Four Things the Single Parent Needs from the Church

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Single parenting! I remember those days well! When I entered into this stage in my life I had just left the military but little did I realize I was entering into an even bigger challenge. One that would demand more physical and mental stamina than my Drill Sergeants had demanded from me.

My daily routine consisted of getting not only myself, but the kids, out of bed and ready for the day. I’d get them to the babysitter or school, then off to work I’d go. After work it was time to pick up the kids from the babysitter, arrive home, fix dinner, clean the house, help with homework, bathe the kids, then sit down to work on bills, plan meals, get up to clean the daily clutter and wash the dishes–all before collapsing in bed at night, depressed with the thought  that tomorrow would start the routine all over again. It felt like each day was a battle that left me exhausted, sometimes bloodied and bruised. I’d wake with the new sunrise, facing another battle to be won.

Chances are that within your church are many of these brave troops . Whether you are on staff or a concerned brother or sister, these brave soldiers need you and your church. They may not admit it, they may not even know it, but they need fellow believers to come alongside them in their daily battles.

Here are 4 things all singles need from the church to accomplish the goal of raising children who love and honor God.

  1.  Love: This is such a no-brainer really. We all need love, but single parents need to experience unconditional love and acceptance from the church. Single parents come in all shapes and sizes. Single parents can be widowed, divorced, or never married. They may have purposely adopted children while single. They may be taking care of nieces and nephews or grandchildren. They need to be known and loved for who they are and who they can become. Every situation, every single parent family is unique and face unique challenges but they all hold great potential and can be a great asset to your church. They just may need a little extra help to get there.
  2.  Protection: To begin with, the church must be a safe place for their kids. Your children’s ministry should be clean, safe, well-staffed and maintained. Make sure the staff knows who is allowed or not allowed to pick up the kids. A check-in system is vital in any children’s ministry. Single parents may be going through custody battles and who picks up their child could mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, I believe single parents may need protection from predators who may target their children based upon their vulnerabilities. This can be especially important for young mothers. We have all heard the horror stories of children being abused by a stepdad or mother’s boyfriend. Single parents who are left to deal with life alone may, in some cases, let their guards down because they are desperate for companionship and in real need of help in the home. The church can and should protect against this by coming alongside single parents to provide them with the very things that leave them vulnerable. Families of the church can help single parents by offering things like child care and assistance with transportation to events or sports practice. Churches can provide classes and advice about dating, what to look for in a man or woman, and how to introduce them to your children. These are only some of ways the church can provide protection for the parent and the child.
  3.  Help: This can come in many forms. Everything from outside yard work, handyman work in and outside of the house, babysitting, or providing housing. Assistance can come in many forms, but the most effective help comes from knowing the single parent personally so you can know the best ways for the church to step up. The single parent may need assistance education about handling their finances, dating advice, or classes on parenting techniques. Unless the church makes an intentional effort to get to know the parent and discover their needs those needs may never be met. The church needs to be proactive in offering assistance. Don’t wait for them to ask for it, or an incident to occur before offering help. Be intentional about connecting single parents with the church community and with leaders who can offer help and or advice.
  4.      Encouragement: For the single parent, this need is second only to love. At times, single parents become overwhelmed with their life and daily responsibilities. In the dark times it can be hard to see a way forward. To single parents It may seem as if there is little hope for their future or their children. Sometimes it is hard to see the future when you are mired in the present and haunted by the past. Single parents need to be reminded they follow a great God! One who has amazing plans for them. They need to be reminded that even if life seems challenging now, what they are experiencing is only temporary, God is doing something amazing in their life. The church should give them hope for the future. When I look back at the man I was then, compared with who I am now, I realize my time as a single parent was a period of growth. I failed many times, but no matter what life brings, God taught me He is enough.

He taught me to rely on Him alone for everything and then later He brought an amazing woman into my life. This year we celebrated 21 years of marriage. I am a pastor at a church in south Florida, and God is continuing to use my experiences as a single dad to encourage others. My hope is your church recognizes the incredible potential of single parents. Yes, they may need some extra attention, but the payoff is worth it in the end! Learn to see beyond the present and look to the future that God has in store for the single parent in your local church.

Sunday Single Selection

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It is Saturday night and you know you should go to church tomorrow, yet you have reservations in your heart about where to go or if you should find somewhere new to go. You want to Worship and hear the Word preached, but the church you go to does not seem to get being single or you can not find a church with a singles group. Many singles have this Saturday night emotion, wanting to go to church for all the right reasons, but still desiring more in community with other singles like yourself.

Many churches don’t have a targeted group for singles, if they even seem to acknowledge they are present. Those that do have singles groups may not feel like they are targeted at people like yourself. While the emotions are valid, your response to these issues should have only one outcome and that is to go Worship with other believers. Worship is not a self serving activity where you get something for doing something. Worship is about praising God for who He is and learning more about Him through that experience. So here are a few encouragements for singles with regards to church selection.

