Marriage Enrichment Weekend – A Step to Slash Divorce Rates

A Marriage Enrichment Weekend to revive Sun Coast marriages is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 12 -13 at The Tabernacle Family Life Center, 4141 DeSoto Road, in Sarasota.  It is the first step by a new non-profit group, Marriage Savers of the Sun Coast (MSSC) to slash the divorce rates of this area. The weekend will be led by Jeff and Jill Williams. Mr. Williams serves as chief operating officer of US Marriage Savers.

            “Marriage Revival is desperately needed,” says Pastor Jim Campana, co-founder of MSSC. His wife of 26 years, Marlene who co-founded and co-directs the organization, agrees, “The divorce rate of Manatee County was 61% to 76% from 2001-2004. Sarasota’s was even higher – 78% to 93%. That’s nearly one divorce for every marriage!” she asserts.

            Marriage Savers of the Sun Coast has mobilized dozens of churches to reverse those trends.  “We are part of a national movement that has been sparked by co-founders Mike and Harriet McManus to reduce divorce by better preparing, strengthening and restoring marriages,”  Jim added.  Jonathan Bruce, former Manatee County Commissioner and and MSSC board member, endorsed the project: “Marriage Savers represents an opportunity to confront and deal with the tragedy known as divorce that is impacting our society.” 

            Marriage Savers of the Sun Coast is an affiliate of the national organization, Marriage Savers, which has helped 194 cities in 42 states and 3 countries,  adopt "Community Marriage Policies," signed agreements by local congregations pledging to implement marital reforms that have reduced divorce and cohabitation rates -- and increased marriage rates.

            On November 4th the Sun Coast will become the 199th community to sign a Community Marriage Policy® (CMP), adding its name to the list of communities that have gathered clergy across denominational lines to adopt reforms in their methods of preparing, strengthening and restoring marriages in their congregations and communities. Since clergy perform 86% of marriages in the United States, they have the power to reverse the trend of divorce and non-marriage.

            In 1986, Modesto, CA clergy became the first in the country to adopt a Community Marriage Policy, as the result of a speech by Mike McManus, who writes the syndicated column, “Ethics & Religion.” Modesto’s 95 pastors, priests and one rabbi said their goal was to “radically reduce the divorce rate in area congregations.”  Much more than that has been accomplished. Modesto’s divorce rate plunged 57% while the marriage rate rose 12%. Saving 1,700 marriages a year has long-term impact. Modesto’s teen birth rate is falling twice as fast as the nation and school dropouts have fallen 20%.

       An independent study, "Assessing the Impact of Community Marriage Policies on County Divorce Rates" by the Institute for Research and Evaluation, concluded that Marriage Savers affiliates had reduced divorce rates enough to save 50,000 marriages.  The cohabitation rate of the first 114 CMPs also fell 13.4% from 1990-2000 while it rose 19.2% in similar cities in each state, the study reported.  The marriage rate of Evansville, IN has risen 25% -- an important gain when U.S, marriages rates have falledn 48% since 1970.
       "What's more important for the local church is that we can help any congregation reduce its divorce rate to near zero, by implementing the reforms outlined below," says Mike McManus, President of Marriage Savers. He adds, “The key solution is to train couples in healthy marriages -that any congregation has- to be mentors who help other couples accomplish six great goals:

                                                Avoid a bad marriage before it begins by requiring a premarital inventory

— Give "marriage insurance" to the engaged, losing less than 5% to divorce by having                  
Mentor Couples administer a premarital inventory and talk though issues it surfaces.

            — Strengthen existing marriages in every congregation by organizing an annual retreat

            — Save 80%-90% of marriages headed toward divorce by training couples whose

                        Marriages once nearly failed to mentor that now in crisis.

            — Reconcile more than half of the separated with a course, "Reconciling God's Way."

            — Enable 80% of stepfamilies to be successful by creating Stepfamily Support Groups

            “Our own marriage almost ended in divorce,” says Jim Campana, due to lack of preparation and understanding of its challenges. While serving as pastors, they witnessed the havoc that results from divorce. In addition, while volunteering at the Youth Short Term Offenders Program (S.T.O.P. CAMP), they were impacted with the need for children to grow up with their married parents. For these reasons, they are now passionately working to better prepare, strengthen and restore marriages. 

The Enrichment Weekend will begin Friday with a banquet for the Faith Community Leaders at 5pm, followed by the Marriage Enrichment Weekend for all couples from 6 to 9 p.m. The program resumes on Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing through 5 p.m. Attendance is expected to be above average with couples as far away as Tampa registering. “That shows how much couples realize a need to learn skills to build and sustain healthy marriages,” said Williams. “This will be a comfortable setting to privately share between couples as they learn about each other and how to use state of the art skills to communicate, resolve conflict and build deeper intimacy.”

            Sign-in for registered attendants begins on Friday, August 12 at 6 pm. The cost per couple is $85 for both days and includes workbooks and Saturday’s lunch. Advance registration by Aug. 5th is highly recommended. Contact Jim or Marlene Campana for details at  (941) 685-8490 or visit the website at and register online.