After being married to a pastor for ten years, I was suddenly labeled a “Single Mom” when my husband abandoned my daughter and me.
Broken, hurting and struggling to survive, I experienced first-hand what so many churches are lacking in reaching the single parent demographic that makes up more than 34% of today’s parents. Yet, I am grateful for the friends and family who did extend love to me.
Born from my journey, here are four things to consider when ministering to single parents:
Welcome messes. The structure of these families isn’t what God originally designed for marriage and family. It’s broken, it’s painful and the way it unfolds is often ugly. But as I’ve learned more and more about Jesus, He tends to gravitate toward and use messes to bring about beauty and grace in his ministry to us. As we represent Him, it’s important for us to do the same.
Eliminate alienating wording. “Family Outing/Gathering” can cause a single parent to feel excluded as their family feels broken. Consider instead “ALL Church Get Together” or “Kid-Friendly Event.” Father/mother and child events can alienate children with an absent parent. I’m not suggesting you eliminate these events but try to be more inclusive in how you market them. Welcome children to invite a relative or a mentor from the church. You can emphasize the importance of either role, while encouraging significant family members or friends to take part in these special events.
Meet practical needs first. Jesus often met practical needs before addressing spiritual needs. Ask often how you can help. Or simply observe and offer to meet a noticeable practical need.
For example, groceries, shoes, clothes, gas and even oil changes have been purchased with gift cards we were blessed with in times of great need. Home and car maintenance or free childcare were also a blessing. Invite single parents to dinner or bring them a meal.
Encourage often. Children in single parent homes are often experiencing loss, grief and abandonment. Both parents and children need extra encouragement and affirmation as they work through so many emotions.
Despite consistent counseling, my daughter lashed out at friends at church as these emotions were triggered. I’m grateful for the friends and the children’s workers who didn’t just tell me about her negative behaviors, but they also shared the positives of her actions and my parental decisions. It helped me to not feel alone in parenting.
If you really don’t know the best way to help a single parent family, start with love!! That’s where any ministry should begin and end. As the Holy Spirit leads and directs you for each individual scenario and for each church, you will know exactly how to proceed.
→ Next week, Jennie is sharing a Single Moms Day Out ministry event idea with members of womensministry.net. Not a member yet? If you are involved in ministry, membership may be for you..
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment sharing how you positively engaged the culture with the life-changing message of Jesus and be entered to win a copy of Grace Happens Here by Max Lucado. Winner will be randomly selected from comments left by July 20, 2016.