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Why marriage is the most urgent ministry gap in the Church today


People are falling away from faith at alarming rates.

One example is evident in a recent Gallup study, that stated, “[T]he percentage of adults who report regularly attending religious services remains low. Three in 10 Americans say they attend religious services every week (21%) or almost every week (9%), while 11% report attending about once a month and 56% seldom (25%) or never (31%) attend.”

Church decline over the last 40 years in the United States has prompted numerous explanations advanced by experts, pastors and church leaders, most of which are either wrong or, at best, incomplete.

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The faith crisis facing churches and denominations nationwide was fueled by the collapse of the family at home.

Let me explain the severity of the problem. Research from The Marriage and Religion Research Initiative shows that most adults under 35 today were not raised in a household with married parents. In contrast, the 1970 US Census shows 40% of U.S. households were married with children under 18 living in the home. As of 2023, that number dropped to 17.9%.

This tragic collapse in marital love fuels a legion of other social ills — from shorter life spans to generational poverty to increased mental illness and the epidemic of loneliness.

Our ministry’s Nationwide Study on Faith and Relationships found that four out of five (80%) of those in church on Sunday grew up in a home where mom and dad stayed married.

Yet, amidst these crises, our ministry, Communio, has found a troubling trend within the local church: the dire need to see the crucial role that strong marriages play within the health of their church and, by extension, their communities.

Marriage is the most urgent ministry gap in the church today.

A survey by Barna Research, commissioned by our ministry, found 72% of all American churches lack a substantive marriage ministry, while 74% have no ministry for newlyweds to help them through their first critical years of marriage. Additionally, 93% of churches don't offer any ministries for singles.

This marriage ministry gap includes single people too — helping singles discern and express love in relationships that can more frequently lead to a healthy, faith-filled marriage.

To stop and reverse this flight from faith, Gospel-centered church leaders must see this issue for what it is. We need a new path and approach toward ministry and evangelism that addresses the true root of the issue.

Simply put, when it comes to marriage, the American church needs a metanoia mindset shift.

“Metanoia” is a strong word, I know. First used in Matthew 3:2, it’s often translated as “repentance,” a turning away from sin and turning to God. As believers, we know that following Jesus requires all of us to embrace true “metanoia.” That aspect of turning from one thing and turning toward another on a deeper level is a transformation in our thoughts and actions. The Church needs to turn away from current, ineffective evangelism efforts and toward transforming their marriage and relationship ministries.

We’ve seen time and time again, that when a church becomes intentional and strategic in nurturing strong marriages, they see strengthened families as shockwaves of faith surge through church families, where Christ-like love of earthly fathers glorifies our Heavenly Father, impacting the next generation.

Communio’s goal is to see this metanoia mind shift in church leaders and church members spilling out into communities around churches and drawing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Through our ministry’s close work with churches across the nation, we’ve identified several barriers obstructing this metanoia mindset shift and found an incredible solution.

As believers, we know the enemy is real and he has been hard at work to destroy faith in Jesus Christ. He’s exacted the most extensive damage to faith by deconstructing God’s salvific icons of fatherhood, marriage, and biblical sexuality.

Yet, here’s some good news — Satan’s plan goes against how God hard-wired humanity. All the best science shows that people are made for life-long relationships. Satan cannot triumph over one of God’s first creations, the sacred institute of marriage.

So, what would happen if the Church mobilized to create a Christ-centered, relationship revolution?

I think we’d see every Gospel-centered church become an evangelizing hub where people desire to enter and form healthy, God-honoring relationships. At the local level, we’d see more people coming to faith in Jesus, more Christ-centered marriages forming and enduring, more healthy marriages thriving, and more children growing up to become adults who repeat the God-ordained masterpiece of “family.”

J.P. De Gance is the founder and president of Communio, a nonprofit ministry that trains and equips churches to share the Gospel through the renewal of healthy relationships, marriages and the family. Read more about Communio’s Nationwide Study on Faith and Relationships at

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