According to the 2010 Census, of the 168,000 children living in Memphis, nearly 67,000 — about 4 in 10 — are living in a family with a female householder and NO FATHER PRESENT.
Later this month, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton will host the Second Annual Memphis Training Camp for Dads. (Wharton is writing a guest column about the issue that will run with your respones.)
From your perspective, how big is this problem? How do you see if effecting your congregation, your community, the culture at large? What can/should be done about it?
The problem of absent fathers is immense, permeating every social problem that we wrestle with. There’s persuasive evidence that father-child interactions positively impact school readiness, academic achievement, psychological functioning, and nearly every other social behavior. Fatherless children, especially boys, are far more likely to drop out of school, have children out of wedlock, engage in criminal behavior, and spend time in jail. A summary of father research can be found at http://fatherhood.hhs.gov/index.shtml
The Bible is rich with father-child subject matter, especially the importance of passing wisdom from one generation to the next.
Israel received instruction from God early on when He told them in the Book of Deuteronomy,
6 These commandments that I give you today are
to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
The Bible’s wisdom literature, particularly the Book of Proverbs, repeatedly stresses the necessity of fathers imparting wisdom to their children
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom; (Proverbs 2:1-6)
In much of our community, however, the majority of children don’t have fathers to teach them. We should never understate the contributions of mothers, grandparents, and other family members, but a father’s role is essential. If we hope to see renewal in our urban communities, God will have to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6)
As we pray for that revival, we should support public policies that reward fathers who participate in their children’s lives and penalize those who don’t.