ST. LOUIS (BP)–In the course of researching family life in America, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life uncovered such gut-wrenching statistics that they were driven to their knees.
Among the facts they found:
— 88 percent of the children raised in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18, never to return.
— The divorce ratio among members of evangelical churches is virtually the same as among non-church members.
— In the United States, 1 million children see their parents divorce each year.
— Approximately two-thirds of the members of Southern Baptist churches attend church only sporadically.
— Personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high in America.
— The majority of children in America have less than 10 minutes of significant and meaningful conversation with their parents each week. If you remove the mother, you can measure this statistic in seconds.
For that reason, the Council on Family Life recommended that all elements and entities of the SBC focus on the needs of families in America. A second goal of the council is to communicate to Americans that Southern Baptists care about families.
The key outreach in the Southern Baptist family focus will be a “Kingdom Families Rally” June 19 next year in Phoenix, the day following the SBC annual meeting there.
Council chairman Tom Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., and a former SBC president, encouraged every pastor to bring his family to the rally. Among the speakers currently slated for the rally are James and Shirley Dobson, Gary D. Chapman and Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Elliff said after the rally there will be 10-30 smaller conferences throughout the country, emphasizing the need to rebuild the American family.
The SBC kingdom family strategy, Elliff said, will help divorce-proof the marriages in Southern Baptist churches.
In order to help people understand the depth of crisis among American families, Elliff noted that about 3,000 people died in the attack on the World Trade Center. As much heartache as people felt in that moment, they should also consider that every day 3,000 families die in America through divorce.
“When people say to me that the American family is in the intensive care unit, I tell them that, in reality, the family is still out on the street and has yet to be brought into the emergency room,” Elliff said.
Over the next year, various elements of this focus on the family will be introduced to Southern Baptists, with much of the weight being carried by LifeWay Christiana Resources, which already has many materials and products available for building families.
Elliff was quick to note that this is not another program for churches, saying that some pastors had told him they care deeply about the family, but they couldn’t add more to an already full plate of church events.
One of the council’s recommendations is that Southern Baptists set aside one evening a week as a family night. Elliff said this would be a night when the local church would decide there would be no church activity of any kind in order to encourage families to spend that night together.
Another element of the council’s recommendation will be to bolster biblically based premarital counseling.
“I hear pastors say, ‘If I don’t marry them, they’ll just go down the street and somebody else will,'” Elliff said. “Churches should maintain a standard for the community, in effect saying, ‘We take marriage so seriously that we won’t marry a couple for the wrong reasons.'”
Elliff mandated a high standard for pre-marital counseling at his church in 1974, and he said that among the weddings he’s conducted since, he knows of only two divorces.