The family structures that children are born into have drastically changed in the last few decades.
One of the biggest shifts has been children born to unwed parents. The latest research shows that about 40 percent of children born in the U.S. are born outside of marriage. This is up from 28 percent in 1990.
Findings also show that 52 percent of Hispanic children are born outside of marriage. This is up from 34 percent in 1990. Sixty-nine percent of African American babies are born to unmarried parents. This is up from 63 percent. Babies born to Caucasian mothers with a high school degree rose from 18 percent in 1990 to 52 percent today.
There are many factors at play that are contributing to the increase of births to unwed mothers. A big one is parents are delaying marriage. Men and women are marrying at older ages. The average age for a lady to marry is 27.4 years old. This means many of them are becoming parents before marriage. Men and women are not getting married when they are the most likely to have children.
Why is this? Here are a few factors to consider.
1. Couples are waiting for economic security and stability before getting married. They are living together, but are not tying the knot for economic reasons. I have encountered this many times when talking with unmarried parents. They say they can make it better financially if they are not married.
The church has the opportunity to teach young couples how to manage their money with biblical principles and trust God to provide for them as they align with His Word and promises. God always blesses families when they walk in obedience to His Word.
2. Cohabitation has increased. Recent studies show that 62 percent of births to never-married women are in the context of cohabitation.
Again, the church must hold up God’s golden standard for a relationship between a man and woman—which is marriage. We must be a place that embraces the messiness of ministry and walk with couples who are cohabiting and teach them that God has a better plan.
3. Children born to unwed parents are more likely to struggle. Research shows that children living with parents who are not married are at a disadvantage. They are more likely to be poor, experience multiple changes in family living arrangements, and will face challenges like aggression and depression.
The church must be ready to come alongside children who are facing these challenges and welcome them, encourage them and show we care.
4. Churches must teach the reasons why marriage is God’s plan and help walk with them toward that decision.
We must be ready and willing to embrace the messiness of reaching and walking with unwed parents and their children. If our churches are reflecting the heart of Jesus, we should have cohabiting couples in our church. We should actively reach out them with love and truth.
Just as Jesus went out of His way to talk to the woman at the well (who was cohabiting), we should be actively reaching out to unmarried parents.
Like never before, the church has a great opportunity to help families find Jesus and discover the joy and blessings that come when we follow His plan for the home.
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:4 that marriage is honorable.
Let’s be focused on connecting with kids and their families who are far from God. As we bring them to Jesus, they will find that God’s plan is always the best plan.
This article originally appeared here.