Churches can care for their communities by providing resources to encourage and strengthen marriage.
The Brookings Institute’s Ron Haskins writes — “Higher marriage rates among the poor would benefit poor adults themselves, their children, and the nation.” Haskins believes that churches and other non-profits should encourage marriage by offering courses on marriage, parenting, money management, anger management, and other family-related issues.
Out-of-wedlock births continue to increase in this country, as marriage rates continue the decline begun in 1972. Haskins contends that —
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, children living in single-parent families are about five times as likely to live in poverty. There’s also a high probability they’ll drop out of school, get arrested, be involved in teen pregnancy themselves, have more mental health problems, and be less likely to be employed or in school as young adults. Indeed, parents themselves are physically and psychologically better off when married than single.”
But churches will also have to address the reasons that some choose not to marry. According to Amanda Drew’s article, Declining Marriage Rates, young adults are choosing not to marry for a variety of reasons:
- Couples choose to live together before marrying;
- College graduates are taking a year off after graduation to travel before settling down;
- The expense of a full-blown wedding is not appealing to some;
- The decline in church attendance and the moral values that come from practicing one’s faith;
- Fear of divorce.
I am convinced that the task of the church for the decade of the 2010’s is going to be a reimagined “care of souls.” Churches can have a positive impact on their own communities by providing nurture and care for marriage and its attendant benefits. Because the poor have a disproportionately lower rate of marriage, churches could find themselves caring for the “least of these” within their own communities in this vital area. What is your church doing to encourage marriage and the advantages marriage brings in your community?