  1. Base your selection on if the church Worships God and honors His Word.
  2. Connect with a congregation close as possible to enhance your ability to participate.
  3. Look for churches with existing singles ministries listed, if none are found it may be time to start a singles ministry in your area. Chances are there are several people like you looking for a place to connect.
  4. Bring or invite a friend to help you select a church, it helps to debrief with someone over lunch after Worship.

Finally, choose! Go to a church where God is calling you, make roots and serve. Don’t spend all your time looking when you could be connected to a church and start building a singles ministry for people like yourself. Your efforts to do so will not return void and God will honor your commitment to serve Him.

 

Single Parent and Complete in Christ

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Complete in Christ not just a lifestyle. It is a mindset that no matter what happens or what worldly influences persist, wholeness is found in the Lord. Single families need to be reminded of Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…

Single parents need a Biblical foundation to affirm their family is not an accident. It is not less complete, or in any way a punishment for a lifestyle. Single parents need to acknowledge God knew their child before he or she was even formed in the womb.

For single mothers and fathers out-of-wedlock that means even though the parent did not follow God’s will regarding no sex before marriage, God knew that child’s life before they sinned, and that child’s life is consecrated or set apart by God. There are no mistakes or accidents when it comes to how single families are formed according to God, regardless of the circumstances that create a single family.

Likewise for single parents of adoption, God entrusted the single parent before the adopted child was even conceived. Their adoption is not a chance of fate, but a divine appointment. Their family was planned by a Holy God long before it came to fruition.

For single mothers/fathers that are widowed, there was no mistake about whether they could or could not handle the situation given to them. They are Complete in Christ, and God knew the widow or widower could raise a family alone and that the child would have a home that could be filled to the point each person in the home could be Complete in Christ.

Lastly, for single mothers/fathers of divorce and their children, God hates divorce. As Malachi 2:16 tell us, it is never His plan. But, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7 that even Moses had to grant divorce due to the sinful nature of man. Children should not be a chess piece in divorce or a reminder of a failed past relationship. God knows each child in the womb, and He sets apart each one’s lives. Therefore, single parents of divorce need to be Complete in Christ, even if they were never complete in their prior marriage.

The single parent needs to be mindful of Romans 8 where we are told there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Only Christ can complete someone, not a relationship, and certainly, not a spouse.

Marriage isn’t the Finish Line

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The big day is here! Here comes the bride all dressed in white. The groom dressed to the nines in his rented tux stands fidgeting at the front to begin a ceremony that moves even the hardest of hearts to tears. Then comes the reception including a toast from the father of bride of just how proud he is that his little girl found a man, almost implicating that a secret achievement has been unlocked allowing the happy couple to continue in the game of life, side-by-side.

Singles. Get. It.

At the same time you are happy for another couple. Everyone is celebrating a monumental achievement in the lives of your friends. But in fact, is marriage the finish line? Singles often are looking to the next milestone or marker in life. At some point, it starts to feel like the only milestone left is marriage.

But the reality? It is not the finish line of achievement.

For married couples the next bombardment of expectation is kids. And while having a pet or three helped for a while, the next finish line of life is having a baby. Once that is crossed and no less than a day after the first child, there are questions of when the next baby will arrive. After baby two, the next quiz is will there be three. Have four, and comments of birth control fill the air. Then there is college for the kids, jobs for the young adults, and future weddings! The cycle starts all over again.

Here is the point.

The finish line is defined by a relationship, just not the one you may have thought or felt from your surrounding friends and family.

Being Complete in Christ is the only relationship that will leave you complete. All other relationships build off of that relationship and running a good race is defined by it. Keeping the faith and living for God is grounded in a relationship with Christ.

Singles, always keep in mind your life not measured by this world, but by following the One who paid our sins in full–Jesus–so we can live life more abundantly.

Not an Option

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When is the last time you made something “Not an Option”? Truly, 100% said to yourself that under no circumstances will I ever ____. Everyone has things that are not options in their lives, such as the clothes worn to work or the food we choose to eat that may cause allergic reactions. Everyone makes choices everyday that make things “Not an Option” in their life.  Yet, somehow, we are still tripped by the same sins.

Jesus, at the Sermon on the Mount, told people to be radical in their actions in order stop from sinning. Though He was being figurative, He suggested it is better to lose a hand than to keep it and continue a life of sin (Matthew 5:29-30). It is better to not have a hand and live for God than to have two hands and not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Single adults have a lot of time alone and, in those alone times, it is easy to slip into temptations. For any of us to be obedient to the Word of God and follow Him, we have to make certain things in our lives “Not an Option.” Doing so will glorify the One who sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins and allow us to live a life honoring to Him.

