Thursday, December 4, 2014

Where's Dad? Effects of Fatherlessness on Teens

I grew up in what was once considered the stereotypical home. I grew up with both my parents in my life, married, in the same house, and still are that way. I have two brothers, and not one of us ever doubted or wondered if mom and dad were going to be there tomorrow. We knew that our parents loved each other and were committed to their marriage and to us. Now, this notion is becoming old fashioned and antiquated. As far back as 1992 this debate began to come to the front of people's minds. LA Times noticed the trend that due to the rise in divorces, the nuclear family was being redefined in an article they posted called "Parenting: Breaking the Mold." This trend has escalated with the growing trend of single parenthood, births outside of marriage, teen pregnancies, and homosexual parents adopting. Recent movies have begun to push the traditional family concept away such as the Box Trolls. As a student minister, I can confirm the statistics and trends that this really is happening and at an increasing rate. As time goes by more and more students come from homes other than the traditional model.

This has further given rise to a particular phenomenon: fatherlessness. Due to a lack of fidelity between partners, a woman will have a child or two with one man, but they move on and separate. The woman may choose to have more children from other men, and so may the man. However, what is interesting is the men seem to move on from both the woman and his offspring, while the children tend to stay with the woman. Technically, this trend has given rise to two phenomena: fatherlessness and single motherhood.

According to the National Center for Fathering, the extent of fatherlessness in America is of epidemic proportions, citing that as many as 24 million children in America live without "a" father figure present. The further noted that of children in grade school 39% do not live at home with their biological father. The problem with these statistics are the results. To list a few: 71% of all high school dropouts, 71% of all teenage pregnancies, 85% of children with behavior disorders, 63% of youth suicides, and 85% of youth in prison: all these are from fatherless homes. Good or bad philosophically or metaphysically, the statistics show there is a relationship that should be heeded.

Many Christian leaders have offered solutions to such a problem. One school of thought is student ministry, and the other is family ministry. I believe that it takes both. Yes, the youth ministry should engage students by the means of other students, but I see a very distinct model in Joshua and Judges for Christians to follow.

In Numbers 26:65 God decreed that an entire generation would pass away over the next 40 years because of their disobedience. The only two to be left would be Joshua and Caleb, the men who trusted God. This means that these two men would be the oldest men in the nation. They would be the only father and grandfather figures to many people. This gap would have been an enormous role to fill, but they did. In Joshua 24:31 it says that the next generation served God throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders he raised up. In Judges Othniel became Israel's next leader of Israel. He was Caleb's son-in-law. These men stood in the gap and assumed the role of father figures.

Yes, I believe that as churches we need to try and reach the whole family, but I believe this is best accomplished by presenting our own families and desirable. We do family ministry best leading our own families with godly wisdom and inviting others into our family. We encourage other fathers to do the same. There is no real in depth complex method to accomplish this, because each family is different, and each father is different. We must father the fatherless.
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