families, which is the under-reported cause of the world’s largest income and wealth gap.

Yet, I’m incredibly hopeful.  Communio ended 2022 supporting more than 170 churches – 2/3 Protestant and 1/3 Catholic – across the country. 

Our church engagement team has been having conversations with a rapidly growing number of churches – evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic – interested in ramping up their ministry in the fight to save the family in their community. 

We’ve built out a two-phase National Strategy to Save the Family, which involves supporting 4,000 churches by the end of 2030.  In the coming months, I’ll have much more to share on this project. 

One key to reaching that culture-changing 4,000 church target is to produce a metanoia – mindset shift – among church leaders. 

Also this week, toward that end, EWTN – the largest global Catholic television network – aired three episodes on Women of Grace focused on my book, Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America

During the show, the host, Johnette Williams zeroes in on our data that shows the collapse in the two-parent family has fueled the collapse in church attendance and religiosity.  The only path to restoration is through the family.

That was the theme of our all-day workshop back at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary that I mentioned at the beginning of my email. Our team immersed their theology 1, 2, and 3 guys – nearly 60 future priests – in both the data and in hands-on activities to build an evangelizing relationship and marriage ministry inside of their future parishes. 

The day started with a talk focused on producing the mindset shift that the future of faith is completely dependent, by God’s very design, on the health of marriage.  We introduced them to the three ingredients of sound Vision, Community, and Skills within a church-based ministry.

Knowing that “grace builds on nature” – we had them go through four examples of relationship skills exercises.  This immersed these future priests in practical examples of what Communio means when we say “skills-based ministry.” 

Having done that, the day moved into interactive activities where we instructed them on pre-evangelization through relationship ministry. 

We saw high-level engagement and questions.  Seminarians said how excited they were to keep hold of these ideas and bring them into their future parishes. 

Thanks to our generous donors, Communio is at the point of the spear driving national culture change around the family through churches and dioceses. I know that it can be easy to give into fear and even despair about the future of the country and the world. 

But, I’m incredibly hopeful by what we are seeing and hearing from churches and church leaders.  Just to give you a mental picture of a reason for this hopefulness …

… our seven-hour day with those many future priests who will shepherd tens of thousands of souls concluded in a standing ovation.


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