John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on Only the Church Can Strengthen Marriage

Between 2014 and 2017, the divorce rate in Jacksonville, Florida, and surrounding Duval County fell 24 percent. Of course, divorce rates are falling nationally already, possibly because fewer people are bothering to get married. Still, 24 percent is a huge number, especially compared to a 6 percent decline nationally and a 10 percent decline across the state of Florida during the same period.

What happened in Jacksonville?

The difference was the commitment of local Christians to go beyond lamenting the state of the family and to actually do something to help married people.

Behind these efforts was the unifying work of a group called Communio, whose goal is to help churches “strengthen marriages and families in their community.” The group uses a data-centered approach to identify couples in crisis, and then elevates “best practices” to offer help to these couples.

In Jacksonville as elsewhere, the data continues to show that “churches are the best at strengthening marriages.” After all, what other social institution can offer the sort of surgical precision needed to identify and connect with couples? What other institution is as scattered, de-centralized, and localized? This insight is obvious once you think about it, but unfortunately, it’s rarely put into practice, especially at the kind of scale needed to make a difference.

Communio worked closely with churches across denominations to create programs to supplement marriage preparation and marriage enrichment programs. These programs both identified and helped couples who showed signs of being at risk of divorce; signs such as “struggling with anxiety, financial stress, or substance abuse.”

Whenever couples were identified as fitting the criteria for “the greatest level of marriage difficulty,” they “would be directed into more intensive programs like Live the Life’s Hope Weekend.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera