cc-chap-shadow-2Jon Moton, Lead Pastor Student Ministries.

This is a guest post from Chap Clark.  Chap Clark is associate provost for strategic projects and Professor and Chair of the Youth, Family, and Culture department in the School of Theology at Fuller Seminary.  Visit his site at chapclark,com.

Have you met Sarah?

She’s 15, bright, outgoing, warm and pretty. I met her at a conference in the southeast last year.

Sarah is active in church, she has an inviting presence, plays guitar, loves drama (the stage kind), and is on the jayvee volleyball team. A nice, gracious, fun kid. Hard not to like Sarah.

I was sitting in the foyer with a group from her town, both guys and girls, when the subject of the upcoming church-sponsored “father-daughter” dance came up. A few of the girls were talking about it, what they would wear, who was going, that sort of thing. Sarah was noticeably quiet, not disengaged really, just sitting there, a soft, simmering look on her face. One of the girls said, “Hey, Sarah, what are you wearing… er… oh, sorry.” Sarah just gave just the hint of a small smile. “It’s okay. No big deal.”

One of the guys – a lot like me as a sophomore – blurted out, “What, aren’t you going?”

“No.”

“Just up, Jeremy! Sarah’s dad left last year!”

An awkward silence, then a half-hearted change of subject, and soon the group slipped away, leaving me, Sarah, and one of her closer friends. “He’s a (jerk), Sarah.” They stood up, and left. I never saw her again.

Have you met Sarah? She’s everywhere, you know. In your church, your school, your town. She’s unique and pert and fun and sad and broken and lost. She looks like everybody else. But there is one difference: her father is not there for her. He might be traveling, or separated, or incarcerated. To Sarah, there’s not a lot of difference when it comes to the Father-Daughter dance. She’s not invited.

Last week several of my students got into it on Facebook when a local elite Christian school, one known for it’s “commitment” to “the best” for kids, held their annual Father-Daughter dance. I asked around in a variety of circles, What do you think about this? The comments were predictable:

–       “It’s sad, and a shame, but we can’t deny such an important opportunity because of the circumstances of a few”

–       “maybe girls without dads could find a man to stand in for their dad?”

–       “ok, so we should never offer marriage conferences because then we would just be reminding divorcees that they are failures”

–       “it’s a great event, kids and dads love it, so we need to think of something else for those girls”

I’m not sure there’s an easy answer. But I am sure that we ought to work at it. For Sarah. But it would take creativity, and careful thought, and an awareness that, as Cate Blanchett put it, “The world is round, people.”

Have you met Sarah?

Father-Daughter Dances: Is there a better way?

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