What things in your life do you need to make “Not an Option”? Addictions? Gossip with friends? Temptations? Some may think you can’t change or overcome the struggle. That is not the case!

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

God is on your side and will not let you be tempted, tested, or go through trials that you cannot have victory over! He loves you so much that He always gives an alternative for you to choose and make something “Not an Option.”

End of the Rope with Addiction

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Do you ever feel torn between doing what you know is right, and then doing the wrong thing anyway? Choosing to continue in a sin that you should be able to be free of, yet you keep making the same mistake. We have some comforting words for you, the apostle Paul had this same struggle in Romans 7-8 regarding the Law. The Message translation Bible is not intended to be an everyday Bible, but what it is great at is expressing things in a new light with the same Biblical meaning. This could not be more true of this passage! Here are the phrases Paul uses in his struggle with sin.

  • I need something more!
  • I know the law and yet I can not keep it
  • Sin keeps sabotaging my best intentions
  • I obviously need help!
  • I have the will, but I can’t do it!
  • The moment I decide to do good, sin trips me up
  • I have tried everything and nothing helps, I am at the end of my rope

You should take time and read this entire chapter out loud and hear the urgency and distress in Paul’s voice. Go ahead, read it out loud.

Romans 7 Message Translation

Have you ever felt that way? When it comes to sin in your life like getting drunk, sex before marriage, drugs, lust, porn,and on and on? Have you been at the end of your rope with sin? Do you feel like there is nothing anyone can do for you? Well, there is great news! Romans 7:25-8:1-4.

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Struggle with your addictions and then give them all to God. Make a stand in your life for sin to be “Not an Option!” Have you reached the end of your rope with sin?

Feeling Alone in the Pew

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It’s Sunday morning and you are off to church. You arrive on time for the worship service and slip into the back. Then, there it is. The happy couple in front of you with two kids and a dog at home with a nice home and great jobs. Just what you wanted to see when you came to church today, something you don’t have.

Instantly, your morning focused on God turns into what you don’t have.

Does this describe you?

Feeling bitterness or jealousy in the Church pew should never happen. Christ tells us in Matthew 28 that He will be with us until the end of time.

So how is it possible to feel so alone in God’s house? Emotions can run high with anyone, but for those experiencing the issue of being single and wanting to be married, the littlest thing such as this scenario can spiral emotions to a place of loneliness.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us God knows the plan for our lives, so we need to build up trust in that promise that completes singles in Christ. Trusting is hard–it takes work and time. But trusting God with the small things makes it easier and easier to trust Him with the big things.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
– Proverbs 3:5-6

Remember, in God’s house you are not alone. Stay focused on giving Him all the glory and praise and trusts Him wholeheartedly with your life. Worship is a big part of your spiritual growth; make sure that time is focused on Him and not on you.

One Way To Grow Your Singles Ministry You Missed

Pregnancy centers are commonplace now in our cities and towns. These centers of hope of a life yet to be born have contributed to the steady decline of abortions in the past decade. Churches and evangelicals alike praise their existence, from a distance. The sad reality of pregnancy centers are they lack volunteer and church involvement to see the family in need through all stages of their life, not just a pregnancy.

On a recent trip the leaders of a local pregnancy center told us they desire to connect young mothers and families to the local church. These are Christian brothers and sisters on the front lines of saving lives, yet they feel alone in their battle. The sad irony of our pregnancy center leaders feeling isolated and alone as they reach out to mothers who feel the same should be heart-breaking to any Christ follower. Something has to change and it starts with each one of us. Nearly 40% of all families in our community are single parent families. Does your church reflect that statistic? To see single parent families connected to your church, here are some strategies for empowering our pregnancy centers beyond resources:

Connect with a Pregnancy Center

Not every church has a pregnancy center connection but they should. Establish that connection or find the one your congregation has and reach out to their leaders. While volunteering at the center may be where you feel led, we think everyone should be able to take the next step after connecting with a center.

Develop a Connection Pathway to Your Church

Pregnancy center leaders tell us that the amount of churches willing and committed to connecting these young mothers and families to a church is embarrassing. We simply are not doing enough as a church to empower these leaders with a pathway to a church home for their clients. Your church can distribute information about your congregation, but the most effective method is to go in person, meet the pregnancy center client with their permission, and greet them at your church when they come. We are talking about taking time to hold the hand of family and connect them to your church family, potentially changing changing their family lineage for generations to come.

So You Want to Grow Your Church?

Growth strategies for churches come and go, but the core messaging is the same. To reach people you have to go where people are! They will not come to you, and in our culture that is growing increasingly true as fewer Americans identify with church as a social norm. We propose this method of reaching into the lives of a mother and family in need is not only a Kingdom win, but one that will grow your church numerically as well. It may seem crass, but churches live in the reality of needing to add people to grow or they cease to be relevant. We think starting with pregnancy centers is a place where life change happens; would you want those lives in your church family?

