Offering Hope for the Home
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
CBN.com The statistics are startling: more than half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce. And the numbers do not look much different for marriages among Christians than they do for non-Christians.
It’s something that evangelist Jerry Drace and his wife, Becky, hope to change.
Together they developed the Hope for the Home conference, a weekend program that they offer at churches and other venues around the country. At these events they conduct educational sessions for husbands, wives, and children and offer advice and encouragement to strengthen families.
The program began after Drace polled pastors asking about their greatest needs. At first he thought perhaps their answers would be something along evangelistic lines, like helping churches reach non-believers, but what he found was that pastors wanted help supporting families.
“The number one answer was, ‘How can we minister to the families in our churches?’” Drace says.
Having worked with numerous families through the conferences, Drace has identified several areas where he sees many families struggling. One huge obstacle for families, he says, is a lack of time to spend together.
“Statistics tell us the average father in the United States spends less than about 37 or 38 seconds a day with each child he has, and the average mother spends about 10 minutes,” Drace says. “While you have to realize that in our homes, the television is on almost seven hours a day.”
“It’s amazing,” he says, “we have more conveniences today but less time to spend with each other, and this is what I hear so often.”
It’s something that even many pastors struggle with, he says.
“I find that the loneliest people in church are the wives of the staff members,” he says. “I often tell pastors they spend so much of their time pastoring their flock that they don’t pastor their family. I’ve had preachers’ kids come up to me out of earshot of anyone else and say, ‘Would you ask daddy to spend some time with us?’”
Building a Spiritual Foundation
In addition to spending more time together, Drace says, husbands and wives need to take time to develop a spiritual base for their families.
“The theme of our entire Hope for the Home conferences is, ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it,’” Drace says. “I really don’t see how marriages and homes stay together today without a firm, solid, spiritual foundation.”
He suggests that families have a devotional time each day where they read Scripture and pray together. Fathers especially, he says, need to take the lead in this area.
“If it weren’t for prayers from our godly mothers and wives in our homes,” he says, “a lot of times there wouldn’t be any prayer at all.” He encourages fathers to take a more active role in leading their families spiritually.
Equally important, he says, is for mothers and fathers to live out the biblical principles they read about. Otherwise their children receive a mixed message.
“I think inconsistency is what a lot of kids see,” Drace says. “Moms and dads go to church on Sunday and they are one way at church, but perhaps at home Monday through Saturday they are another way. We need that consistency of dads and moms living Monday through Saturday what we profess to believe on Sunday morning.”
Setting an Example
Living out these principles on a day-to-day basis will do more to teach children Christian values than talking to them ever could. That’s because children often grow up and emulate what they have seen at home.
“Children today, just like they’ve always been, will say, ‘I’m not going to be like my parents,’” Drace says. “And then they grow up and get married and end up having the same basic values, same structures, and same visions and goals because that’s all that’s been modeled in front of them.”
That is a great thing if the parents have modeled godly values and have had a strong marriage. However, many children of this generation are seeing more and more of their homes fall apart, leaving them with the idea that divorce is a normal way of handling marital problems.
“Isn’t it amazing that young people today think that 10 or 15 or 20 years of marriage is a long marriage?” Drace says. “We are raising a generation of children who will tell you straight out that divorce is an option because they’ve seen it so many times.”
He tells the story of a 12-year-old girl that he met at one of his conferences. She informed him that she was putting away the weekly allowance money that her mom gives her into a “divorce fund.” When he asked her why, her answer astounded him.
“She said, ‘Well, when I was 4 years old my daddy walked out on me and my mommy. He left us very poor, and momma had to have two jobs just so we could make ends meet. I know that when I get married some day my husband will probably leave me too.’”
“When kids see their moms and dads walk out on each other, in the back of their minds they are thinking is this going to happen to me?” Drace says.
Developing a Strong Marriage
To help couples build up their relationships, Drace has written a book, 44 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage. The 44 tips are arranged as short chapters, and each one offers questions for couples to evaluate how they are doing in that area of the relationship.
Drace offers ways that spouses can encourage each other’s spiritual growth, as well as advice on how to communicate better, respect each other, and forgive one another.
A fundamental ingredient to having a strong marriage, he says, is having the ability to apologize. Everyone makes mistakes, and admitting when you are wrong goes a long way toward healing any hurts that you have caused.
Another key to a strong marriage is for spouses to remember to care for each other. This is different than being romantic or being “in love,” Drace says. Caring involves more than emotions, it requires a diligence to be concerned about every area of your spouse’s life.
At his conferences he often asks audiences what the opposite of love is, and usually they respond with the word “hate,” he says. But they are wrong.
“The opposite of love is indifference,” Drace says. “When we grow indifferent, when we stop communicating, when we stop talking, when we stop laughing together, when we stop dating each other, when you just stop doing all the things that you did when you dated, that says to the other person, ‘I don’t care for you as much as I used to,’ and that hurts.”
Caring for your spouse means not letting this attitude of indifference creep into a relationship, he says.
Other topics covered in his book include advice on worshipping as a family, handling finances, dealing with sexual matters, balancing work schedules, and more.
Regardless of how troubled a marital relationship has become, Drace says, don’t give up. He encourages couples to seek Christian counseling to work on saving their marriage.
“I often tell folks if you are sick physically, you go to a doctor. If your marriage is shaky, don’t choose to ignore it. If you do, the marriage will disintegrate,” Drace says. “Whatever it takes, don’t walk out. Get help. Get counseling. Pray this thing through. If you loved each other when you got married, it’s still there.”
For more marriage advice from Drace, check out 44 Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage.
If you are interested in hosting a Hope for the Home Conference at your church, Drace asks that you go through your pastor to schedule it. Pastors can find information about the conference at HopefortheHome.org.
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