By Jennifer Maggio
Single parenting has become a hot-button issue for many churches around the country. There are approximately 15 million single parents in the United States today with numbers continuing to rise. Almost 50% of today’s marriages are failing and 49% of American babies are born outside marriage. Throw in military families with spouses on extended duty, incarcerated parents, and widows; we can see the numbers of parents going it alone are significant.
Unfortunately, in the past, the body of Christ has struggled to find the proper response to the above-referenced statistics. While single parenting numbers continue to grow, a survey cited in The Church and the Single Mom (Carepoint, 2011) found that 67% of single parents in the United States do not actively attend a local church. Yet, less than 1% of all Christian evangelical churches have any sort of long-term, sustainable single parent ministry and/or outreach program. In the past, churches have tended to fall into one of several response categories, when it comes to the needs of single parents in their communities:
- There are not any single parents in our church.
- Divorce and unwed pregnancy are sin. Therefore, any ministry to single parent families would be advocating irresponsible behavior.
- We want to reach single parents, but since we do not really know how, we’ll pretend they do not exist.
- Our budget is already stretched and single parent ministry is one more strain on our financial commitments.
Do you know how sometimes in life God births a dream and passion so great within you that it keeps you up at night? Maybe for you it is seeing orphans find homes or helping others become good stewards of their money. For me, that passion is single parents. My dream began when I was a 19-year-old, completely broken, teen mom who knew my life was worth far more than what I was portraying. God whispered into my heart the passion to see other single moms, like myself, live a life of freedom, hope, and joy. It is actually funny now, because I wasn’t even serving the Lord at the time. (Isn’t that just how our Savior works?) But I know in that tiny government-subsidized apartment, oh so many years ago, God planted a seed.
The truth is, we are all affected by single parenting. Maybe you are a single parent, and you experience the difficult journey on a daily basis. Or maybe you were raised by one. Maybe you work with one or have one in your family. All of us know a single mom.
May I put this in perspective? Imagine you are a mom with two precious angels and a loving husband. Your husband is called away on business once every few months or maybe he travels extensively with his job, leaving you behind to parent for days or weeks on end without much help. Now, imagine that weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Now, imagine that you receive no financial help, no parenting advice, no words of encouragement. It never ends. This is reality for many parents across our communities.
Maybe the single moms in your life seem like they have all together. There are some amazingly, strong single parents today and many are achieving financial and parental success, as well as emotional and spiritual freedom beyond what they would have ever expected. But even those strong, amazing single parents could use a helping hand.
Here are some ways you can get involved and make a difference in a single parent’s life:
- Babysit for free, and do it often. Single mothers often work many hours per week and do not want to ask for help. Babysitting can be expensive. Encourage single mothers in your life to take a night off. They need it.
- Offer to grocery shop for them. Shopping is a simple task, but shop alone with three children hanging from the buggy and you’ll see the challenge many single parents face weekly.
- Financial assistance is usually greatly appreciated and needed. Pay a utility bill or car payment for them. What a blessing!
- Give her some girl time. Sometimes the best way to serve a single mom is to invite her to coffee for some genuine adult conversation.
- Start a single moms support group in your church. What a way to be the body of Christ. Start a Bible study or Sunday School Class just for single parents. Give them a place to feel comfortable and welcomed inside your church walls.
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single moms and womens’ issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who has a God-given passion to see women walking in total freedom. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and has been featured in countless media venues.