This month’s Partner Resource is Michelle Donnelly, founder of Agape Moms and host of “The Christian Single Moms Podcast.” She gave our M2P members a valuable handout, “A Discipling Guide for Single Parents,” so youth and children leaders can train volunteers and encourage single parents. Today, she shares with us 5 ways churches can encourage single moms. We are thankful for Michelle’s work because we believe an integral space and place within the church belongs to the single parent.
5 Ways Churches Can Encourage Single Moms
Guest Post by Michelle Donnelly from Agape Moms
When I became a single mom three years ago, I needed my church community more than ever. While I was trying to heal from the wreckage of a failed marriage, my kids and I were in a tailspin of overwhelming daily needs and emotional upheaval. And while things have leveled off for us since that time, we still rely heavily on our “support community” to help us with our spiritual, social, emotional, and physical needs.
Not every single mom has such a support network. Many have lost friends and family. Some have had to change churches or are newly discovering a relationship with God. Others are escaping dangerous situations. Regardless of the circumstances, many single moms desperately pray for a place where they and their children can feel they truly belong.
God has designed for believers to belong to one another, to share in meeting each other’s needs (Romans 12:5). Furthermore, Psalm 68:6 (a) says, “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy” (NLT). God’s family is the place where the lonely, like single mothers and their children, are able to find connection and care.
Understanding the needs and limitations of single moms in your congregation will help you to better anticipate and meet the needs of these women and their children. (And yes, this absolutely goes for single dads too…) To help you with identifying and serving the needs of the single parents in your community, here are five things single moms would want you to know:
1. Making it to church is a huge win.
For many single moms, making it to church on Sunday is a big victory for a variety of reasons. Firstly, many single moms feel as though they don’t have a place in the church. Many feel as though they are walking around with a scarlet letter, that their challenges or failures are openly exposed. And while most of us didn’t plan on becoming single moms, it’s not uncommon for women in this situation to have received more criticism than compassion.
On top of that, walking through a sea of traditional families on Sunday mornings often reminds single moms of what we don’t have. It’s a reminder of the life we lost and of the pain that caused our present circumstances. And when everyone is else is smiling and laughing around you, it is the loneliest feeling in the world.
Beyond that, we may already be exhausted by the time we walk through the door! Every parent can relate to the challenges of getting kids ready for church, but doing it alone takes it to another level.
What to do: If you see a single mom at church, go out of your way to let her know that you appreciate her and that you are happy to have her and her children there.
2. Our kids need extra encouragement.
Our kids have been through a lot. And just as single moms can find church emotionally triggering, sometimes our kids have the same experience. They all show it differently- some will act out, becoming hyperactive or even aggressive, while others will appear withdrawn. The kids of single parents have experienced some kind of major life shift and may not really know where they fit in the world.
What to do: Our kids need to know that they matter. Special assignments or “jobs,” such as passing out snacks or helping with clean up, can help our kids know that they are needed and have a place in the church community.
3. Parenting without backup is challenging.
Parenting involves a combination of nurturing, instruction, and accountability that is best delivered through two parents supporting one another. Some parents are inherently more strict, while others are more lenient, but two healthy parents are often able to work together to provide balance for their children. Single moms have to do the work of two parents alone, and it feels both exhausting and ineffective.
What to do: Having other adults that we trust to coach our kids is essential. Find out what issues a single mom is working on with her kids at home so you can encourage her children more specifically.
4. We appreciate support in our daily lives.
Most single moms juggle the work of providing for their families, managing a household, and raising kids alone. Some may have a great support network who are able to help lighten the load, but others have little to no involvement of friends, family, and/or their children’s father. Often this results in a lack of rest and a reduction in quality time with our kids.
What to do: Find members of the congregation who have skills that would benefit a single mom and her children. They can deliver a meal, help with homework, change oil, teach her kids to do basic home repairs, throw a football, or babysit. Nothing is too small!
5. We need help but may not always know how to ask for it.
We may be afraid to ask for help for fear of appearing overly emotional or needy, or we may just be so used to doing everything on our own that we tend to simply rely on ourselves. We may not even realize that there are people in the church who are willing to help us, and we may not know if we can trust them.
What to do: Be proactive. Check-in on the single moms in your congregation regularly to find out how the church can serve them better. Single moms need consistent care, and regular check-ins are an easy way to let us know you are part of our team.
I hope these 5 ways give you, as a church, just a few ideas on how to encourage single moms.
Michelle Donnelly is a single mother of three and firmly believes that women can discover a life of peace, power, and purpose as they journey with God through brokenness and heartbreak. Her passion for single mothers led her to develop an online resource community for single moms called Agape Moms. She is also the producer/ host of The Christian Single Moms Podcast and author of Seen: Hope and Healing for Single Moms.
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