According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, one out of three children in America, now live in biological father-absent homes. Boys with missing dads grow up with many obstacles in their way — this isn’t to place blame (in any way) on single moms who struggle to provide the best possible home life for their children under extraordinary circumstances, but merely to recognize statistics that while grim are very real:
From the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.fatherhood.org):
- Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents
- Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
According to Fatherhood.gov:
- When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.
- Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
- Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
- Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Other stats about dads:
- 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average. SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
- 90% of fathers surveyed said that being a father is the most fulfilling role a man can have. SOURCE: W. Jean, et al. “Children’s Time with Fathers in Intact Families.” American Sociological Association.
Why are Dads Missing or “Critically Disconnected” in their Son’s Lives? Three of the most commonly cited reasons include:
- Non-Marital Relationships & Divorce
- The Department of Justice has estimated that over 7.3 million children under age 18 have a parent who is in prison, jail, on probation, or on parole. (http://fatherhood.hhs.gov/index.shtml)
- Generational Legacy: they didn’t have a dad growing up (or their own father was “under-involved”)
Let me quote from his article:
Scripture has plenty to say about the orphan and our responsibility to them. We’re instructed that our neglect of the orphan reflects the purity of our faith before the Father (James 1:27). We’re warned that mistreatment of the orphan is punished by the wrath of God (Exodus 22:22–24). We are also exhorted to seek justice for the orphan (Psalm 10:8, 82:3). Since Scripture is our guide for living faithfully in this fallen world, we cannot afford to ignore the orphan if we desire to follow Christ.
During Old Testament times, the word “orphan” most often referred to children that were fatherless and not only isolated to those who had lost both parents. However, when our culture thinks about orphans, hardly anyone thinks about the boy or girl growing up in a single-mother home. I think this is a result of two assumptions in our culture. First, women are able to work and provide for families, therefore, we assume that if a child is financially secure, this eliminates the necessity of the father. Second, distinctions in gender roles have been bleached, thus eliminating the idea that men and women make unique contributions to the home.
But contrary to society’s claims, fathers play a crucial role in the mental, emotional, and spiritual development of a child.
I’d take this a step further — there are boys whose dad is physically present at home, but emotionally and spiritually “under-involved” in their son’s life – these dads may care deeply about their children but have jobs that force them to work nights and weekends. They may also be dads who “don’t do the church thing” or are consumed with pursuing a better golf score or “catching the action” of professional sports, etc.
In any event, those of us who can step up and fill a void (in an appropriate environment) should do so – not as replacement fathers, but as male mentors…setting an example or being a role model.
For me, I became a scoutmaster of a faith-based boy scout troop. It was a rewarding (and at times frustrating) role to play, but it got me much closer to God and much closer to my own family (despite the drain on my time and resources). A scout pledges to help other people at all times, to be friendly, courteous, kind, and reverent. Out of consideration of scouting ideals, reaching the fatherless ought to be central to BSA’s aims and methods.
This is so important for many reasons. Consider some additional points offered by Mr. Holmes via Voddie Baucham:
Voddie Baucham has noted some startling statistics on fatherlessness. Nearly 75 percent of fatherless American children will experience poverty before the age of eleven, compared to 20 percent of those raised by two parents. In fact, fatherlessness is the number one cause of poverty in America. Although it happens on occasion, very few children are living in poverty with a father in the home.
Children living in homes where fathers are absent are far more likely to be expelled from school. They are also more likely to drop out of school, develop emotional or behavioral problems, commit suicide, and fall victim to child abuse or neglect. Fatherless males are far more likely to become violent criminals (fatherless males represent 70 percent of the prison population serving long-term sentences) (Baucham, What He Must Be, 22).
The assumption that the father is of little use in the home and lives of children is costly. This mindset is especially unfortunate because the church has adopted it, at the very least, in practice, even in Reformed circles. We reveal this when we show little care for those without fathers. If we can agree that the fatherless should be considered orphans, and even the children with absentee dads, does the church have a responsibility?
To find the fatherless, one doesn’t necessarily need an agency. We’re everywhere. We’re your next-door neighbors. We’re in your school systems. We’re in your local congregations. According to the US Department of Census, 43% of children in the United States live without their father (and these statistics can’t account for fathers who are physically present yet absent in every other way).
If the church wants to bring up young male and female leaders in their congregations and effectively evangelize their city, they must address the issue of fatherlessness.
How does your church and/or youth organization address this issue? The growth of Trail Life USA has been amazing. This Christian-Worldview based outdoor adventure program is open to virtually any youth member who is willing to participate. The troops that have formed come from both former BSA units who want to embrace a thoroughly Christian Worldview in their activities, and from families/churches who have NEVER been involved with BSA in the past (40% of newly chartered troops have no prior adventuring experience with BSA).
Paul states (in 1 Cor 4: 15-17):
For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.
This model of mentoring should be evident in our church families. Further Titus 2:6-8 states:
Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Investing time in the healthy development of young men pays incredible dividends to this and following generations. Your involvement may:
- break a cycle of non-existent “father commitment ” within a family tree
- set up a young man to become a much stronger husband to his future wife
- set a young man on a new course away from trouble and towards a healthy relationship with God
- serve to get a young man into professional counseling before underlying frustrations become outward rage
- lead young men to not only value moral behavior, but recognize the depravity within their hearts and acknowledge that only God’s grace can save them from eternal damnation.
Waiting for someone else to step up is a recipe for disaster and it’s not what we’re admonished by scriptures to do (James 1:27; Psalm 10:8; Psalm 82:3, et.al.)
Consider volunteering to support Trail Life USA (or another faith based youth organization that’s closer to your own liking, see list below) — start a troop, be a trail guide, chaperon a trip, offer to drive, be a trail badge mentor in areas of interest or vocation. It may save a life.
Addendum – Faith Based Youth Organizations
- Trail Life USA,
- Christian Service Brigade,
- Catholic Troops of St. George,
- Federation of North American Explorers,
- National Conference of Synagogue Youth
- Pioneer Clubs,
- TBE Youth Programs,
- Royal Rangers,
- B’nai B’rith Youth Organization,
- Calvinist Cadet Corps,
- Royal Ambassadors,
- Pathfinders USA, et.al.