With changing social trends and approaches to tying the knot, the church’s message on marriage is going to have to be repackaged for , says The Christian Post. Focus on the Family expert Glenn Stanton told the news outlet that forming strong families and healthy marriage is something young people want; they just don’t always know how to get it. “The biggest untapped opportunity of the church is to meet young people at one of their greatest points of need,” which is their desire to form good, healthy families, Stanton said. “Many say their number one life goal is marriage and parenting, but they are scared because they have never seen it succeed.” Pew research found that the Millennial generation is the most marriage-minded generation today. Stanton believes it’s because they want what they were denied by the previous generation. “They are very interested in marriage, and getting and providing for their children what they didn’t have.” He said if the church can partner with them and give them preparation and perspective in how to do that, “young people would beat a path through the churches’ doors.” And while healthy heterosexual marriages is something the church will have to learn how to emphasize this year, they will also have to continue de-emphasizing the push for same-sex marriage. Stanton believes the issue of same-sex marriage is going to increase, and even get worse. “We’re at a crisis point,” he said. The whole idea put forth by the other side is that it’s either “embrace same-sex marriage” or else.

Other news:

  • When the Urich family welcomed the latest addition to their family this December, two-week-old Henry also became his grandparents’ 100th grandchild, reports their local newspaper, Daily Herald-Tribune of Grande Prairie, Alta., Canada. Nine months ago when they announced the pregnancy, Henry’s parents, Heinrich and Tatjana, were carrying on the Urich family tradition of having big family trees. Henry is their ninth child, with their oldest only 12. Heinrich is the oldest son and fifth of 16 children, and his parents, Viktor and Aneta, were thrilled when they found out that their daughter-in-law was pregnant. “We were happy and we were waiting for it. We want to have a party in the church with all the family together,” Viktor said.
  • A married gay couple from New York received a congratulatory letter from President Obama, reports The Christian Post. Matt Katz and Aaron Lafrenz, married in July, were one of the first gay couples to wed on the day same-sex marriage was legalized in New York. Katz told BuzzFeed he was bewildered by the letter he received over the weekend. “I’m not sure why the letter got sent to us. Aaron and I were married on July 24th at Borough Hall,” said Katz. “However, we had our wedding ceremony on July 23rd at my Dad’s house the day before. Maybe word got out that we were outlaws for a day?” Although President Obama has said publicly that he is opposed to gay marriage and prefers civil unions for homosexual couples, he has recently been quoted as saying his views on gay marriage continue to “evolve,” and he’s “working on” his views about the issue. Obama is also opposed to the Defense of Marriage Act and reversed the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals earlier this year. Meanwhile, on New Year’s Day, several same-sex couples in Hawaii and Delaware became the first few couples in their respective states to enter into civil unions, reports The Christian Post. Hawaii’s legislation was enacted at midnight on New Year’s Day, and four couples registered their relationships just a few seconds into . This makes Hawaii the seventh state in the country to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions. Delaware followed suit and allowed same-sex civil unions at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
  • The founder of an alternative to Girl Scouts credits God for her organization’s continued growth, reports onenewsnow.com. Many parents are concerned about the Girl Scouts’ association with the Planned Parenthood–type philosophy on abortion and sex education. Patti Garibay says that is why the group she founded, American Heritage Girls, was launched. “We are a Christ-centered organization for girls, and so we are happy to welcome girls ages five to 18 into American Heritage Girls to grow in their knowledge and love for Christ, as well as to do some of the very fun scouting activities that makes scouting just so much of a great idea for today’s families,” she shares. The organization started small in 1995 with about ten troops and 100 members, but it has continued to grow over the years, this year by 48 percent. “We have over 17,000 members, and the Lord has brought that through 16 years of growing,” Garibay credits. Earlier this year, a Colorado Girl Scout troop decided to allow a boy who identifies as a girl to join the group. That motivated three troops at a Christian school in Louisiana to disband, and the incident had phones ringing at American Heritage Girls, as parents sought an alternative to Girl Scouts.
