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Monday
Sep092013

{non} traditional families FAQ

lately, i've been speaking more frequently on the topic of {non} traditional families. the subject means a lot to me personally, and i'm always thrilled to share my thoughts with a group. 

each time, at the beginning of the talk, i highlight a few statistics that represent today's family:

in the United States

  • 1 of every 2 children will live in a single parent family before they reach the age of 18.
  • there are approximately 13.7 million single parents, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children. 
  • since 1972, over 1 million kids each year {!} join the ranks of children of divorce. 
  • approximately 120,00 children are adopted each year. 
  • 25% of same sex couples are raising children {42% of heterosexual couples} 

in Canada

  • according to Census Canada 2011: 1,078,600 children {19%} live with single parents. 
  •  29,590 children ages 14 and under live in foster care.
  • 30,000 children live in "skip generation" families with one or both grandparents. 
  • 9% of same sex couples have at least one child at home. same sex marriage tripled between 2006-2011 from 7,465 to 21,015 {due to Canada legalizing gay marriage in 2005}.

 and, without fail, people ask me the same set of questions following the session {every time!}: 

  • by encouraging {non} traditional families and offering supporting to families, am I blessing their lifestyle?
  • should there be a litmus test for teaching & leadership positions in children's ministry? {IE: should gay parents/adults, or divorced adults be allowed to serve in children's ministry?}
  • how do we raise awareness & offer training in our congregations and amongst children’s ministry volunteers for discussing the topic? 

for today: how would {do} you respond to these questions? you first. i'll respond next. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Wow! Great questions.

For me, the answer to question A is no. I think we earn the right to speak truth by being a loving presence first. I don't think we need to carry the burden of "disapproving" of people as much as we need to start with caring for them.

B. Yes there should be standards for serving in ministry, but I think most correction should be temporary (e.g. if someone is getting divorced, ask them to step away to focus on themselves, their family and faith. Help them do that and then when the time is right ask them to return). Where homosexuality fits in is honestly a question I'm still working though.

C. We need to choose our language intentionally. If we always talk about "moms and dads" when speaking about family ministry we'll unintentionally communicate that our ministry isn't designed with single parents, gay/lesbian parents, grandparents or foster parents in mind. Good language + programs and groups specifically for non-traditional families will go a long way.

Good stuff! Looking forward to your answers!

September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCollie Coburn

So glad that you are out on the front lines of this issue! I thought I would take a stab at your questions. I am curious to see where you come down on them.

by encouraging {non} traditional families and offering supporting to families, am I blessing their lifestyle?

I think this is probably the easy question to answer and the single biggest excuse I have come across for why people, and churches, do not offer support to kids from non-traditional families. We absolutely MUST offer support both to these kids and their families.

I don't believe you can read Matthew 9:12-13 and come to any other conclusion:

12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If we truly believe that hope and healing comes ultimately through a relationship with Jesus Christ, how can we turn our backs on people who are hurting just because we don't agree with their choices. More importantly, what if God had held us to that standard? Would any of us have a relationship with Him today if that were the case?

should there be a litmus test for teaching & leadership positions in children's ministry? {IE: should gay parents/adults, or divorced adults be allowed to serve in children's ministry?}

I think the answer to this question is also fairly easy in one respect, and perhaps the most difficult question in another. We should have a litmus test for those who teach our children. James reminds us that teachers are held to a high standard. And Matthew tells us that we'd be better to have a millstone tied around our neck and thrown into the sea than lead a little one astray. As those entrusted with the care of these kids, we have to have standard that we hold teachers to. That is the easy part of that question.

The hard part of the question is, what should that litmus test be. I have some thoughts, but since you didn't ask, I won't share them yet. :)

how do we raise awareness & offer training in our congregations and amongst children’s ministry volunteers for discussing the topic?

We have to create an environment where it ok to be real and to not be ok. We have to raise awareness of the shear magnitude of these issues and the effects they have on children both generally and specifically when it comes to spiritual issues. We need people (like yourself) who will stand in the gap for these kids and continue to beat the drum until the whole world hears and understands. We need to face the issue head on and deal with it to make sure that everyone is welcome in our churches. We need to make known the stories of people who have lived this life. We need to emphasize that every situation is unique and that God meets us where we are then figure out what that looks like practically in our ministries. We need to train, and provide resources, and provide answers to questions. Most importantly though, we need to make sure we DO SOMETHING and not let the fact that we don't have the RIGHT thing keep us from doing ANYTHING.

September 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Sttocks

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