Today is of course Valentine’s Day, but it is also the last day of Marriage Week UK. As the nation forks out a small fortune for cards and chocolate all in the name of romantic love, Marriage Week does it’s best to remind us of the importance of building secure and stable lifelong relationships.
Whilst we are focusing on the best bits of love and realtionships, it is so important that we don’t take them for granted. The consequences of failed and broken relationships have caused a horrendous amount of damage to our society over the last few decades. Dr Mark Stibbe from the Father’s House Trust sums it up well:
“Let me share some facts with you. Britain’s record on family breakdown is now the worst in Europe. Three quarters of the households on social housing estates in the UK are now headed by lone parents, usually mothers. Only 15% of social renting households are headed by a couple with children. Nationwide, 15% of babies are currently born without a resident biological father and approximately 7% are born with no registered father on their birth certificate. The consequences for children are toxic. It is now an established fact that children who grow up without fathers, in a lone parent environment, are 75% more likely to fail at school, 70% more likely to be drug addicts, 50% more likely to develop an alcohol problem, 40% more likely to have serious problems with debt, and 35% more likely to experience unemployment and a need for social welfare. “
According to the Relationships Foundation’s latest Cost of Family Failure Index released earlier this month, the latest estimated annual total cost of family breakdown to the UK is £44 billion. This works out at £1,470 per taxpayer. This amount just lays out the financial cost to our society. The emotional cost to families and in particular children probably cannot be measured, but it is massive and in many ways far worse than the financial element of the damage caused.
Having been a youth and children’s worker and now working as a teacher, I repeatedly see children and yound people’s lives being torn apart by the breakdown of their parents’ relationships. I see the emotional suffering they go through and often see the scars, some fresh and some very old, carried by many children whose lives have been affected by missing parents and messy family relationships. It can be heart wrenching at times and I’m only just seeing the tip of things.
It is because of all this that I am always excited to see things happening that attempt to turn things around and support families. Marriage Week UK was started in Parliament and some MPs have shown considerable support for it.
I also want to give my backing to the brand new National Parenting Initiative, which is officially launched on Mothering Sunday next month. Several Christian organisations and churches are coming together to give a big push encouraging churches all round the country to provide high quality parenting courses. This initiative is being blessed by the Baptist, Anglican, Catholic and Methodist churches.
Although many people in the country are unaware and the press coverage is often very limited, a huge number of churches are running courses and events aimed at supporting relationships and families. Some of the more well known ones include The Marriage Course that comes out of Holy Trinity Brompton and Alpha, FamilyTime from New Wine and Divorce Recovery Workshop. One of the best aspects of these courses is that they are not judgemental about what may have gone on in the past in relationships, but rather look to build strong foundations for the future.
Churches in this country along with Christian organisations such as the Children’s Society and Care for the Family are doing an incredibly important job strengthening the fabric of our society in a way that government legislation could never achieve. If David Cameron needed an example of what his vision of a ‘Big Society’ should look like, then surely this is it. The more government takes this work seriously and looks to support it in appropriate ways then the greater the benefits for everyone. Sometimes churches and Christian organisations are offering the solutions that government is looking for, but if they are ignored just because they are faith based then it can only be described as foolishness.
We need to pray that our politicians will have their eyes opened further to what is happening and realise the good it is doing.
Click HERE for the a trailer for the new National Parenting Initiative from the founders of The Marriage Course, Nicky and Sila Lee. If you think your church may be able to offer one of the courses the Initiative offers then I would encourage you to seriously explore it further.