Now that Father’s Day is behind us, let us consider a related matter. On Father's Day, when we are saying kind, grateful things to fathers on social media, at churches, in homes, at parties, and everywhere else, we are confirming how important and valuable the role of the father is to his children.
However, I’m also constantly reminded of the millions of fatherless children in America. What do the fatherless do on Father’s Day? How do they feel about the Father’s Day noises around them? Do we know, or do we care to know?
If we care for the fatherless, why not recognize them through a “Fatherless Children’s Day”?
Who are the fatherless in America?
Those, who are familiar with the Bible know that the fatherless are recognized dozens of times in the Bible as deserving care, protection, and justice. Exodus 22:22 says, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child,”and Psalm 82:3 exhorts believers to “give justice to the weak and the fatherless.”
How many are fatherless and how are they doing?
- An estimated 24.7 million children (33% of all children) live without their biological father.
- 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children live without their biological fathers.
Published data by Statista shows poverty is widespread in fatherless single mother homes in the US and Canada. 43% of families with single mothers are too poor to afford food, while only 17% of other families experience comparable poverty. This data implies fatherless children are two-and-half times more likely to live in poverty than children in two parent households.
National Fatherhood Initiative says this about the fatherless on its website: “Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:”
1.) 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen.
2.) 4 times more likely to live in poverty.
3.) Twice the risk of infant mortality
4.) Twice more likely to drop out of high school.
5.) More likely to go to prison.
What do the fatherless miss?
Speaking from first-hand experience, my father fully deserves praise for his love of his family, his total dedication to our mother, and to my brother and me. He was a man of strong and visible faith in God and ensured, together with our mother, that we grew up in a Christian home with Biblical values and weekly church worship. He always provided a sense of security, safety, and comfort to us from our early days. His consistent message to his sons was, “Keep your faith, and you can be anything you want to be with education and hard work.”
He was a role model in the truest sense of the word.
“National Fatherless Children’s Day?”
We remember mothers, fathers, veterans, LGBTQ people on designated national days or during month-long celebrations. So why not designate a day for the 25 million fatherless children in our land?
On Fatherless Children’s Day, let us remind the fatherless that this nation and its churches have not forgotten them. Let us acknowledge them and their needs, and vow to reduce the rate of fatherlessness for future generations.
What churches could do?
First and foremost, churches must spread the word that the family prescribed in the Bible includes a father and a mother with unique roles within the family. Fatherlessness is not part of God’s best plan for human societies.
There are several measures churches can take to address this issue:
1. Churches may create opportunities for absent fathers and future fathers (men/boys) to learn the responsibilities of fatherhood and the skills of fathering their children.
2. Churches may step forward with programs to help fatherless children, especially in inner cities, where they are concentrated. Church schools, tutoring programs, and the like, are some examples.
3. Churches could offer programs that provide role models for young boys.
Finally, churches must remind the fatherless that through Jesus Christ, God wants to be a father to all of us, including the fatherless. The Gospel message shows us how to become a child of God through Jesus Christ. No other message can bring long-term liberation from our current troubles.
Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After a total of 33 years of teaching and publishing as a business management professor, he retired from Auburn University in 2016 after teaching there for 24 years. He teaches Biblical Leadership for Kerusso Institute for Global Leadership. His newest book is, Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife Nimmi worship at Lakeview Baptist Church, Auburn, AL.