In 2003 most Americans lived in one of 93 million households; however, millions of others were not so fortunate. In fact, in the world it is estimated that there are 100 million street kids, one fourth of which exist in Latin America. More alarming is the estimate that there are two to three times that number who are pre-street kids. Part of the problem is the restructuring of the American household. The high rate of divorce destabilizes the home which is typically headed by one parent, which often puts the household into poverty level existence with the mother as the breadwinner, and minimal supervision of the children. With the advent of same-sex civil unions came the disastrous elimination of the input of the opposite sex partnerís input into the lives of the children. Interracial marriage, now approved by 70% of whites, 77% of Hispanics and 80% of blacks, often puts a serious strain on the children, who must struggle with their personal racial identity.
Hollywood continues to have a negative effect upon the family, presenting fathers as bumbling, ineffectual, clueless figures who are uncaring. Industry leaders carelessly portray the concept that the traditional family unit is passť and alternate life styles as being the in thing. The pop music industry presents a steady diet of dark and angry music favored by today's teenagers who feel abandoned by thoughtless parents who spend most of their time working, or not there at all. The 'abandoned generation' as they are sometimes called, have been abandoned in many ways. Two-thirds of Black children and twenty percent of White children lived with the insecurity of parents who never bothered to marry. Countless others have been abandoned by divorce. Some studies show that fathers often only spend 5 minutes a day with their children.
Studies show that children born out of wedlock are 51% more likely to be poor than those born with intact families. The absence of marriage increases the likelihood of living in poverty by 700%. One study indicates that 87% of those incarcerated were from single-parent families. Other studies show that an area's crime rate can be predicted by its illegitimacy rate. Growing up without role models often leads to gender confusion such as hyper masculinity [ie, macho aggression, predatory sex], hyper femininity [ie, sex objects] or homosexuality. [reported by Gene Veith in WORLD 2-05, p25]
America, as a highly developed society, has created institutions where certain segments of society are given constant care under circumstances that basically isolate them from the rest of society. This isolation may be involuntary as in the case of those who are incarcerated in penal institutions.
Others are resident in facilities that may be called institutions of mercy because they were created for those who cannot help themselves. These institutions include children's homes for the orphaned, abused or abandoned children, and other facilities for the severely handicapped. Then there are the rest homes and geriatric wards for those advanced in age or incapacitated by illness or accident.
A third kind of institution is the military establishment. In it are men and women who have committed themselves to a term of service or to a military career. They are effectively removed from family, friends, and church for periods of time, especially those who have multiple deployments. Then there is the tragedy of Post Traumatica Stress Disorder and high suicide rate.
Finally, there is the educational community. America offers extensive opportunities for advancement in knowledge both in the public and private sectors. Americans become members of educational groups very early in life. They progress through various facilities from kindergarten through graduate schools. With the secularization of education, students are progressively separated and alienated from the teachings of the evangelical church.
The church has responded in two ways. First, it has created parochial schools to provide an alternative educational opportunity. Second, it has established missions that have sought various ways to provide Christian teaching in the educational community, whether by released-time classes on the elementary level, Bible clubs in the secondary schools, or missionaries on the college campus.
Institutional ministries are necessary for several reasons. In most instances the residents of the institutions cannot go to church or have not been exposed to the teachings of the evangelical church. Second, institutions run by the state are reluctant to provide religious teaching using public funds or facilities lest they violate the principle of separation of church and state. Therefore, only a minimal number of chaplains are engaged for service, and they are required to minister to members of more than their own faith.
Third, the church cannot provide regular, specialized spiritual ministry to the residents of institutions with its in-house programs. At best it ministers evangelistically and inspirationally to these isolated groups, but seldom pastorally. Finally, the average Christian is often unprepared to cope with the problems of the institutional resident nor is he experienced in communicating his faith in that context.