  • While Planned Parenthood is closing abortion and abortion referral facilities in other states, the Planned Parenthood of the North Country in upstate New York is expanding, reports LifeNews.com. The abortion business announced that President and CEO Kathie Wunderlich has retired after four decades of running the local abortion business, but that retirement only means more abortions for Planned Parenthood. The local newspaper reports her saying, “It is absolutely essential that it remains available to women. Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York is the only provider in the region, with the next nearest in Glens Falls, Syracuse or Burlington.” Wunderlich said Planned Parenthood plans to expand its medication abortion services to the Canton and Watertown. The newspaper indicates that local pro-life advocates are speaking out. Champlain Valley Right to Life, an organization that opposes abortion and mounts weekly prayer sessions outside Planned Parenthood’s Brinkerhoff Street facility in Plattsburgh, is encouraged by the potential changes in many states. “It is heartening to see many of the states address the fact that women need to understand the process of abortion,” said the Rev. Martin T. and Deborah C. Mischenko, co-chairs of the local Right to Life chapter, in a joint statement. That includes making sure the pregnant woman is offered “ultrasounds and other services, which will allow them to make an informed decision and all that is involved with aborting a baby.” “At Champlain Valley Right to Life,” they continued, “we will continue to champion our efforts in public education about abortion to expectant mothers and families, in addition to educating the public [about] options other than abortion, such as adoption.” The organization also lobbies “for new laws to protect the unborn.”
  • Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., was left stunned on the first Sunday service of the new year when Pastor Chuck Smith announced that he has been battling lung cancer, reports The Christian Post. Following Sunday’s service, Smith’s son-in-law, Brian Brodersen, and other pastors joined to anoint Smith with oil and offer prayers for his healing. Pastor Smith is 84 years old and has never smoked, according to Assist News Service. Smith was to have a biopsy this week and surgery the following week. Smith has been at Calvary Chapel since 1965, and has made great contributions to the development of the church, which was prominent in the so-called Jesus Movement in the ’60s and ’70s. When he started, the congregation had 25 members, but has since grown to have a weekly attendance of 9,500. It is now the 67th largest church in America, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Smith has suffered other major health problems in the past, including a mini stroke in 2009.
  • The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has issued a chilling warning to all Christians in northern Nigeria, giving them three days to leave or face further extensive attacks, reports The Christian Post. The violence in Nigeria by Boko Haram has led to a stiff ultimatum by the group, which has warned that it is ready to confront soldiers sent to engage them under a state of emergency declared by Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan. “We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers,” said Abul Qaqa, spokesperson of Boko Haram, according to CNN. He also called for Muslims living in southern Nigeria to come back to the north, citing evidence that they could be attacked. President Jonathan declared a state of emergency Saturday in areas of Nigeria infected with violent Islamist insurgency. He shut down borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger in the northeast, according to Reuters. The state of emergency was announced in response to multiple violent attacks aimed at Christians in Nigeria, including a Christmas day attack that left 37 people dead and 57 wounded. Boko Haram, which is reported to have ties with al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the killings. In response, President Jonathan has vowed to “crush” the group, according to MSNBC. He said they began as a harmless group, but has now grown cancerous.
  • A key attorney in the fight for Christian and family values in California’s trend-setting school system warns his state’s teacher’s union is about to begin its “next major push” in the cultural battle over homosexuality in schools, reports conservativebyte.com. “‘Gender liberation’ will likely be the new vogue term used to describe the tidal wave that is fast approaching the shores of the California public school system,” writes Robert Tyler, founder of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty. “And you can be sure that it won’t stop there. It will spread throughout the nation and have disastrous consequences on the innocent. In other words,” Tyler explains of what “gender liberation” means, “male-female distinctions must be eliminated in order to ‘liberate’ children from unnecessary ‘stereotypes.’ This is not a movement seeking ‘equal rights,’ but a movement seeking to obliterate our God-given distinctions between male and female.” Tyler’s law firm represents students and parents in a number of cases in California, including former high school student Chad Farnan, who brought suit against his history teacher for regularly ridiculing Christianity in class, including making the statement, “When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can’t see the truth.” Tyler argues that the 325,000-member California Teachers Association “has allied itself” with radical homosexual activists and says he has uncovered evidence of how the CTA is pushing teachers to take the next step in “brainwash[ing] children into believing that gender neutrality is ideal for society.”
  • The belief that politicians use their offices for personal gain is growing. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 48 percent of likely U.S. voters believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Just 28 percent disagree, and another 24 percent are not sure. Also, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 5 percent of likely voters rate the job Congress is doing as good or excellent.  Sixty-eight percent view Congress’s job performance as poor.
  • The president of Planned Parenthood has said that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney used to seek her organization’s endorsements and attend events, according to The New York Times, says lifesitenews.com. The former Massachusetts governor refused to sign a Susan B. Anthony List pro-life pledge this summer, saying that the promises in the document were overly broad and prone to unintended consequences, particularly regarding government funding of hospitals.