Helping A City Save Marriages
During the 1970s and '80s, Chattanooga, Tennessee, was a decaying city. Divorce was rampant. Half of all births were to unwed mothers. Single women were the sole providers in 30 percent of homes, with many living in poverty. In August of 1997, a group of businessmen, civic leaders, and church leaders formed a nonprofit organization called First Things First.
Brad Rymer was a local businessman at the time, and one of the founders of First Things First. "The information we received about the state of marriage and families in our community really shocked me," he says. "After hearing a certain amount of it, I went home and prayed, 'Lord use me to help you save marriages.'"
First Things First's goal was to decrease divorce, help marriages, and reduce teen pregnancies. They provided numerous seminars and classes on strengthening the family. Some of the seminar titles were: "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk," "Discovering the Love of Your Life All Over Again," and "Boot Camp for New Dads." Families and churches could also borrow books and videos from a newly founded resource center.
The results have been excellent. As of 2006—less than 10 years since the program began—the divorce rate has gone down by 25 percent. Cases of children having children have gone down by 26 percent. Fathers spend more time with their children and are more aware of the crucial role they play. With God's help, First Things First has transformed Chattanooga and restored numerous families.
Julie Baumgardner, "Marriage First: How a City Restored Families," Focus on the Family Magazine (August 2006), p. 16-17; submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, Canada