Being a single parent in a two parent church

Posted on June 11, 2013 · 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 more of the norm. Being a parent is challenging enough with two parents – it can be overwhelming with just one.

It is important for leaders and two-parent families recognize the challenges their 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 suffering. 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. 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 what is clear can be as distant as the moon in terms of application.

This 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.

If cultural trends continue as they are, it won’t be too long before our churches will be primarily made up of single families. We have some hard work to do. We need to show the love of Christ and the power of his gospel.

What I have outlined here only begins to address what is needed. Each family and each church is different. I believe that we must face the realities that single-parent families face.  We must do so with respect, love and sacrifice. Let us not be like those who say be warmed and filled and then shut the door. Let us begin to really care for our single parent families.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.