By Jennifer Maggio
Special to Inside The Pew
BATON ROUGE, La. – With almost 15 million single parents in the country today, many churches are beginning to focus on the need to minister
to single parents more effectively. Our organization is elated to be part of that journey. We receive tons of questions about how to minister to the needs of single parents in a more effective, creative, long-term way. We believe one of those ways is through a single moms support group. It provides long-term discipleship, beyond simply an outreach, an event, or a meal.
For those who have not started a single moms support group in your church, here are a few things you may want to know. For those who have started a group and are frustrated with the lack of growth or possible issues within the group, read on. We’ll try to help you with those questions, too.
Before I launched The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, I was fortunate enough to work with my local church. This has allowed me to gain great wisdom and insight on what does and does not work within the walls of the church on ministering to single mothers. There is very, very little resource material on the market for single parent ministries and the little that is out there is often written by someone who has yet to be in the trenches running a successful program. (It’s kinda like buying a parenting book from someone who hasn’t parented).
Here are a few things we’ve learned that may help you in your single moms ministry endeavor:
- Recognize that not every single mom is a “churched” divorced single mom. Less than 1 percent of the 300,000 Christian churches in the country have single parent support groups. The few that do often focus on the single moms that are already in their church. This is a big problem, in light of the fact that only 33% of single moms attend church. In order to grow your support group, you must focus on reaching those outside your church.
- Teach relevant material. In my work with helping to grow single parent groups, one of the first things we do is change the teaching material. Many of the groups are teaching deep Bible studies on the book of Ruth, the Proverbs 31 woman, etc. While these are excellent teaching tools for the future, focusing on deep Bible study, when a single mom’s life is potentially falling apart (financially, emotionally, and with her parenting skills) is not a timely message.
- Meet at a time that is convenient for the mom. Friday nights, Saturday nights, or Sunday afternoons tend to work best. Moms who are parenting school-age children have homework to contend with. Wednesday nights tend to be most convenient for the church, as childcare workers are already available, but this is probably not the best time for the mothers. And if you want to begin to reach outside the walls of the church to bring in mothers who aren’t yet connected, offering a more convenient meeting time is critical. In addition, a full work-week tends to make a single mom’s support group a daunting task, not a welcomed break … but if you meet on a weekend, she is more relaxed and open to receive new friendships and experiences.
There are a ton of tips that we have found work, but this gives you a brief start. Having said all that, recognize that groups do not grow overnight. Be diligent and faithful with the women you have! You may also be interested in The Church and the Single Mom Resource Kit that offers a comprehensive resource for answering all single parent ministry questions, training new volunteers, growing the ministry, effective discipleship, logistics, and so much more. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com/.