Becoming a Church for the Fatherless
Mark E. Strong
The church is uniquely called and equipped to address this growing issue.
Fatherlessness is a rapidly growing problem the church in the United States, and it is also one the church is uniquely called and equipped to address. Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their father rose from 17 to 36 percent, and this number continues to grow. God places extreme importance and emphasis on justice to the fatherless (Ps 10:17-18; 68:5-6). Deuteronomy 10:18 reads, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” God’s revelation of himself as a God of justice with particular concern for the fatherless and socially less fortunate was not simply given to Israel for information. It was given to them to imitate.
The New Testament also illustrates the value God places on caring for the fatherless. The community of faith was to play an important role in fathering the fatherless. As in the Old Testament, where provision for the fatherless was woven into the context of the law, God places responsibility on the New Testament community. Again, James articulated the expectation clearly: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
Embedding the value
Borrowing from preaching jargon, values are embedded when they are brought, taught, and caught, “brought” meaning the value is clearly spelled out, “taught” meaning the value requires clear articulation, and “caught” implying the value is embraced by the community. Here are some practical ways you can being the process of embedding a fatherless value in your church, ministry, or organizations.
1. Create an awareness of the value. Almost every church, ministry, or organization has a clearly defined mission statement. The mission statement is written out and accessible for everyone to see. To create
the awareness of a fatherless value, writing a value statement is a good place to start. If you are the pastor or leader, engage in this writing process with a group of strategic leaders in your church or ministry. This will allow them to being to think about and wrap their hearts and minds around the importance of this value. You might conduct a few Bible studies on the topic or even suggest they read this book.
After an adequate time of education, engage in writing the value statement. The goal is not to write a novel but a simple statement that captures the ethos of what you want your church or ministry to embrace as it relates to fatherlessness. For example, your value statement might look something like this: According to James 1:27, Northeast Community Church values the scriptural mandate to care for the fatherless. We are committed to share God’s grace to the fatherless by being sensitive to their needs and by engaging in tangible acts of service in order to enhance their lives through the love of Jesus Christ.
Your value statement will serve as a guiding principle for your church, ministry, or organization. It will spur your thinking and dreaming mechanisms to be creative in addressing the need as well as making it a priority in your church.
Once your value statement has been crafted, you can begin to use it to create awareness in your church. Here are some ideas:
– Include it in your church membership classes, seminars, or orientations.
– Place it on appropriate literature or brochures.
– Pass it out to members of your staff.
– Post it on a wall somewhere in your church where people can read it.
– Share it from the pulpit.
– Post it on your website, send out a tweet, or put it on your Facebook page.
– Post it on your website, send out a tweet, or put it on your Facebook page.
– Have a staff prayer meeting and pray over the value and its implementation.
– Write an article and include the statement, and email, blog, or mail it to church members.
– Include it in a newsletter.
– Say it over and over again.
Communication is essential for creating awareness in your church, ministry, or organization. (I won’t go into detail here, because I explore in chapter four how to communicate to meet the needs of the
fatherless.) However, it’s important to note that the more widespread the communication, the deeper the value will be embedded in your church or ministry culture. The more you can talk, preach, share, or facilitate conversation on the value, the better.
2. Create avenues for ministry. There is no need to try to create something new unless you want to or God instructs you to do so. The first order of the day then is to take inventory of your existing ministries or services. Identify what ministries and services function in your church, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, small groups, prayer meetings, children’s ministry, single mothers, and all others. After your assessment, determine how the value can be infused into each of them.
In our church, we have a number of ministries in which the fatherless value has been embedded. Two such ministries are Men of Destiny and the Prayer Ministry. Men of Destiny is our men’s ministry, which of course does regular men things: eat, play, pray, and study God’s Word. A few times a year we go to a ballgame. Of course, we take our own children, but we make a big push to take kids who don’t have a dad present. We encourage all the single moms to get their children signed up, and in most cases we tell them that they aren’t required to pay.
The time at the game accomplishes a couple of things. One, everybody has a great time.
The peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks are a grand slam, and when our team wins, it’s an extra bonus. Something else special also occurs: Sammy makes a connection with Brother Charles. Because there’s a bond that begins to form because they spent time together, they start to have conversations at church with each other. Brother Charles is now more aware of Sammy’s needs, and Sammy knows Brother Charles is there for him.
We also have seen moms ask a brother to talk to or spend time with their son when he’s going through a turbulent time. This happens due to the fatherless value that’s woven into the fabric of Men of Destiny.
One Sunday morning, Malcolm saw me walking down the aisle of the sanctuary. He’s a young man who has had his fair share of troubles, to say the least, and his father is absent. Uncharacteristically, when he
saw me, he threw his arms around me and said God had deeply touched his life. He explained to me how he had genuinely experienced God’s help and grace, and he conveyed a deep sense of gratitude as well.
I asked what had happened, and I learned that he had attended the Prayer Ministry a few days earlier. Our prayer leader told me how Malcolm had come into the prayer time weighed down by all the issues going on in his life. Aware of his fatherlessness, she had instructed the prayer group to circle around him and pray. As they prayed, God showed up! The best way to explain it is God the Father embraced young Malcolm and gave him the fatherly touch he so desperately needed. The women in this prayer group touched God the Father, and God the Father touched this fatherless young man.
I want to inject the importance of embedding the fatherless value in your ministry to single mothers and children. With the help of single mothers, figure out what you could do to make their load lighter. We
have taken up offerings to help them financially, and the men’s ministry bought one mom a car. We have special prayers for them. We want them to know we love and value them.
Fatherless children are in the classroom of your children’s ministry. Make sure your curriculum teaches them that God is their father and that they are loved and valued even though Daddy isn’t around. Have some of the men in your church help with some of the teaching and other activities. Being conscious of the need will help you devise ways to meet these children’s vital need.
Identify the ministries in your church and make a few simple adjustments. You will be surprised how God can use what he has already given you to minister to the fatherless in your midst. Once the value is
embedded, the ministries will create their own particular organic expressions to meet the need.
3. Give awards. In other words, celebrate the progress. Sometimes when dealing with an issue that’s of the magnitude of fatherlessness, your efforts may seem to have no effect. However, with all diligence you must resist that nation. It’s simply not true. Any service or helping hand you or your church extends is a blessing that will make a difference in an individual’s life. Your efforts, no matter how big or small, deserve celebration.
Awards should and can be given in private and in public. Identify the people who are making a difference, and give them words of encouragement from time to time. Let them know that they are doing a great job and that their commitment and service honors God and blesses the lives of the fatherless in the church and community. You could also give them a small token of appreciation, such as a thank-you card or even a gift card to the local coffee shop. Send them an email and write a Scripture on it expressing the value of their service and their life. Most people who have a passion to serve don’t require many pats on the back, but when you give them one, they enjoy it and it lasts for many miles.
Public awards are encouraging as well. Occasionally highlight those ministries in your church that have embraced the fatherless value and are doing creative ministry. Make others aware of the work they’re doing so it doesn’t go unnoticed. The young people in our church call this giving “props.” Props can be given to a person or ministry during a church service. The time of recognition doesn’t have to take up half the service; a couple of minutes suffices. Taking a moment to acknowledge a person or ministry makes the congregation aware and expresses appreciation on behalf of the church for their good work.
Giving props does more than validate the person. It reinforces to the congregation the priority of the value. It clarifies the message that ministry to the fatherless is a priority for your church. This can
happen in other group contexts as well, such as staff meetings and small groups. The sky is the limit in terms of ways to give awards and celebrate the execution of the fatherless value. What is important is
that you do it.
Mark E. Strong is senior pastor of LifeChange Christian Church in Portland, Oregon.
The above article, “Becoming a Church for the Fatherless,” is written by Mark E. Strong. The article was excerpted from www.buildingchurchleaders.com website, where it was posted in November of 2012.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.