In a generation when parachurch organizations can be very effective in reaching people where they are, churches have nothing to lose in extending an open hand. Worst case, the mother never visits your church but you shared God’s love and were welcoming. Potentially, one conversation and invitation could change generations of lives to follow Christ.

Snip, snip. Ouch, ouch!

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I have this problem called self-reliance. Lately, it’s been popping up in my prayers in the form of raw inappropriate confession. “I want to do this by myself!” “Why do I have to wait for you! Why do I have to trust you for everything! Isn’t what you have enough?”
Yikes. I know, right. But, before you click exit, you should know that I’m candid, not rebellious; besides, God knew it before I said it. Saying it rips away the facade. Verbalizing feelings tears away any pretentious mask, allows me to hear the unbelief that would have otherwise remained in the crevices of my fallible soul. Being blunt with God allows Him to deal with me in truth and since I’m so candid, I get dealt with…a lot, and lately, it’s about this self-reliance thing.
The most ambitious of us have this weakness. We like to compete. We like to know that we can do it. We tote around superhero suits in our bags, purses and briefcases. We don’t ask for help often; maybe not at all. We like to hide our weaknesses or work really hard at annihilating them with intense self-improvement and self-development hoping to be ever strong and awesome. Our good God sees the work we’ve done and, yep, the fruit we bear.
Then comes the chop of pruning! Snip snip! John 15 says that if you bear fruit, pruning happens.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:2 (ESV)

It comes again and again to those who are His–to those who hear and obey Him.
Snip! It comes upon those who call on His name, for our merciful God wants children who aren’t self-reliant, but God-reliant. He wants the fruit of our lives to yield glory to Him, not admiration to our own surname or to our superhero title.

After the Lord your God has done this for you, don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The Lord your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9:4-6) NLT.

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6 ESV)

Allow God to do some necessary snipping today, and shift the gaze of your admirers and yourself to the truly Glorious One, Jesus.

Silent Christmas Morning

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A single parent has to live with the reality of the first Christmas without the kids. The glow of the Christmas lights from the tree is the only warmth that fills the room. What started out years ago as a joyous holiday morning filled with traditions has disintegrated into court documents dictating where kids will spend the holidays. The fridge is empty as there is no need for a great feast and delivered pizza is left over from the night before.

A silent night is full of joy, a silent morning full of sorrow.

Single parents, we understand your holidays are not Norman Rockwell paintings and yuletide cheer from singing around the fireplace. Even if you are the one with the children at the holidays, there is still something missing around the tree. Divorce is approaching 50% for America couples. This statistic means that one out of two homes on your street have this type of Christmas. Even for singles who have not experienced divorce but adopted become a parent find that missing “something” in the air on Christmas morn.

Your Church Needs to Reach Single Parents

In churches everywhere, Christmas Eve will be a candlelight service and singing to a Savior’s birth to come. But, how often do leaders stop and realize just how many people in their audience are experiencing the above-mentioned scene just hours after they leave the church? Will your Christmas Eve service have childcare provided? After all, that single parent in the pew is doing their best just to get everyone gathered to arrive that evening. What a blessing it would be if the preschool hall were open for them to have a moment with the Lord. As the kids get older they can engage in that worshipful time, but how will you minister to the younger families?

You Need to Seek Out Single Parents

Your church needs to have a plan to connect single parents into the life of the church. Singles groups are a great way to do this. Singles without children can help fill the void of a missing parent for that single mother or father that joins their singles group. Another great way to support single parents is connecting the parent to married adult families. The point is to have a way to connect single parents in every ministry in the life of your church. It is worth it! Keep in mind nearly half of the families on your street are experiencing a silent Christmas.

God Needs to be the Focus

The key to every single family is to remain focused on God. When you gather for the holidays, be cordial to one another and reflect the love of God to your children no matter how bad the situation may be with the other parent. Single parents, you know personally what it’s like to share your kids with someone else.

Treat the situation with love by remembering God sent His only Son into the world to share Him with us so that He paid the price of sin on the cross for the world. He gave His only Son through a virgin Mary. You know those emotions and need to remember and apply the love this Christmas.

Single Parents Keep Traditions Alive

A final word of encouragement–keep family traditions alive at Christmas. Even if they have to be modified or the ex may not participate, keep traditions strong. If you have adopted children, pass down your traditions and start new ones.

Everyone remembers holidays traditions growing up. Establish pleasant memories for your child. Keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Parents, we don’t promise things will be easy. Life is hard. Surround yourself in the Love of God and find His strength in those around you.