Single parents are ubiquitous in the church; however, often they are a very misunderstood group that usually doesn’t quite comfortably fit anywhere.
As a former single mom with 25 years of single parenting experience, these are some of the impressions I have collected. Maybe it is different if you are a single dad, but I don’t have any expertise in that area.
Many churches have ministry groups for singles. But single parents don’t really fit there because they have kids, so they don’t have the same freedom as a truly single person. Well, that leaves the other half of the church – the married group.
Single parents definitely don’t fit among the married couples or “group” for several reasons. I believe that they are often perceived of as a threat. This threat wears several faces. Unless someone’s marriage is extremely solid, the frequent presence of an unmarried woman (even with her kids) can cause great insecurity and tension to the marriage.
What also might happen if the safety of a marriage’s comfort zone is threatened? If a married man takes the initiative to mentor fatherless boys, then who knows what kind of a mess the Lord might have them become entangled in. Kids without a dad frequently can become messy and time consuming.
Single parents often become unintentionally invisible. They are usually well liked, but still generally unseen concerning their unique needs.
I remember once when I was part of a small church of about 50 people. One of the men made a big announcement that our church needed to reach out to the community by mentoring fatherless young boys. Never once did they notice that there was a fatherless boy sitting right in their midst.
Actually, one close friend told me that she was surprised by what was said, since my son was sitting right there. I think we had probably been sheathed with the invisibility factor.
I also believe that single parents rate high on the “blemished fruit” scale, which I mention in another blog, Apples and Pears. To attain the uncoveted title of Single Parent, you undoubtedly acquired some “mottled skin, bruised sections, worm holes, or rotten areas.”
This is especially true when you first earn the title. Hopefully, over time the Lord heals many of the damaged places. This is so important because the “bruised fruit often contains the sweetest flavor once the bruised section is removed.” What a tremendous asset single parents can be to the church!
About 20 years ago when I was part of a large church, several single moms and I twice tried to start a group where we could support and encourage each other. Both times it failed, and at the time I did not understand why. So the idea died and life moved on.
Last October, much to my surprise, the Lord stirred up my old desire; however, now I believe I have a better understanding. I think some of the problem with those past efforts was the larger church’s belief that our group had to be under the “covering” of a pastor.
Unfortunately, even within their concept of “pastor” and “covering”, none of the pastors ever had the vision – so our dream was forced to die.
Now I understand that it could be possible to have a community, or communities, of single parents who can minister one to another. Participatory “church” – now there’s a novel idea!
But in all seriousness, if we are suppose to go and be the church, who could deny that the single parents are a vital, integral part of the functioning body of Christ?
As I feel the Lord urge me to reach out to the single parents in our area, perhaps it is like stepping out of an airplane to free fall before opening the parachute. Enjoy the adventure, because who knows what the Lord will do?
I value your thoughts and experiences so I invite your comments.
I was single until I was 45. I have done a whole lot of stuff for single moms. I had a foster son for 5 years. I took him when he was 3 days old and he went back to his birth family between 5 and 6 years of age. It was a real eye opener for me. Yes it is true that you become invisible because life is taken up with the needs of your kids. In our group we did all sorts of things. In the church I was in while I had my foster son we had about 90 singles but no real “singles ministry” so I invited them my home for shared meals usually on Sunday. I arranged Saturday workshops. We had one group of guys working on cars. One group of guys going to houses and doing odd jobs and one group of moms taking all the kids 4 and up to a park, or local pool. We did all sorts of things just to help each other. We just generally hung out together and helped each other with whatever was needed. Some of them even started a home school co-op.
Jeanne,what you describe sounds wonderful! That is the body of Christ at work with each of its members using their gifts to serve one another.
Marianne, I think — I do not know — I think that in the minds of a Pastor, Elder or what-have-you, there is a difference between a single mother as a result of divorce or widowhood and the mother of a child born ‘out of wedlock’. Somehow the churches have come to grips with divorce but not with the other. I don’t think there should be any discrimination but to some I suspect that there is. Jessop.
Perhaps like the wilderness wanderings, God had to wait until the Christians who were horrified by the ‘D word’ or ‘out of wedlock’ to die off before you could enter the promised land. Of course that is Old Testament and I have no special word for you…just saying, Go for it!
“One of the men made a big announcement that our church needed to reach out to the community by mentoring fatherless young boys. Never once did they notice that there was a fatherless boy sitting right in their midst…. since my son was sitting right there”
How dreadful that must have been for you and for your son. I think that maybe the view of the need of the community that is “out there” can sometimes eliminate the family community among us, right in our midst. If we are not a diverse body functioning in Christ, and with Christ, then what can we “reach out” with to the communities out there? I tend to think that whatever endeavors we begin, such as the groups for single parents that failed, is because the foundation was wrong, and had the wrong ship, human “leadership.” To function as a whole family community then this need should be taken care of in the ekklesia, all the ekklesia is a family, a community family, and there are many fathers and many mothers who should see to one another’s needs, including the children’s needs, be that for fatherless or the motherless children. In actuality, there should be no fatherless, nor motherless, children in the ekklesia, nobody should be overlooked, not children, nor single parents. We are family, and all parts of the family are vital, each is the blessing of Christ that the ekklesia is built together by Him, and for Him. Needs of everyone is taken care of by everyone, that is the Life of Christ in His ekklesia, His community, His family.
Being a single mother of a son, also, sure can remember often feeling invisible though also thankful & grateful for a few that did reach out in a couple churches. Know u will do well w/reaching out to single parents. Sending prayers for this new experience….though am also grateful u reached out to us yrs ago.