To Help the Fatherless
We all know about the rapid increase in crime, drug use, gangs, homicides, school failure and dropouts, depression, suicides, and poverty among teens. But what is not so well known is one major cause for such problems: fatherless homes. The United States is now the leader in fatherless homes through death, abandonment, divorce, and even emotional distance. Studies show that seventy percent of all teenage criminals come from homes without fathers (U.S. Department of Commerce). This epidemic and its results, however, are not always being sufficiently addressed in schools.
What the Bible Says About the Fatherless
If we desire to be Christ-like, we will have the same concern for the fatherless that God has for them. He is a father and a helper (Ps. 10:14) to them. He hears their cries (Exod. 22:23–24). He punishes those who oppress them (Exod. 22:4; Isa. 10:1–3; Mal. 3:5). God warns us not to defraud (Prov. 23:10), afflict (Exod. 22:22), or do violence (Jer. 22:3) to them. In the New Testament we are instructed to visit the fatherless and widows to prove that our religion is genuine (James 1:27). We must be patient and gentle, not judgmental, always ready to teach and help them, especially concerning spiritual matters (II Tim. 2:24–26).
What We Should Know
In our current American culture with its relative moral standards and rising litigation, teachers, helpers, and others need to guard their testimony and our children’s safety.
- Avoid being alone with the opposite sex, especially teens, for extended periods. Husband-and-wife teams are ideal to work with fatherless children.
- Be matter-of-fact and never joke about sex or bathroom functions, and be discreet about physical contact. Use proper terms, never "street talk."
- Keep the mother informed about the times and places of activities with the child and explain any unusual situations or questions that arise.
- Encourage the child to discuss with his mother any inappropriate or unusual behavior, situations, or remarks he tells you about.
What We Can Do
Helpers, including teachers, need to know how to build and maintain relationships with fatherless children and their mothers:
- Identify the fatherless children in your own classroom, neighborhood, or church. The school or church records should have this information.
- Fatherless children need stability in relationships, so think in terms of working with them over extended periods.
- Be as positive as possible and encourage with praise and "good words fitly spoken." Use public praise and private reprimand. Let the mother do most of the correction.
- Be alert and sensitive to the counseling needs of these children. Ask them, "How are things going?" "Can I help you?" "Do you have a problem you want to talk about?" Many times they do not want counseling; they just want someone to listen. Fatherless children, especially teens, often act and dress tough and callused, but they are really insecure and feel rejected. They want acceptance, a "listening ear," and answers to life’s questions.
- Look for opportunities to give spiritual help.
- Pray for them.
- Encourage the mother to be in a good church with a youth program.
- Take them with you on soul-winning visitation or another ministry in which they can participate.
- Encourage and check on their personal devotions.
- Pay their way to a Christian camp or help provide tuition to a Christian school.
- Take or send them on a mission trip.
- Include them in your family activities when feasible. If you are married with children, make sure that in your home the father is the leader and is interacting with the children in family activities. A model home is a silent but very effective testimony.
- Participate with them in social activities.
- Arrange a special day when you take the child and sometimes the mother on an outing, such as a picnic, a trip to the zoo or the park, or a day at a nearby attraction.
- Take them on a father/son campout or a mother/daughter banquet or tea.
- Encourage them to get involved in a sport or an organization.
- Take them with you on community service work, such as serving meals at a mission.
What Our Involvement Can Mean
As concerned teachers, caring neighbors, and compassionate Christians, we must take some action to offset the problems of the fatherless before the consequences overwhelm society. We must be always ready to help, especially in spiritual matters. Pointing students to Jesus Christ and the sure Word of God will produce a life that glorifies God (Heb. 12:2; II Pet. 1:3–4).
About Dr. Walter Fremont
Dr. Walter Fremont is the former Dean of the School of Education at Bob Jones University.
Published in Teacher to Teacher, January 2003