The following post was written by Jeffrey Klick (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and first appeared on his website, www.JeffKlick.com. This is one part of a multi-post article.
In our current society, divorce is rampant and this has created a large group of single parents. Both men and women are now attempting to raise their children without a spouse to assist. Children often fall through the cracks of the broken home. As the single parent attempts to maintain a job and eventually seek another potential marriage partner, the children can be overlooked. Time is required and prioritizing the schedule must be considered for the sake of the children. It is not their fault that the marriage fell apart, and they should not be deprived as a result. Single parents must attempt to fulfill the role of discipler even though they are now doing it alone. In fact, it is even more critical since the home is broken in two.
A single parent still has to invest in the lives of their children in the arena of discipleship. Reading books, praying together, Bible study, home worship, church membership, and such are needed for children of a single parent home. Children still spell love – T-I-M-E.
If the couple was Christian and divorced, the message has already been given to the children that the parent’s Christianity was powerless to stop the divorce. This hurdle must be overcome in the discipleship process with the children. Even more time will need to be given to explain the marriage failure and why God did not intervene to prevent it. These issues provide a great opportunity to teach about forgiveness, patience, endurance, and many other desirable spiritual qualities.
Whether male or female, the single parent will need to supplement their discipleship process of their children with godly role models. The single parent will have to seek out others to include in their life to replace the spouse that is no longer there. Small groups, church involvement, gender specific clubs or sporting programs can all assist in this process. The goal is to present to the child(ren) others that are excellent examples of Christianity and invite them into the process of discipleship with your children. Strong, godly friendships, extended family, and a committed church body, can all help to stem the damage caused by divorce.
The family unit is an excellent training ground for discipleship. It is often the most important, as well as the most overlooked regarding its potential. God created the family structure and He gave explicit details explaining how He expects it to function. If the Christian families would do a better job at discipling the children under their roofs, we would begin to see a reversal of the devastation of the family unit, the Church, and the nations. In addition, the large number of young people rejecting Christ as soon as they leave high school would begin to reverse. God spoke through the prophet Malachi the following:
And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:13-15
The family unit is designed by God to propagate not only children, but future disciples of Christ. Parents are given the honor and responsibility, from God, to invest wisely in the children under their care. While some of this process of discipling can be delegated to others to assist, the parents are still the ones that God will hold responsible for the discipleship. This is an awesome responsibility and the potential is amazing. God will empower and give grace to those that seek Him and walk in obedience to His commands. This includes the command to make disciples, beginning in the home.
The natural outworking of this process is forward looking. While it may seem that investing so much in the family is working against the spreading of the Gospel, the exact opposite is the truth. Since studies reflect a huge percentage of young people walking away from the faith, whatever investment is necessary to stop this bleeding is well worth the effort. If the 70-90% leaving the faith could be kept, or significantly reduced, the long term results would be overall growth of the Church at large.
In addition, as families begin to heal, refocus on Christ, and walk in discipleship, outreach will increase. A great deal of time and energy is currently being spent on recovery programs in the Church, but little on prevention. As marriages spiral into destruction, young people walk away in rebellion, and the overall condition of the family deteriorates even further, the Church and communities struggle to pick up the pieces. If the tide of family destruction could be reduced significantly, these burdens would be relieved. Functional families can generate significant energy for the propagation of the Gospel, while dysfunctional ones drain it. Functional families require far less resources from the already overburdened churches, and actually can be released sooner into ministry. Healthy, growing, discipleship oriented families will help reproduce more of the same kind, whereas, dysfunctional ones also reproduce more of their same kind. Which one offers the brightest hope for the future?
Since our goal is to walk in obedience to Jesus’ final command – go and make disciples, then the home is the first opportunity to learn how to walk in obedience and perhaps is the best place to invest for long term growth potential.
All Scripture references are from the ESV – English Standard Version