Black church leaders swap ministry strategies and address public-policy issues to strengthen troubled African-American families.

Without a doubt, American families are facing tough times. According to a newly released report from the National Commission on Children, one child in four is raised in a single-parent home; one of every five children lives in poverty; and more than a million babies each year are born out of wedlock.

Due to a complex set of sociological factors—not the least of which are economic disadvantage and continued racial discrimination—the crisis has hit minority families, particularly those in urban areas, hard. More than 50 percent of all black families are headed by single women, while “problems of teen pregnancy, crime, substance abuse, illiteracy, family dissolution, and unemployment are at all-time highs,” says the Detroit-based Institute for Black Family Development.

The real situation of African-American families, however, is much different from the negative images often portrayed in the media, says institute president Matthew Parker. “Solutions to the crisis of the black family are being generated by the black community itself, especially the church,” says Parker, who formed the institute in 1987 to equip pastors, youth workers, and churches to meet the spiritual needs of African-American families.

Today black churches are beginning to trade ideas and take an increasingly aggressive role in addressing a burgeoning set of educational, social, and economic problems.

Church Relevance

“The black church has always been actively involved in the educational and social development of black people,” writes Michigan State University professor Bonita Pope Curry in the new book The Black Family: Past, Present and ...

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