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.