A faith-based nonprofit in Virginia that uses data tools to help churches build more effective relationship ministries could have already helped drive down divorce rates in Florida’s most populous city.
A new Institute for Family Studies report highlights a three-year community transformation campaign in Florida’s Duval County by the nonprofit Communio from 2016 to 2018 to strengthen marriages. Communio’s efforts, which included sponsoring marriage and relationship education programs, public events, and a sustained public campaign in support of healthier relationships, coincided with a 24 percent decline in the city’s divorce rate.
The campaign by Communio, which was known as the Culture of Freedom Initiative, reached more than 11,000 adults per year from 2016-2018, for approximately 50,000 adults in the three-year period. Communio and its partners also sponsored more than 28 million digital impressions, advertising its services and programs, and promoting a marriage friendly message in Duval County over the period on a budget of $1.75 million.
Divorce rate decline in Duval County was shown to have outpaced the divorce rate decline in the United States over the same period of Communio’s effort. In Duval County, divorce fell about 21 percent more than it did in comparable counties across the country, the report added.
While the evidence does not definitively attribute the divorce rate decline in Duval County to Communio’s efforts alone, the IFS report suggests that it might have been a factor.
“This report from the Institute for Family Studies suggests that the answer could be yes. We cannot answer the question definitively, as there may have been other factors driving divorce down in Duval County that we were not able to measure. What we can say is that the increase in family stability in Jacksonville during the years of the Culture of Freedom Initiative was larger than the increase in family stability witnessed in the vast majority of other large, comparable counties across the U.S.,” the report said.
“The distinctive contribution of COFI in Jacksonville seems to have been its combination of micro-targeted digital marketing with a broad network of religious congregations committed to strengthening marriage.”
Communio Founder and President John Paul De Gance said in a release to The Christian Post Thursday that his ministry shows how Big Data can be used by churches to enhance society.
“Our hard work in Duval County shows that, when churches adopt best practices and leverage Big Data, they can make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “We are proud to have helped enhance family stability in Jacksonville, and we look forward to working with churches to apply the Jacksonville model in counties across America. When married couples have access to 21st century marital resources, they are better-equipped to work through their problems and remain together, in healthy and loving relationships.”
De Gance said Communio’s vision is to create a country where every church fosters strong communities by focusing on building relationship ministries that grow and support healthy marriages and strong families.
“Family is the key to combating poverty, reducing crime, improving education, and increasing life-long happiness. It is also the primary place where people first encounter faith,” the organization declares on its website.
“Churches are the most powerful change agents for cultural transformation," Communio said. "They are best positioned to create the ecosystem that allows personal relationships to thrive, healthy marriages to form, and strong families to grow.”
“Each church has its own unique people and context. This means there is no one way to develop an effective relationship ministry. Communio’s vision is to bring best practices from around the country to serve churches in developing their own unique game plan to launch a relationship health movement,” the site adds.