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Rebuilding the American Family

Is it up to the church?

By Linda Gilden

Years ago America celebrated its foundation on faith in God and strong traditional families of a father, a mother, and children living together under one roof. Unfortunately, today, families are struggling to remain intact and strong. reports, “In 2012, 63 percent of two-year-olds had married parents; by age five 57 percent had married parents; by age eleven, 51 percent. By the time these children reached age 17, when they are on the cusp of adulthood, with their family formation finished, only 44 percent are in intact always-married families. This marriage crisis is inexorably weakening the nation.”

Two new reports were released recently by Family Research Council’s (FRC’s) Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) that document a “marriage crisis” in the country, especially in the black family. WorldMagazine quoted Patrick Fagan, director and senior fellow at MARRI, and Bishop E.W. Jackson, also a senior fellow at FRC as saying, “The descendants of black slaves have the potential to be the saviors of modern America if the black church can rise to the challenge of restoring Christian marriage within its families.”

While the statistics for black families were significantly more alarming, the family needs to be strengthened no matter what race. There was a time when the church surrounded fledgling families and single parents with tremendous love and support. But as the importance of being part of a church family declined, the support systems available to those who left the church grew. The people began to turn to these other systems of support among their friends and communities. The problem is the non-church support systems could only provide worldly support. The spiritual element was missing and turning to God with problems was omitted.

Rev. James Hailstock, pastor of the African American congregation at New Day Baptist Church in South Carolina says, “People need to realize that their greatest support system is in the church. They need to come back to church where the support system contains the faith element and they can find loving support and encouragement to take the responsibility to move forward based on where they are today.”

Many of you reading this may be thinking, “I’ve been happily married for over forty years. How can I understand what single parents are going through?” or “Shouldn’t single parents just get together and help each other?” “What can I do to be part of the support system that will strengthen marriages, support single parents, and help rebuild the strong family structure of America?”

What you can do:

  • Pray for those in your church, circle of influence, and community who are part of these troubling statistics about American families.
  • Look around your church. Find someone who needs encouragement and look for ways to build them up and support them.
  • If you have a long successful marriage, take couples who need help under your wing and mentor them.
  • Find practical ways to assist struggling singles parents – offer an hour or two of babysitting, pick up their children from school one day a week or take a meal to a working single mom who sacrifices sleep so her children can have food, clean clothes, and a tidy place to live.
  • Reach out in love. The greatest desire of everyone is to be loved. Show others the love of Jesus as you tell them how greatly they are loved.

Fagan believes, “There may be hope – if the black church is up to the challenge of its Christianity… it will teach not only its own flock but the whole of the U.S. how to rebuild the family by rebuilding marriage. The black church could show how a new America can blossom.”

Linda Gilden is director of writing programs for a popular Christian communication organization. She not only writes full time but also directs two writers conferences, speaks, edits, and enjoys encouraging writers to fulfill their writing dreams.