One unintended consequence of no-fault divorce laws is what has been termed the "feminization of poverty ." This term means that the welfare rolls have largely become populated by families headed by a single parent, often a single mother. According to Fortune magazine, there are 65 million Americans under the age of 18; of these children, 22% live in single parent homes. The parents of nearly 2,750 children separate or divorce every day. According to the Family Research Council, the poverty rate for children of single parents is five times the rate for children living with two parents. It is therefore safe to assume that the majority of children of single parents in your church have financial needs. How can your church reach out to these single parents and their children? Why not set up a panel of CPA's and bookkeepers from your church who volunteer their services to help single parents with budgeting and preparation of tax returns? Perhaps your church could offer free or low-cost child care to single parents so they could look for work or attend classes in order to improve their skills. Your church could establish a food bank or connect single parents with one which is already established.
Single parents in our churches often find themselves ostracized and rejected by our church families because they don't fit the mold of the perfect Christian family. How can your church reach out to these single parents and their families? Easy! Include them in the activities you would normally include your other friends in. If your church has small groups, invite single parents to participate. If you are going to the zoo or the park, invite a single parent and his or her kids along. If you are engaged in a ministry project like feeding the homeless, don't forget to invite single parent families to participate. Remember to be sensitive, however; it wouldn't be wise to invite a single parent to a marriage seminar or couples retreat. However, inviting him or her to a parenting conference would probably be fine. Don't be offended if a single parent doesn't take you up on your offers every time. Remember that a single parent's time is at a premium and many single parents spend every spare minute with their children. No family is perfect, and if single parents can't find a loving environment in their churches, they have nowhere else to turn.
Easing the Money Crunch
Another need shared by many single parents is for creative ways to save and make money. According to Sandra Aldrich of Focus on the Family, a single mom herself, one Christmas her family could not afford to purchase gifts for one another, so they give gifts of time and service to one another. For example, her daughter wrote her a poem about how much she meant to her as a mother. Her son gave her a booklet of gift certificates for evening walks together. She recalls that Christmas being even more special than subsequent Christmases where her family could afford to buy gifts. How can your church help struggling single parents? Your church could act as an "incubator" to assist family businesses in getting started by allowing the limited use of the facilities for assembly or packaging projects. If someone in your church is an employer, why not encourage them to emphasize the hiring of single parents from within your church when needing additional workers? Your church could also set up a revolving loan program for single parents which could not only help them out of financial jams but could also provide them with a credit history.
Men, Front and Center!
One area of great need is for Godly male role models to spend time with the children of single mothers. The time pressures on single mothers are immense. Many of them are trying to hold down jobs to support their families, and parenting time is at a premium. Most importantly of all, many children of these single mothers have no godly male role model. Perhaps the men of your church could agree to spend time with the children of these single moms as "big brothers." Young men, boys and girls, with supervision, need to be around Christian husbands and fathers in order to learn how a Christian man treats women. Perhaps a man in your church who is already involved in Boy Scouts could make a special effort to include the son of a single mom in scouting activities. The men of your church could host a "Christian manhood" seminar or retreat for the boys and young men in the church in order to communicate godly truth about the role of the Christian husband and father, sexuality, and respect for women. Church families already involved in sports could invite the children of single parents to participate in their sports teams.
The vast majority of single parents these days are single mothers. Whether they became single through divorce or widowhood, many of these single mothers did not acquire the day-to-day skills they need in order to function in our country. For example, many single mothers do not know how to maintain a family budget, how to balance a checkbook, or how to perform routine auto maintenance. Why not ask your church members to organize an outreach to single mothers in your community by holding clinics on personal finance and budgeting? In addition, men handy with mechanical things might volunteer to change oil and perform minor tune ups on occasion. Your church might ask single moms to make up a "wish list" of items needing to be fixed or replaced around the house, and a team of workers could descend on the house to take care of it all in one day. Single fathers and their children would almost certainly enjoy a home-cooked meal brought to their home, even if no one is sick! With the huge increase in single parents evident in our society, the fields are white for harvest.
Do you run a Christian ministry for single moms/parents? Widows? Please contact us; we'd like to ask you a few questions!
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