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How the Church Can Help Single Parents
What’s God calling the Church to do for single parents who have a sole responsibility for their children? Here are some suggestions.

God calls the Church to take care of widows and children who are in need and don’t have sufficient support (see 1 Timothy 5:16; James 1:27). In our society where the extended family is often far away or not in a position to provide all the necessary support, what’s God calling the Church to do for mothers or fathers alone responsible for their children? Here are a few practical thoughts.

… it’s a time of significant confusion, grief, and loss.

Recognize the initial adjustment to single parenting is enormous

No matter the age of the children or the circumstance, the initial period of “doing it alone” as a single parent is overwhelming and takes months, even years, of adjustment. Frequently, it’s a time of significant confusion, grief, and loss. Extra support will enable the newly adjusting parent to get used to the situation. Offer to help. Ask for concrete tasks to do that are helpful in a specific situation. Drop off a casserole. Offer to babysit. Mow the lawn.

No one gives foot massages or flowers to a single parent

A single parent gives and gives and gives of themselves to his/her children. The “gas tank” of a single parent gets lower and lower and can benefit from occasional refueling. A hug, note of encouragement, small gift card, or kind word can make a big difference in the life of a single parent who has no one to talk to after the children go to bed, is lonely, or exhausted from doing it all without support.

Find ways to accommodate and love the children

Single parents frequently share their children with the other parent on weekends, disrupting regular church attendance. But they still want their sons and daughters to feel part of the church. Does your Christian education curriculum allow for children to be part of the group even if they miss every other week?

Single parents with small children may struggle to be in the service, or may be unable to participate because they need to supervise children. Is there a way that children can be cared for at church to allow a single parent to serve or just be present in the service to hear words of comfort and inspiration?

Single parent families are families too

Next time you go tobogganing and want to invite a family, remember single parent families. When a family is needed to light a candle or do a reading in the service, do single parent families get asked? Often these families are on the fringes and need deliberate invitations to be included and validated.

Single parents like getting together with both genders

Many single people notice they have friends of their own gender but aren’t included in events that involve couples. This is likely not intentional, however, single-again people will often notice how they suddenly spend less time with both genders.

Single parents are sometimes disguised as married

Due to circumstances such as addiction, illness, or life situation, some people are in effect single parenting, even though there’s a spouse present in the home. Look for such circumstances and be supportive in these difficult and stressful situations.

Single parents, like all parents, need prayer

The task of being a parent is enormous. Pray without ceasing and remember single parents in your community as they struggle with unique challenges and joys.

Carolyn O. Bergen is a single mom of two incredible sons and enthusiastic spectator of numerous sports. She is also a therapist and educator.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, February, 2008.




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