WI Marriages & Divorces Report, what it means

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently released the Wisconsin Marriages and Divorces 2009 report. The full report can be found at: http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/stats/marriages.htm.

Wisconsin’s divorce ratio for 2009 came in at 55.6%.  The previous two years were 53.6% and 51.2% for 2008 and 2007 respectively.  Since 1995, the rate has climbed 8% from 47.6% in that year.

Why the rise in the divorce ratio?  The main factor is the decline in the number of marriages in our state.  As you can see by the graph of marriages, divorces and the divorce ratio, divorces have remained relatively flat at around 16,000 annually.  However, the number of marriages annually has dropped by 14% since 1995.

The state reports that the marriage rate dropped again in 2009 to 5.3 per 1,000 from 5.6 in 2008.  This may seem like a small number, but it is actually a 5% decrease.  They report that since 1980, “the marriage rate has gradually declined…when the rate was 8.7.”  That is a 39% decline in nearly 30 years.

Why the decline in marriage rates?  In a word: cohabitation.  Young folks today are choosing cohabitation as an alternative to marriage.  It is a poor choice.  Wisconsin Family Council recently published a book I wrote to address this poor choice.  The book is called, Helping You Decide, a look at sexual relations before marriage.

If you are a pastor, I urge you to order this book and use it with couples who come to you to be married.  The book is meant to be used to open up the discussion and provide a framework to guide the couple to follow God’s Word.  It is a very short, easy read for the couple.  I include discussion questions for them and cover cohabitation, sex before marriage, virginity and purity.  You can order copies at www.wifamilyaction.org/helpingyoudecide.

Wisconsin Family Council has been working with pastors in Milwaukee and Racine to form Community Marriage Agreements and implement proven reforms that can lower the divorce ratio, lower cohabitation and increase marriages rates.  The solution to the problems of divorce, cohabitation and falling marriage rates lie in God’s Word, his servants and their collective effort through the church.  This is why we are passionate about supporting pastors and churches seeking to build marriage ministries.  It is the only way to turn these trends around.

— Eric Skelton, WFC Director of Marriage & Family Ministry

Pre-order Helping You Decide

One day my pastor and I were discussing cohabitation.  I was sharing with him some of the latest research regarding cohabitation.  Like me, he was stunned by the shear weight of evidence against cohabitation given the explosion of this choice of union for some couples.  “Boy, I don’t think couples know this stuff,” he said.  “Do you have some kind of brochure with this information in it that I could hand out to couples,” he asked.

That little question started a 9 month project of writing the book Helping You Decide.

We are excited to announce the pre-order of Helping You Decide, a look at sexual relations before marriage.  [Click here to pre-order.] Pastors, mentors, and counselors can use the book as a basis for discussing tough pre-marital issues, and encouraging couples to come into obedience to God regarding their pre-marital sexual relationships.  Within the next few weeks we will be printing the book.  Our goal is to get it in the hands of pastors for normally peak wedding months.

It has been a challenge and blessing to work on the project.  Many hands contributed to this project and I am grateful to them all.  I trust the Lord will use it for His Glory.

64 WI couples attend marriage mentor training

All the glory to God for the mentor training event on Oct 16th and 17th at which 24 marriage mentor couples were trained and certified as Prepare/Enrich facilitators. While that may seem a modest number, it is a huge first step for the Northwest Milwaukee Area.

Forty additional couples attended a mentor training class on Saturday afternoon. As Wes Johnson of Rawhide Ranch in Green Bay said, “this is a small army of trained mentors. They will have a tremendous impact on the community.”  Indeed.

More important than the training, certification and the numbers, we met men and women who attended the training for the sheer purpose of investing in the marriages in their churches and community.  That was extremely uplifting to all of us involved. I praise God for the opportunity to meet so many and be uplifted by their passion and zeal for marriage ministry.

A hearty thanks goes out to Thinkmarriage.org (Susan, John, Angie, and Dixie) who teamed up with WFC to serve the churches and couples. We are also grateful to Bishop Hines of Christian Faith Fellowship Church for making the Destiny Center available to us.   The kind staff at the Center were gracious and very helpful.  Finally, we are grateful to Wes Johnson for providing the bulk of the training.

For more information on marriage mentor training, contact me at 608-558-8224 or eskelton@wifamilycouncil.org.

Already Gone

Already Gone, Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it, by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer is a short, powerful book.  It lays out the findings of surveys the authors conducted with young adults, age 20 to 29, who don’t currently attend church but who did attend conservative evangelical churches as children.  The common thought today is that anywhere from 75% to 90% of kids walk away from their faith in the first year of college.  What Ham and Beemer found among other things was:

  • 90% of  young adults who don’t attend church had already “left” the church by high school.
  • 61% of the study subjects said they attended Sunday school on a regular basis as a child.  39% said they did not.
  • 40.8% of the study subjects who attended Sunday school as a child believe premarital sex is wrong.  Surprisingly, 47.7% of those who did not attend Sunday school said premarital sex was wrong.
  • Compared to the 39% who did not go to Sunday school, the research showed that those who regularly attended Sunday school are actually:
    – More likely not to believe all accounts in the Bible
    – More likely to defend premarital sex
    – More likely to accept gay marriage
    – More likely to accept that abortion should be legal
    – Much more likely to believe God used evolution to change one kind of animal to another
    – Much more likely to question the Bible because they believe the earth is not less than 10,000 years old
    – More likely to view the Church as hypocritical
    – Much more likely to have become anti-church through the years
    – More likely to believe good people don’t need to go to church
  • 88% of those who doubt the accuracy of the Bible began to doubt in elementary, middle and high school.  Relatively few, 11%, began to doubt in college.  This throws into question the idea that college causes youth to doubt the Bible.

