Pure religion and undefiled before God the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction… James 1:22
Scripture says a lot about fathers, including that God is our Father. It also says a lot about the fatherless. Older translations of the Bible (KJV) has some 43 references to the fatherless, but only a single reference to orphans. Even there it makes it synonymous with fatherlessness: We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. (Lamentations 5:3 KJV).
Contrary to what many progressives would say about same-sex marriages, studies consistently say that a traditional family consisting of a mother and a father leads to better outcomes for their children.
As we have observed in the United States starting in the 1960’s, the sexual revolution has had a dramatic and damaging impact on the nuclear family. Statistics bear this out. A recent commentary by Matt Haviland in Crosswalk bears this out. He titled it “Will the Men of God Please Rise Up?”
Haviland says this: “Fatherlessness is one of the greatest domestic and social problems plaguing our country these days; making up approximately 1/3 of all homes with children in them. There are approximately 15 million single mother households (compared to 2.2 million single father homes).”
Haviland goes on to say that the fatherless represent 71% of the school dropouts and boys are four times more likely to drop out than girls. These kids are more likely to demonstrate bad behavior: promiscuity, criminal behavior, substance abuse, subject to physical or sexual abuse and teen suicide.
The bottom line is that the next generation (Generation Y and now Z) has the deck stacked against them…. that is, unless we take action. He’s right.
He advocates that the Church or other ministries stand in the gap. Many of these young people just need someone to come alongside them and help them get on track. He goes on to describe specific ways that men can get involved as a mentor.
I have four diverse examples of how that is being played out here in North Carolina. The first ministry is called “Neighbor to Neighbor” (N2N) which was started in 1994. Volunteers work in a poor area of Raleigh where minorities live and provide them positive role models, relationships, life skills, mentoring and tutoring. The impact on the kids is remarkable – some of them are truly redeemed out of a life headed in the wrong direction.
Another is a charter school in Charlotte called Sugar Creek Charter School. Their goal is to aim at disadvantaged minority students and provide a quality education. Their goal is to achieve 90/90/90, which is 90% minority students, 90% scholarship, and 90% achievement in standardized tests by their students. They have achieved the first two, and are working on the academic achievement since their ranking is only in the 60% range (which is still above the median for all students in the same age group).
A third ministry takes a different tack at reaching the unemployed and disadvantaged. It is called Jobs for Life (JFL), and it strives to improve the lives of its students one job at a time. It started in Raleigh in 1996 and now has a global footprint by working with churches, NGO’s, non-profit ministries. JFL has partners in 43 states and are in 5 countries including Africa.
JFL provides a training model which can be run by its partners (other churches or ministries in other communities). Each student (ages 16 – 90) is connected to a “champion/mentor” who walks with them through the class. The relationships that form from this opportunity open doors to jobs, support vocational plans, and continue to speak hope into previously hopeless situation. They (JfL) has found that this is essential to the job discussion.
JFL training often involves helping each student get a hands-on experience in the work place by placing them as interns with participating business partners. This experience is invaluable because it teaches the students responsibility – just showing up on time to work is an important principle. And, studies have shown that a lack of good work is both a cause and an impact of fatherlessness – hence the need for churches to step in through Jobs for Life.
The last example is Young Life (YL), which aims at middle schoolers and high school students by acquainting them with the gospel in a fun and free flowing way. It is in every state, and now has exploded into Africa as well as other continents. It reaches some students who are fatherless or come from difficult or even hopeless home situations. I am currently mentoring the area director for YL, and have listened to his stories of lives that have been redeemed from difficult family circumstances.
These are but four examples of reaching out to the fatherless in our midst. A high proportion of the young people that are involved with these organizations come from single parent families. I was reading a devotional by Tony Dungee recently, and he put it this way when talking about violent crime: “But I do know what when a young man feels no one really cares about him and his life has no value, it’s easy for him not to care about anyone else. Then taking someone else’s life doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.”
I have long been an advocate of mentoring the next generation. I do it my way by meeting with young men and investing in their lives. Others can mentor the next generation through other channels – through working with charter schools like Sugar Creek, or ministries like Jobs for Life or Neighbor to Neighbor, or Young Life.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for personal volunteering, you can help by providing organizations like the ones mentioned or others just like them in your communities that can reach the fatherless among us and help them see that their lives have value in God’s eyes.
If your community doesn’t have Jobs for Life or Young Life, consider contacting them to see what it takes to get it started. When you see a need that stirs your heart, you should act on it. The needs for the fatherless are only getting greater due to this rising demographic.
The challenge is clear. The fatherless among us is growing at an unprecedented pace which does not bode well for their future. The opportunities here are endless, but you have to take action. It might be mentoring directly or financially, or participating with ministries or churches in your community that have an outreach to the fatherless or disadvantaged. As the Nike ad says: “Just Do It.”
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: There are lots of ways you can get involved with the next generation. Look around your community and get involved so that the next generation of fatherless have a chance at life.
FURTHER STUDY: To read Matt Haviland’s commentary on calling on Men of God to Please Rise Up: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/men/will-the-men-of-god-please-rise-up.html
For studies on better outcomes from traditional families:
For information about Neighbor to Neighbor: http://www.n2noutreach.org/about.htm
For information about Jobs for Life: http://www.jobsforlife.org/about
For information about Sugar Creek Charter School: http://thesugarcreek.org/about/
For information on Young Life:
WORSHIP: Listen to “Good Good Father” sung by Chris Tomlin:
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