Has non-traditional family become traditional?



Recently at the D6 2015 Conference there was a lot of talk about families. The D6 Conference is about family ministry with those families usually being the two-parent families. This year there was a lot of talk about the non-traditional families. You know those families that don’t fit the traditional mold of a two-parent family. These include the

  • Single parent family
  • Step and blended families
  • Cohabiting families
  • Families that adopt
  • Families with troubled youth
  • Grandparents parenting again
  • Empty nesters

As a matter of fact I was on the main stage on a panel the first night where we were asked the question, “What are some big issues facing the church today?” Of course my answer included ministering to the hurting divorcing families and the single parent families.

I went onto say, “I’ve studied the Bible all my life and I have yet to find a two-parent family on a corner lot in the suburbs with 1.5 kids and yet that is the people group most churches want to attract.”

Don’t get me wrong I am all for the traditional family that consists of the original two parents and their birth children. I think those families are the backbone of our country and of our churches. However, these families are quickly becoming the non-traditional group simply because the other types of families are growing.

How did we get to this point?

Divorced stormed our world back in the late sixties and seventies. I was one of those hardheaded Christians who thought divorced people were the worst. The church I was in in California shunned the divorced and I highly supported that notion– that is until I started working with the children in my day job.

I was a middle-American girl from Oklahoma that went to work for the San Diego Unified School District. When I saw how many kids were hurting deeply, I began to realize churches were failing the divorced person and their children.

My own marriage fell apart in the mid-eighties. My small church didn’t have a clue how to help; what to say; what to do.

I keep wondering

  • If the church had just reached out then might we have prevented some families from splitting?
  • If we had reached out to the children then with something such as DC4K that was specifically geared to help hurting children heal, would those children, now adults, not gravitate toward cohabitation rather than marriage?
  • If the church had encompassed the distraught teen then, could we have prevented those teens from turning to drugs, alcohol and early sexual experimentation?

Like with any societal issue the “what if” list can be endless. But the fact is the church didn’t know what to do. It’s no one’s fault, it just is.

The facts today

  • It is estimated that today less than half of all children under 18 years of age in the U.S. live in the original two-parent birth family. The Pew Foundation says that number is 46%.
  • According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s website and the Kids Count Data information in the U.S. nationally 35% of all children lived in a single parent home. What’s the single-parent population where you live? If you are in the US, you’ll find this map from Single & Parenting to be very unsettling.
  • It’s estimated that 15% of children live in a home where one parent has remarried

Basically kids today have a rough time of discerning exactly what family looks like.

  • Is the man that married my mom my step dad?
  • Is that baby my dad and his girlfriend had my half brother?
  • Are my mom’s new husband’s kids my stepsiblings?
  • What should I call my mom’s new husband’s parents? Are they my step grandparents, my grandparents, or what? And what about his grandparents? What are they to me?
  • Birth siblings, half siblings, step siblings, foster care siblings – it’s all confusing.

Is the non-traditional family becoming the traditional?

I honestly don’t know that answer to that question. On the surface it appears to be so. What I do know is that the church needs to widen it’s outreach and throw open the doors of the church to all of the non-traditional families in the community.

Ponder the thought of accepting all kinds of families. I know there are many pastors that still think if they embrace the divorcing families it means they are accepting of divorce. Encircling these families doesn’t mean you are saying divorce is okay. Divorce is not okay. God hates divorce but He loves the divorced person.

Recently I read an article about non-coresidential partners This was the first time I had encountered that terminology. Basically non-coresidential partners are co-parenting partners who d0 not reside in the same residence but have a child together. Does God love the non-coresidential partners? Yes I believe He does but I think He probably frowns on the co-parenting that is taking place outside of marriage. Just like I imagine He frowns on co-habiting partnerships.

I imagine God frowns a lot on what is taking place in homes across our land. However, God still loves the children in all of these families. Why? Because God knows children are our future. And our future might just depend on how we craft the ministries in our churches to reach kids in both the traditional families and in non-traditional families.


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