Our abstinence outreach presenters in local high schools use a broom stick in their high school presentations to send a convincing message about sexual risk. And no, it’s not a disciplinary thing. The willing student volunteer tries to balance the broomstick on the palm of his hand while fixing his eyes on the bottom of the stick. No matter how hard he may try, the student simply cannot balance the stick. But when attempting the same exercise with eyes focused on the top of the broomstick, the balancing trick is easy. The kid looks like a circus magician. The take-away for students: start out with the end in mind. Avoiding sexual risk means keeping your eyes on your future and your future marriage.
Effective abstinence presentations like these ask kids to wait until marriage in order to avoid sexual risk. But how’s that working out in our Centers? Are your client advocates finding the same kind of success?
Have you ever seen a pre-schooler wait for a McDonalds Happy Meal? I have. And I know from firsthand experience that they’ll wait for twenty or thirty minutes without making a peep. And you know why? Because they know what’s inside that little paper box. They know that if they wait, there are fries and a prize in there. As presenters, we are asking our teens and clients to wait for the “Happy Meal” that is marriage. But sadly very few teens have even a basic grasp of the meaning of marriage. They simply don’t know what’s “in there.”
In fact, very few children have even attended a wedding. When asked, “Who has been to a wedding?” very few elementary school children’s hands go up. The occasional “Yes” will then reveal that it was “My mom’s” or “My dad’s” wedding. By-gone church-centered weddings have been replaced by today’s adult-only affairs at pricey venues. The popular wedding website, The Knot, encourages brides to “stand strong” and “limit the guest list” and warns, “Don’t extend ‘ceremony only’ invitations to children.” Martha Stewart’s wedding etiquette agrees that inviting children is “not appropriate” at most weddings. Marriage has become increasingly irrelevant to the post-modern millennial generation, leaving today’s Generation Alpha kids completely adrift in a culture that has deconstructed the very definition of marriage. Pregnancy Center client advocates need tools and resources to communicate Biblical truths that never shift or erode with the tide of opinion. We need our marriage presentations to cast a robust vision and become a larger priority. We need to show them the fries and the prize.
Several years back, I met with a teenaged couple, the proud parents of adorable twin girls. Both only 18 years old, this couple had been living together for almost two years. A surprise pregnancy changed everything and now they were new parents facing an uncertain future. The proverbial broom stick was on the floor. “When do you think you might get married?” I asked them. It seemed like a natural step to me. After all, they were living together and had children. I’ll never forget the answer: “Marriage is for the old people at Dennys,” the new mom responded, “And by the time my babies grow up, those people will all be dead.” Admittedly, I was a bit shocked at the hopeless response. (Not to mention that I kind of like Dennys.) She continued to explain, “You grew up with a vision of a white dress, a long aisle, and heart-shaped bathtubs in the Poconos—happily ever after stuff. But I didn’t grow up with that. That’s your vision, not mine.”
Both of these young people, like most of our clients, were raised in single parent homes. Marriage was merely a worn out dream of another era seen in black-and- white TV reruns. As a result, they dismissed marriage and were ready to try anything else that might bring intimacy, love and connectedness.
As a long time Executive Director of Women's Choice Network, my heart has been breaking for the young children that are born to our clients every year, now over 5,600 little ones since I began at my center in 1985. Most have lived out their childhood in a single parent home or have been raised by a non-relative male. Marriage continues to be one of the rarest of our outcomes. Fatherhood efforts have had some success in keeping men off the sidelines, but we know that kids raised in a two parent home are much more likely to thrive and succeed. We know that marriage makes kids smarter and more confident. We know that marriage makes men and women wealthier, happier, and healthier.
Sharing God’s plan for marriage is a life transforming opportunity. It creates a natural bridge back to the Church, where pre-marital counseling is most likely to occur. Marriage takes the focus off of the immediate issues and places our clients’ eyes on the top of the broom stick. God has something to tell our wonderful client families about intimacy, covenant, creativity, and unity. At its core, marriage is a message of hope and redemption that can lead women and men to Christ. How equipped is your Center staff with strategies and resources to present the marriage option? Your focus on marriage could make the difference for thousands of young couples each year and the little ones they carry.