News / USA

Churches Take Up Fight for Stressed Parents

A generation ago, many churches in the United States were sustained by stay-at-home mothers who worked as volunteers.

Today, the adult daughters of those women are struggling to balance work and children.

Packed schedule

Deanna Troust is one of them. Her day becomes hectic well before she leaves for work.

With two daughters in elementary school, breakfast needs to be made, lunches prepared and homework finished.

But sometimes something in her day has to give, like a school event for her older daughter, Natalie.  

"So you're going to have your Hispanic heritage month celebration at 10:30 [a.m.]," she told Natalie over breakfast one recent morning, "which I'm sorry I cannot come because it's on a Thursday."

Troust is a media professional, while her husband, Vic Fernandez, is a financial executive.

"It’s really challenging and with two careers and if they’re both, I always call them 'big jobs,' if your husband has a big job too, well, you’re just sort of filling in, five minutes here, 10 minutes there, to try and kind of make it all work." Troust says.

Less time for church

So when Sunday comes, it is tempting to skip church.

"Sometimes we need just one day where we don’t have to get out of the house at nine," she says.

Troust and Fernandez are like countless other parents across the country who struggle to balance work and children, who are also finding less time to devote to congregational life.

Church leaders realize stressed-out families are not good for the future of congregational life in America.

Faith as part of the solution

Rev. David Gray of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, believes faith can be part of the solution.

"In our congregation, we have a lot of people who are stressed at work. It comes from living in the D.C. area. It comes from a lot of professionals in the congregation," he says, "and so when I look out in the pews I need to deal with the stress that they are facing."

In a new book, he argues that churches need to be part of the fight for workplace flexibility.

The future of denominations like his depends on young families, according to Gray. The average age of Presbyterians is 61.

"So if a church is going to attract that target audience," he says, "it’s got to understand work-life imbalance."

Time pressures

Gray recently led a discussion on the subject at the New America Foundation, a public policy research organization.

Fellow panelist Brigid Schulte is a Washington Post reporter who is writing a book about the time pressure on American families.  

"We work among the most hours of any country in the world," Schulte says. "We take the fewest days of vacation of any country in the world."

And America is the only major industrialized society with no paid parental leave.

"There is such a feeling of ambivalence about whether mothers should work in this country, which is evidenced by the fact that we don’t have policies to support them," Schulte says, "There’s a feeling that every minute that you are not at work you better be with your child."

Finding time 

The Fernandez-Trousts are Presbyterians and precisely the kind of family the church is trying to attract. Despite the challenges, Deanna Troust says the family does make it to church at least once or twice a month.

"When I share with people that we go to church, often the response is, 'Wow, that’s so impressive,' rather than, 'Oh, that’s important,'" she says. "They're viewing it as another thing on the schedule that’s difficult to make happen."

But church is one of the few places where Troust finds time for herself.

"It did become clear to me at some point that, wow, this is one hour that I can go and sit and there’s child care," she says.

The challenge for American churches is to become a haven for stressed-out parents, instead of just another burden.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs