Fatherless Church: Addressing the Issue of Father Absence Through Divorce in the American Church

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Fatherlessness may be one of the most critical issues facing American society. With the increasing prevalence of divorce in the twentieth century, more and more children face the harsh reality of growing up without their father present at home. Divorce is the number one predictor and cause of father absence. The emotional, social, and spiritual repercussions of growing up with an absent father last long after childhood ends. In fact, many children experience the tumultuous consequences of divorce and fatherlessness throughout their entire lives. Yet, the scriptures reveal God as a “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:1, NIV). Thus, as Christ’s Body alive in the world, this issue beckons the church’s best and most intentional response.

This thesis seeks to prove its argument by referencing the wide body of research on this issue available through books, journals, magazine articles and social research data. Sociologists and researchers began widely investigating divorce and fatherlessness in the early 1970s after California Governor Ronald Reagan passed the first ‘no-fault’ divorce laws in 1969. Intended to correct the abuses of the ‘fault’ divorce law system, ‘no-fault’ divorce introduced a whole new set of complications that now plague American society, which among the many include father absence.

Yet, as “the living congregation of the living Lord Jesus Christ,” the church stands in a unique position to address this issue with authority and resolve. This endeavor calls both clergy and lay leaders, alike, who embody the threefold offices of Christ. Courageous leaders walking worthily of their calling (Ephesians 4:1) speak the truth in grace (prophetic), lead the broken and hurting into a life-giving relationship with Christ (priestly), and make a way for the reconciliation of relationships and the restoration of the family (kingly).

As leaders take on this monumental challenge, Design Thinking methodology specializes in finding solutions to complex and seemingly impossible societal challenges, such as divorce and fatherlessness. Design Thinking combined with Traditioned Innovation provides a framework for the church to honor and leverage the best of its history with a clearly defined, solution-based vision. These solutions, however, need practical implementation. This thesis closes with a brief presentation on a Logic Model to provide church leaders a way to execute on Design Thinking solutions toward maximum impact for the community and the Kingdom!





Reed, Ryan Nicholas (2022). Fatherless Church: Addressing the Issue of Father Absence Through Divorce in the American Church. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25010.


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