Tag: family

Married Couples No Longer a Majority of U.S. Households

The "Father Knows Best Family" of the 1950s is no longer the majority of families in the U.S.

Married couples no longer are the majority of U.S. households according to the 2010 U.S. census, the New York Times reports.  For the first time ever, families without a traditional husband-and-wife now comprise 52% of households, with families headed by married couples comprising 48%.

But the misperception that all singles are young is also fading as single adults cover the range of ages from young adults to single seniors.  While the NY Times article reports that most Americans will marry at some point, this snapshot of U.S. family life is a revelation.  In 1950, 78% of all households were headed by a traditional married couple.  Today, that figure is 48%, and changes in life choices are a contributing factor.

The census data reveals that college-educated singles marry other college-educated singles, and they are delaying marriage until their 30s.  Young women with high school diplomas and with a child or children, are choosing increasingly not to marry their baby’s father.  Social scientists believe that the economy is a factor because young male high school graduates tend to be less employable during hard economic times.

These developments in family life have obvious implications for churches.  Single adult ministries that focus only on young singles, or professional singles, are missing big chunks of the single population.  Churches that seek to attract families, need to realize that the definition of family is broader that mom, dad, and the kids.  More often it is mom and the kids.

Same sex marriages, while not mentioned in the article, will be a rising demographic as more states approve same-sex unions of some type.  We in churches may or may not like these trends, but the reality on the ground is that these are the folks who make up our community, and non-traditional families need our ministry, too.

What do you think?  What implications do you see for church ministry in this changing world in which we live?

Bruce Feiler, Council of Dads author, speaks about his cancer, his kids and his plan for their future

Bruce Feiler, author of the book, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me, talks about his diagnosis with bone cancer, and of his plan to provide his two daughters with a ‘council of dads’ in case he’s not around for them in the future. This is a great story for Father’s Day or any day. Watch it.

Back from the farm

Amy, Wesley, and Debbie at Amy and Randy's farm in Tennessee.

Debbie and I just got back from Thanksgiving with our daughter Amy, her husband Randy, and our grandson Wesley at their farm in Santa Fe, Tennessee. They live out in the country in the rolling hills of south central Tennessee, and do not have cell phone service or internet access at their farm.  So I spent a week of being “unplugged” from the grid and the Blackberry.  Except, of course, for the occasional trip into Spring Hill to the local Starbucks.  We had a great time and Debbie will post more photos of the farm on her Goodthoughts blog soon.   Happy belated Thanksgiving!

The Call We Knew Would Come

I received a call from the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office at about 9:30 PM tonight.  A very kind investigator told me that my brother had been found dead late this afternoon in the apartment he shared in Atlanta.

We knew this call would come one day.  My brother had a sad history of substance abuse and several run-ins with law enforcement dating back for decades.  He was 55, and died alone.  We don’t know the cause of death yet.

The tragedy is that he was a very talented, sensitive guy who taught himself to play the guitar, the piano, keyboard, and could sing beautifully.  He graduated from college and seminary, and worked for two Christian bookstore chains.  But, he couldn’t get away from prescription drugs, and later street drugs.

As a result of his addiction, he lost every job he ever held, he lost his family, and contact with his two daughters.  He never saw his three grandchildren, never held them, never heard them laugh.  Later in life he was diagnosed as bipolar, which I am sure he was, looking back on his behavior.

But tonight he is at peace.  Despite all his problems, he loved God in the best way he could.  In the last extended conversation he and I had, Dana told me about an interesting book he was reading about ancient New Testament era manuscripts.

Sometime today, we don’t know exactly when, Dana crossed over from this life into the life to come.  Our mother is there, and our grandparents, and a host of others who have gone before.  Some of our relatives shared his addictions, and perhaps that’s where Dana got them, but tonight he’s free from whatever dogged him to death’s door.

Dana had been homeless, living on the streets of Atlanta for the past couple of years, when he was not in jail.  He preferred the streets to homeless shelters where he had been beaten up and robbed, or at least that was his story.  You never knew if you were getting the truth, or another attempt at sympathy.  But he had made a friend in Atlanta, and was staying in his apartment against public housing regulations.  His friend found him this afternoon, dead for several hours, according to the medical examiner.

Pray for my 89-year old father who will bury his youngest son later this week.  Pray for Dana’s daughters, and the grandchildren he never knew.  Pray for me, filled with regret that I could not help my brother, despite many attempts.  Pray for the other Danas who walk our streets, whose inner demons make living difficult, and death a relief.  Their families are also waiting for the call they know will come one day.

How I prepare for a memorial service

A memorial service  should accomplish two things — it should bring comfort to the family, and it should connect with the life of the deceased.  To meet those two criteria, I ask the family to help me by providing these 6 things:

  1. Scripture passages.  I ask if they have scripture passages that hold special meaning for them.  I do not promise I will use all the passages, but they usually give me a place to start in message preparation.
  2. The Bible that belonged to their loved one.  I have asked if the family would like for me to read from their loved one’s Bible. Some do not have a Bible they have used frequently, and I move on. 
  3. Stories. I am looking for stories that characterize their loved one’s life.  These can be funny, serious, spiritual, or everyday stories but they need to capture some aspect of the person’s life.  I always ask if I can share that at the service.  Sometimes people tell you stories as a part of their griefwork, but they do not want them told publicly.
  4. Hymns or songs.  In our community we get requests mostly for  traditional hymns like In The Garden or Amazing Grace.   Some families may select recorded songs that may or may not be apppropriate, but you can guide the family to use music that honors both God and the individual’s memory.  I conducted a teenager’s  funeral years ago, and the family played heavy metal music prior to the service.  I thought someone at the funeral home had a radio on.  I complained to the manager, who informed me that this was the family’s request.  I would have tried to steer them to a more appropriate means of honoring their son. 
  5. Poems, prayers, or readings.  Some families want a special poem, prayer, or reading used during the service.  I try to accomodate those requests as often as I can.
  6. Eulogies.  Often families want to give an opportunity for others at the service to share their memories with the congregation.  I suggest that one or two of these be planned so there is not a long period of silence while waiting.  

If you’re a pastor, you probably have a similar list of helps that you’re looking for when you prepare for a funeral or memorial service.  What questions do you ask?  How do you connect the service with the life of the person being remembered?