I once heard about a statue on display in a small town in America from the 1950s. The sculpture shows a mother, a father, a son and a daughter, all holding hands. The statue was named “The Normals” for how it depicted what Americans viewed as a “normal family” at the time—what is also called the nuclear family.

Fast forward to today, and the average family in America looks anything but normal. According to the latest survey data, the nuclear family is on the sharp decline, with broken homes on the rise. As of 2022, there were 84.26 million families in the U.S.—but what constitutes a family looks different now than it was in decades prior.

The Pew Research forum put it this way: “Family life is changing. Two-parent households are on the decline in the United States as divorce, remarriage and cohabitation are on the rise.” The article goes on to say, “families are smaller now, both due to the growth of single-parent households and the drop in fertility. Not only are Americans having fewer children, but the circumstances surrounding parenthood also have changed. While in the early 1960s, babies typically arrived within a marriage; today fully four-in-10 births occur to women who are single or living with a non-marital partner.”

How can the church best minister and share the Gospel in this context of family brokenness?

Consider that family life in the Bible was messed up, too. The Old Testament patriarchs displayed messy and messed-up family situations and relationships. This is not a modern problem; this is a human problem.

This understanding gives us a better compassion for people, many of whom are not at fault for the circumstances in which they find themselves. It will also guard against pride or hyper-judgmentalism.

The next step is for churches to uphold and promote marriage, biblical sexuality and healthy family dynamics. We do this by what we teach and how we live. If we are not living rightly, how can we expect people in our community to act any differently?

Another step is to see crisis as opportunity for the Gospel. When we see a single mother struggling to raise her children, that should be our cue as churches to help. When we see a child stuck in the foster care system, that’s our cue to step up as foster parents and provide care.

When we see a couple facing an unintended pregnancy, show Christ’s love to that baby and those parents. When we see grandparents thrust back into raising their grandchildren, we can assist them in every possible way.

No, the “normal family” does not appear to be coming back in America any time soon—if it ever were fully there. So, we need to be the people ready to show families and individuals that God loves them. After all, that would be the normal way to point people to God.


Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash