On this Fathers Day, a truth that is often ignored, is the reality that many homes exist without the presence of a father in the home. In the African-American Community, nearly 70% of the children are born out of wedlock with most of them without a father in the home (See the article at http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/04/06/without-fathers-in-the-home-black-children-are-at-risk/). In one part of Washington, D.C. the rate is even more staggering in which the data shows that 84% of the children live in homes without a father. This has tremendous implications for the church as we try to minister to people who are raised in fatherless homes especially in the African-American community.
The challenge for the church in this issue is a theological as well as a relational one. Theologically we call God our heavenly Father and address Him as "Abba," Father. The Lord's Prayer begins with "Our Father which art in heaven." However the theological challenge for the church is to try to help people understand the concept of fatherhood in the increasing number of homes that have no dad. Furthermore, there are homes in which a dad is present but has been physically or emotionally abusive. To those in such circumstances, the concept of a loving heavenly Father seems foreign to them. As a result, it will be very important for the church to explain theologically the teaching on God's Fatherhood. We cannot assume that people will understand what we mean when we refer to God as "Father."
Relationally, it will be increasingly important for the church to mentor those who are without parents or who are especially without fathers. Scripture talks about the widow and the orphan (Isaiah 1:17) and the responsibility to care for them. While technically the father may still be living, yet in actuality, the child is in a state where the father is out of the picture which virtually means that he/she is like an orphan. It is imperative that churches begin to look at mentoring programs to help children in fatherless homes to see in action the concept of fatherhood and how God's Fatherhood is to be understood.
Finally, one other question must be asked. Does the church act like it is without a Father? Do congregations try to carry on its ministry without the guiding and leading of the Father? As a consultant, do I try to conduct ministry without the Father's leading? Unlike children whose fathers choose to leave them, sometimes the church chooses to disassociate itself from the heavenly Father by trying to be ministry-centered rather than God-centered. Far too often, in our ministries we live more like orphans rather than being under the guidance of a Father who loves us.