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Meeting the Needs of Today's Families

Christine Yount Jones

Meeting the Needs of Today's Families
In this election year, "family values" is the hot issue. But no one is quite sure what it means. That's because families aren't what they used to be. Barbara Bush acknowledged the diversity when she said, "However you define family, that's what we mean by family values."

According to the Census Bureau, American households consist of the following:

  • Eight percent have a married couple with one working parent.
  • Nine percent are headed by single parents-seven million by a woman and 1.6 million by a man.
  • Nineteen percent are dual-income families.
  • Twenty-eight percent are married couples without children.
  • 3.2 million children live with a grandparent.

It's easy to see why political parties have trouble defining "family values." But God has commissioned the church to value families-whatever their values are.

How can you meet this hodgepodge of families' needs? Let's look at each family type specifically.

*Traditional family-The traditional family has one working parent and a stay-at-home parent. Dr. Norm Wakefield, professor of pastoral ministries at Western Seminary Phoenix in Arizona and co-author of The Dad Difference, says, "I think one of the things [the traditional] family needs is some healthy models." Wakefield suggests setting up a mentoring relationship between young parents and older parents in the church who've chosen the same lifestyle.

Single-income, traditional families often struggle financially. Joel, a working parent in a traditional family, says, "Midweek programs, such as Awana, are good. We can't afford private schools so the added training balances the public school."

Mike and Amy also appreciate it when the church helps out financially. Providing babysitting for evening Bible studies and weekday women's programs are a great way for children's ministries to help traditional families.

*Dual-income family-Spouses need to take time out to strengthen their relationship, but it's easy for working parents to lead separate lives. Your church can encourage working parents to plan regular times together. You can make it easier for parents by organizing a regular parents' night out.

Accommodate working parents by providing a variety of ways for them to give and serve. These parents may not have the emotional reserves or time to teach a class, but they can provide snacks, be prayer partners or volunteer at special events.

A variety of activities and flexible scheduling can benefit all families. But weeknight programs often burden working parents and rob them of family time. Make sure your church's Sunday morning activities meet the spiritual and fellowship needs of dual-income families-rather than depending solely on weeknight fellowship groups to do so.

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