Ham and Beemer also found that the study group was about evenly split between attending church on Easter and Christmas and not attending at all.  Of the half that does attend on Easter and Christmas, most expect to become regular attendees in the future when they have kids.  Their challenge is not with the relevancy of Scripture or of God. Rather, they find that church is no longer relevant.

When did the Church become irrelevant? The authors point out, “…the Church gave up the earthly things (e.g.,  the biological, anthropological, astronomical, geological history as recorded in Genesis 1-11) and focused on heavenly things (spiritual matters, relationships, the gospel).  When it came to science the Church gave in to human notions.”

The most important conclusion the authors reach is that the church needs to 1) Stand on the Word of God as it is written and 2) God’s people need live by the Word of God.  The 20-somethings who are not in church desire good teaching.  They desire the church to be relevant and stand on the Word of God and for its flock to live the Word of God.

I recommend at a minimum all pastors, Sunday school teachers and church leaders read this short book.   It may be a hard pill to swallow, but we need to be able to recognize if our churches have wandered from standing on God’s Word.  We also need to ask ourselves, are we truly living the Word of God?

May God be Glorified.

Reject more government involvement in health care

We should resoundingly reject any more government involvement in health care.  We should reject it for no other reason than the inability of government to successfully run ANY significant program for a significant length of time.  I would measure success as quality of service, fiscal efficiency, and most importantly–righteousness before God.

The President and others have claimed that the government has run a program successfully and the customers are happy.  The program they point to is Medicare, which they claim most people are satisfied with.  Unfortunately, it is not a fiscally sustainable program.  It alone will surpass all other federal spending within as few as 6 years from now!  On its current pace it will bankrupt the country.  You can’t claim success in a service when you give your product away for free.

Additionally, study what happened after the Clintons failed to force national health care on us.  You will find that what they did was force the health care industry to hold costs to the levels of 1995 for all government covered patients.  Then since they held the power, they made it law that Medicare patients must receive care.  In essence they decided how much they were going to pay and then bullied the health care folks to accept it.

Now that’s history.  Right?  And President Obama is a man of hope and change.  He says the government will be able to run a program successfully.  Well let’s take a look at how he is already doing in just one area, real estate.

In April, Jim Saccacio, chairman and CEO at RealtyTrac.com said,  “With $75 billion set aside to help individual homeowners, the Obama Administration’s Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan is designed to slow or even reverse the foreclosure tide by helping three to four million borrowers who are now in danger of losing their homes.”

In article posted today on 24/7 Wall Street, Mr. Saccacio says,  “July marks the third time in the last five months where we’ve seen a new record set for foreclosure activity.”  Mr. Saccacio goes onto say, “It is still hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem.  One is certainly that rising unemployment makes fewer and fewer people able to stay in their homes. Another is that the federal government’s programs to lower monthly payments to allow people to keep their houses is an ongoing failure which is hardly putting a dent in the foreclosure trend.”

Wait a minute, “an ongoing failure”?  This is only a $75 billion program.  Now President Obama wants us to agree that he can run a multi-trillion dollar program.  Remember the government has in the last year gone through several trillion dollars of our money.  How did they do with that money?

Luke 16:10 (NKJV): “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

Praying for One Another

Yesterday I was preparing to leave my house in the morning, when my kids and my wife walked into our home office. “Gather around, kids,” my wife said. They then proceeded to put their hands on my shoulder and head and pray for the work that was in front of me that day.

They knew that I was heading to Northwest Milwaukee to continue working with a core group of pastors who are forming a Community Marriage Agreement. They knew that my burden was to make a good presentation on the concepts of mentoring married couples. It was important that I assist these pastors in understanding what mentoring is and how it can be used in their churches. They knew my desire was that the pastors would walk away understanding mentoring and desiring to implement it in their respective churches.

So they came in and blessed me with their prayers. Do you know how powerful that is for me as a man to have my family pray over me? Wow! If there is a wife reading this, I encourage you to consider praying over your husband. Send him off to work today bathed in prayer. It makes a world of difference.

Moving from the Left to the Right

This past weekend my kids performed in a piano recital hosted by their piano instructor.  She has a group of about 18 students who performed a variety of pieces.

She held the recital at a church my family used to attend before my wife and I were believers.  The church is one of the most liberal church denominations in America (I will leave it at that.)  After the scales fell off of my eyes in August of 1997, I realized we were in the wrong place.  We left that church and have since been attending the Monroe Bible Church.

When we walked into the sanctuary of our former church for the recital, my wife said “Where do you want to sit?”  “Let’s sit where we used to sit,” I replied.  When we sat down, I started to laughed.  My wife asked me why I was laughing and I said, “Do we realize that we moved from the left to the right?”  “What do you mean,” she said.  I waited a moment and then she began to laugh.  We were sitting in the left row of seats.  At the Bible Church, we sit in the right row of seats.

I praise God that he moved our family from the left to the right.