As I’ve walked through my “new normal”, I have become increasingly burdened by the lack of conversation in children’s ministry world about the situations so many of our families are in. We don’t talk much about single parents in the church. That could be a whole new blog post, but the reality is we just don’t. Over the past year, our church has tried to be more intentional, specifically in the area of ministering to single moms. I have learned so much from spending time with and sharing stories with other ladies who are walking similar paths as mine. The greatest thing I have learned is that we as the Church (big, universal church, not just mine) and we as a children’s ministry community must do better to understand and serve these families.
Here are just a few of the insights of what single mamas deal with that I have learned that I think may help you and your church as well…
1. Shame – Single moms have no reason to be ashamed of where they are in life, but there’s something about church… something about how most of us put on the happy church mask of “we’ve got it altogether” that is intimidating to the single mom. Single mamas can’t even pretend that we have it altogether. Even though they should not feel this way and no matter how they got to the situation they are currently in, many single moms carry some level of embarrassment that their family does not look like it is “supposed to”. Sometimes the church can add to that with inconsiderate or judgmental statements from church members. But often it is simply a shame that single moms just feel and put on themselves.
2. They are tired. Most single moms are working and raising littles. Many of them have the weight of every decision, every homework assignment, every ball practice, every field trip permission slip, every attempt at healthy meals, every dentist appointment, every discipline issue, etc…. on their shoulders and that doesn’t even include their own career and personal lives. They do a large majority of this alone and it is exhausting.
3. They are fighting lonely. Everyone needs community, but especially single mamas. Marriage has some level of built-in community. Someone who you at least share space with and who you can talk to about anything, anytime. The greatest thing your church can do for single moms is to create a space for them to connect with each other and with others within the church.
4. Holidays are hard. All of them. Even the kinda dumb ones. Because holidays are meant to be shared and as much as we love sharing them with our littles, moms miss having an adult to share them with. I was very surprised to learn how hard Mother’s Day was. I expected Father’s Day to be worse,but not so much. Lots of times single moms just don’t show up to church on holidays because it is just easier that way.
5. Single moms want to be involved, but need much grace. They might be late. Sometimes they may seem inconsistent because they have to stay home with sick kids or have to be mama first. This does not mean they are less committed. It just means they are doing everything that they can do.
6. They want the very, very best for their kids. I would guess that the number one anxiety for single moms is worrying if their kids will be ok. Single moms see the gaps in their kids’ lives and stress much about how they can’t fill all of them alone. Single moms need churches to step in and help through mentorships or even just friendships.
7. Sometimes single parents feel overlooked in the church. We just don’t talk about single parents. In the church, of course, we want to set the high example of Biblical marriage. Sometimes I think we are afraid that we will seem to be advocating divorce if we address single parents. This is so not the case. We are simply recognizing the reality of many people in our church body. Look for ways to just acknowledge that the single parents in your church exist, whether through a mention in a sermon or a prayer time or whatever.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. What do you see as needs of single moms or dads in your church or children’s ministry?