Yesterday we talked about the rise of cohabitation and the effect it has on children. The rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives.
In fact, because of the growing prevalence of cohabitation, which has risen fourteen-fold since 1970, today’s children are much more likely to spend time in a cohabiting household than they are to see their parents divorce.
Now, approximately 24 percent of the nation’s children are born to cohabiting couples, which means that more children are currently born to cohabiting couples than to single mothers. Another 20 percent or so of children spend time in a cohabiting household with an unrelated adult at some point later in their childhood, often after their parents’ marriage breaks down. This means that more than four in ten children are exposed to a cohabiting relationship.
So how can we effectively minister to parents who are cohabiting?
Tip #1 – Be about redemption. If you are reaching your community, you will have parents who are cohabiting attending your church. Do they feel welcome? The church should be a hospital where parents can find redemption…not a museum where only perfect families are on display.
Tip #2 – Speak the truth in love. There has to be a balance between love and truth. It’s like the two wings of a plane. One won’t fly without the other. Communicate God’s truth about marriage with a heart of love and compassion. When people know you truly care for them, it will open their heart to receive the truth.
Tip #3 – Establish guidelines. It is important to have clear guidelines in areas that are related to cohabiting. Will you allow parents who are cohabiting to serve in Children’s Ministry? Will you allow parents who are cohabiting to participate in child dedication? These are questions that each church must address and answer for themselves. The Biblical reasons behind your guidelines should be clearly communicated.
Tip #4 – Have pathways in place. When you challenge parents to line up with God’s Word, it’s important to have pathways in place that will help them get there. When you explain “why” be ready to show them “how.” Provide them next steps such as a prep-for-marriage course or counseling.
Tip #5 – Work hand-in-hand with adult ministries. Partner with adult ministries to create the pathways mentioned above. Many times, the first time parents will share they are cohabiting will come through their interaction with children’s ministry. Being able to easily connect them with adult ministries is vital.
When you minister to parents who are cohabiting, it can be difficult at times. Some will pull away when they hear the truth…but others will follow God’s Word and you will see their lives and family changed forever. I’ve seen both happen…and had the joy of seeing parents who were cohabiting get married. Just remember, we can’t change anyone’s heart…only God can do that. It’s simply our job to speak God’s truth in love.