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

Jennifer Maggio

Jennifer Maggio

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Meet at a time that is convenient for the momFriday 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/.

 

By Jennifer Maggio
Special to Inside The Pew

The Life of a Single Mom Ministriesexists so that no single mom walks alone, regardless of race, socio-economic status, or story. Our passion is to see single mothers connected to the house of God, thriving and flourishing to live the life He intended. One way we do that is by helping churches establish long-term, healthy single moms support groups or ministries.
I consider it an honor and privilege to work beside some of largest churches and nonprofits in the world. In doing so, I have found some things that may hinder your single moms’ ministry from growing and I wanted to share them with you (and hope we have your permission to be brutally honest):
  1. Ministering only to single moms within your church will prohibit your ministry from growing. Sixty-seven percent of single moms are outside your church walls, so be sure to welcome in the community.
  2. Failing to provide a free meal and free childcare will hinder growth within your ministry. Single moms are busy and often do not have the time or money to provide childcare themselves for a Bible study. In addition, providing a meal is a great way to bless the moms and their children. (Read the book, The Church and the Single Mom by Jennifer Maggio, for ways to provide this at little to no cost.)
  3. Your meetings drone on and on. We suggest meetings to last only 90 mintues. Single moms are busy and need to be able to plan their schedule for themselves and their children.
  4. You are trying to integrate a single mom’s group on a Wednesday night or Sunday morning service. Weekday meetings are extremely hard for single parents who are juggling full-time jobs, soccer practice, second jobs, homework, and night classes. Friday, Saturday, or Sunday nights are, by far, the best nights for single moms to get out. (No homework for kids, no night-time classes, no work the next day, etc).
  5. You are afraid to change. I once heard a dynamic speaker say, “When women’s ministries turn into women’s miseries, it is time for a change.” The same is true for single moms ministries. Your church may have been doing the same thing for single moms, the same way, for 15 years. It may be time to shake it up a bit. Have some fun. Have some giggles. Give your ministry a face lift.
  6. You need to plan an “event” to get the single moms in your church and community excited. There is no better way to attract some new faces (and regain some old ones) than to have a single moms’ conference, night of beauty, night of worship, game night, or something similar.
  7. Your leadership isn’t diversified. In order to reach all single moms from all backgrounds and stories, it is important that the key leaders and volunteers within the ministry are diversified. For example, if you have exclusively 40-something divorcees in leadership positions, do not be surprised if teen moms aren’t interested. We all want to know that someone understands our story. And when a new single mom walks into your ministry, she wants to see someone in the room who looks like her. It is a simple, but true statement.
  8. The ministry leader for your single moms ministry needs equipping. Maybe she’s tired and needs some more volunteers. Maybe she was never properly trained on how to lead women. Maybe there is a wonderful teacher waiting to “bud”, but she hasn’t found her voice yet and needs some encouragement on how to do that. Or … .maybe the wrong leader is leading within the ministry. Maybe her time has drawn to a close and God is moving her into a new season of life. This last fact cannot be determined without great prayer, but it is crucial in the survival and thriving of your single moms’ ministry. Sometimes as ministry leaders who are desperate for workers (the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few…), we don’t diligently seek God about who the right person is for the job. Consequently, we have some misplaced leaders within single moms’ ministries who really need to be replaced. When done properly, this is beautiful for all involved, as it frees the current leader to fulfill the role God called her to, and it allows the new leader to also fulfill her role.
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single parent issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who travels the country sharing her own riveting story. She has been featured on countless radio and television programs, and founded The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, to equip the body of Christ on how to best meet the needs of single parent families. For more information on running an effective single moms ministry, please visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
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