As churches consider their call to mission, it is important to see what is going on around us. In particular, the family as we know it is becoming a minority idea. Here are some statistics that should make us think about how might we minister to people in single parent homes, not just the formerly married.
Here are statistics tied to unmarried births as of 2011.[i] We seek to trace how things have changed since 1980. In 2011, there were 46 births for every 1,000 unmarried women in the USA. That number has remained relatively steady since 1994. However in 1980, there were 29 births per 1,000. So the 2011 numbers represent a 59% increase since 1980. In 2011, the rate for 20-24 year olds was 70 per 1,000, while for 25-29 years olds, it was 69 per 1,000. So for twenty year olds, the rate is almost 66% higher than the average. Three in 10 women are in cohabitating relationships. In 1980, 18.4% of all births were to unmarried mothers. In 2011, that number is up to 40.7%, more than double the older ratio. 2009 was the highest percentage at 41%. Nearly half of first births were to unmarried women of any age in 2010. In that same year, almost 3/4ths of first births to women under the age of 25 were nonmarital.
Differences fluctuate wildly by race. In 2011, 72% of all births to black women, 66% to American Indian or Alaskan native women, and 53% to Hispanic women occurred outside of marriage, compared with 29% for white women, and 17% for Asian or Pacific Islander women.
So one can see that children with unattached parents are common today. The question to ponder is: How do and should churches seek to minister to people in this situation? It is a question churches should be pondering as they offer community that may be able to minister to those who find themselves in this situation.