Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
A new book by Steve and Candice Watters, the creators of Focus on the Family’s Boundless webzine, broaches a subject that makes some blush. The title says it clearly enough: Start Your Family.
With the average marrying age increasing, and adults devoting more energy in their 20s and 30s to their careers, some couples are, as the Watters say, “pushing snooze on the biological clock.”
The result, they warn, is that “by the time the average couple tries to have kids… they are often surprised to find they are already moving past the peak of their fertile years.” In fact, a U.S. Census Bureau study found that the proportion of 40-something women who were childless and unlikely ever to have children doubled between 1976 and 2000.
Norms have shifted, and ever so subtly an American culture of married with children is disappearing. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead explains the trend in her report, “The State of Our Unions.” She writes, “Demographically, socially and culturally, the nation is shifting from a society of child-rearing families to a society of child-free adults. The percentage of households with children has declined from half of all households in 1960 to less than one-third today—the lowest percentage in the nation’s history,” she concludes.
The result is a coarsening of culture and a growing isolation for families with small children.
But the Bible tells us clearly that children are a blessing from the Lord. And God wasn’t kidding when he told us to be fruitful and multiply. Indeed, we were created to create, to be partners with God in one of the greatest miracles and creative acts we’ll ever participate in—the birth of a child.
But as having children and raising them to love and honor Christ becomes less and less the norm, the church needs to revisit both the blessings and opportunities children bring. I’m glad Steve and Candice have helped highlight some of these in Start Your Family.
Children give us a chance to see the world through fresh eyes. We rediscover the delight of a winter snowfall, spring blossoms, the wonder of a bulldozer and a ballerina.
But children also bring us happiness in a way our culture no longer understands. The ancient concept of happiness, which Aristotle termed eudaimonia , meant “an activity of the soul expressing virtue.” Having children is an opportunity for us to learn selflessness, to serve others, and sometimes to see our sinfulness on display in a way that makes us want to change.
Children are also an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of God and to make disciples. Psalm 127 compares sons to arrows in the hands of a warrior. A son or daughter with a heart for God reaches places, generations, and people that we never will.
So do what you can to help others see that children are a blessing from the Lord. Maybe you can give them a copy of the Watters’ marvelous book Start Your Family . You can come to BreakPoint.org and order it.
And if you are married and maybe pushing the snooze button, perhaps I can share this word with you: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to start your families.”