From Kay Meyer's column in the St. Louis Metro Voice newspaper from 1994 to 2013.
Raising children in today’s world is a joy, privilege, and a challenge! Parenting is perhaps the most important job you will ever have. When you become a parent, God gave you a most precious gift—a child of His to care for as His representative here on earth. (Meyer, Kay L. Teaching Your Children Christian Values, CPH, 1996).
Over the past forty years there have been drastic changes in families and our culture. In the 1960s there was a Judeo-Christian heritage which guided most families. Today we are moving toward godlessness. In the 1960s there was Biblical awareness. Today, individuals in and outside of the church are often biblically ignorant. In the ‘60s there was friendship with neighbors. Today we are isolated from neighbors, and families are fractured. In the ‘60s school, media, and government seemed to support religion. Today it often seems they oppose religion, or at least Christianity.
Only 27% of American households fit the traditional model of decades past. In 1960 60% of families had a mother who stayed at home and a dad who worked. Today this represents only 7% of the population. Today one and three households consist of a single parent with one or more children. Sixty percent of children under 16 will experience their parent’s divorce. Children are having children: 1:3 million children live with teenage parents, and only half of them are married. Between 1971 and 1989, the number of teens in psychiatric hospitals rose from 6,500 to 200,000. And, the suicide rate of children and adolescents has tripled.
A recent Gallop Poll demonstrates some of the challenges facing Christians in equipping children, parents, and families to know, grow, and go for Christ. It showed that:
- Households headed by unmarried partners (most involving people living together out of wedlock) grew by almost 72% during the past decade.
- Households headed by single mothers or fathers increased by 25 and 62% respectively.
- For the first time the nuclear family dropped below 25% of households.
- Thirty-three percent of all babies were born to unmarried women, compared to only 3.8% in 1940.
- Cohabitation increased by close to 1,000% from 1960 to 1998, and the households headed by same-sex couples are on the increase.
- Children raised by their mothers alone are 30% more likely to use drugs than those living in supportive two-parent homes, according to a study by Joseph Califano, JR, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Their study notes that “a child living in a two-parent family, whose relationship with the father is poor, is 68% more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs than teens living in an average two-parent household.” Teens with the lowest risks of substance abuse are those who have two parents who eat meals with their children, take them to religious services, help them with homework, attend their games and activities, mentor their conduct, give them praise and discipline, and cultivate a loving family relationship.
We must shield our families from false teachings of the culture and dangerous beliefs, reach out with the Gospel message to those who do not know Christ, and equip Christians to serve and witness. We must help individuals recognize the spiritual battle they are in and encourage them to use the shield of faith! Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. And take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:10-18)
Building strong families takes prayer, forgiveness, and reliance upon the Lord. It’s a difficult task to raise children and grow healthy families in today’s world! I thought it might be helpful to share research that has been gathered over the past twenty-five years that has shown six major qualities of strong families. (Fantastic Families. Dr. Nick and Nancy Stinnett and Joe and Alice Beam. Howard Publishing Company, 1999 and Secrets of Strong Families. Nick Stinnet and John DeFrain. Little, Brown, and Company, 1985).
- Members of strong families are dedicated to promoting each other’s welfare and happiness (Gen. 2:23-24). They value the unity of the family.
- Appreciation and affection (Gen. 2:23-24; Ps. 127:3-4). Members of strong families show each other a great deal of appreciation. They can feel how good a family is.
- Positive Communications (Eph. 6:1-4). Members of strong families have good communication skills and spend large amounts of time talking with each other.
- Time Together. Strong families spend time—quality time in generous quantities—with each other (Deut. 6:7; Prov. 22:6).
- Spiritual Well-being. Strong families have a sense of a greater good or power of God in their lives. That belief gives them strength and purpose (Acts 2:38-39; Deut. 11:18-21; Eph. 6:4).
- The Ability to Cope with Stress and Crises. Members of strong families are able to view stress or crises as opportunities to grow (Eph. 6:4; 1 Thess. 2:11).
Remember that strong families are not without problems! Strong families have many difficulties! Their loved ones become seriously ill, there is unemployment, death of a loved one, car accidents and every other problem known to man. But strong families press on in the midst of their challenges! Parents and grandparents model their faith and persevere. And they grow in the process!
You and your congregation can equip individuals and families for the spiritual battle and learn to rely upon God’s power, the Gospel, the forgiveness of Christ, The Word of God, His weapons, and prayer! Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
By Kay L. Meyer Published September 2002 in the St. Louis MetroVoice