I overheard this conversation recently at a United Methodist church. Should we have a baby shower for the child of one of the active and long term members of the church, who was expecting? No, she is not married was one answer. Another was why wouldn’t we? Well she doesn’t come to church very often was a response. But her parents do. And so the conversation went back and forth over whether to have a baby shower. Whether we want to admit it or not the world and culture around us continues to change just as the “concept of family” continues to evolve.
Many folks seem to have a lack of history when they think about family today. Some of us in the Christian tradition have tried to make the concept of a “nuclear” family the only concept of family that matters. In the early days of the American Republic many children were raised by relatives, since it was not culturally appropriate in those days to bring children from a past marriage into a new family. So if the wife died during childbirth for example, and the husband wanted to remarry, his children were often shuffled off to a relative (or someone else who needed child labor) who was willing or financially able to raise them.
According to a new book Attract Families to Your Church, 35 percent of children in America live in single-parent families. In 2009, 21.8 million children under the age of twenty-one were being raised by a single parent. In 2010, 2.7 million grandparents served as primary caregivers to one or more grandchild living in their household. There may soon be more step families than traditional families. So what is a church to do?
Perhaps we should remember that we are the people of the United Methodist Church who say we have Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors; thus we should invite all to know God’s grace. In other words, if someone in your church is having a baby, no matter what the circumstances, celebrate it with them and go ahead and have a baby shower! In fact if you reach out to those who do not fit the traditional nuclear family label you may find them in church with you and a sanctuary filled with children.