Caring for single-parent families

Posted on January 6, 2014 · Posted in Culture, Parenting

Christian single-parents live in two worlds. As a part of the church world, they are in the minority. As a part of the world outside of church they are the majority. Parenting is challenging enough with two parents – it can be overwhelming with just one.

It is important for church leaders and two-parent families to recognize the challenges single-parent brothers and sisters face. This is important for the health of the entire church and our witness to the communities we serve. As Paul reminds us, if one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers as well.

Many of our single-parent families are struggling. This is not always easy to spot in a church environment. Worship services, educational times, and recreational events can form a deceptive picture. The real-life drama for many single-parents is challenging. It is not a matter of knowing how things should be. Single parents can figure out that their children should obey quickly as easily as their two-parent counterparts. The problem is not primarily information. Classes, books, and videos are not enough.

What is needed is biblical mentoring. Mentoring is not just instruction. It is hands-on, in-the-trenches working together to accomplish a common objective. Single parents need mentoring more than they need instruction.

For example, authority is a particular challenge for single-parent homes. There is little positive reinforcement for authority in our culture. So a single mom who requires obedience is often challenged by children who believe they should be able to do what they want. Yes, it seems clear how to address disobedience. But to a single mom dealing with multiple children, tasked with multiple roles, what is clear can be as distant as the moon in terms of application.

This is where mentoring comes in. Churches need to step up and lovingly interview their single-parent families about how they can help. Notice, I said interview, not interrogate! Find out where the struggles lie. Assign folks to work specifically with single families. Text, email, talk frequently. Spend time talking with the family as a whole. Talk about disobedience. Role play particular problems to see how they can be addressed biblically. Be prepared to spend time that is costly.

Single-parent families are the most common type of family unit in our culture. If we are effective in evangelism, our churches will have an increasing number of single-parent families. We have some hard work to do. We need to show the love of Christ and the power of his gospel to all of the families God brings to us.

What I have outlined here only begins to address what is needed. Each family and each church is different. We must face the realities that single-parent families face.  We must do so with respect, love and sacrifice. Let us begin to really care for our single-parent families.


Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.