The Church and the Single MomJuly 2010
By: Jennifer Barnes Maggio
She walks into the church and cautiously looks around with her four-year-old daughter in tow. She hesitantly makes her way to a pew at the back of the church and sits quietly, thumbing through her Bible, avoiding eye contact at all costs. She has contemplated this day for months. She wonders if she should be here. Does she really belong? A warm, friendly woman sits down and begins to make conversation with the four-year-old. The young mom is certain the woman notices her empty ring finger and hangs her head in shame.
The single mom is one of the fastest-growing sects of our population, so why have we, the church, ignored them for so long? According to the U.S. Census Bureau's article "Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support" released in November 2007, there are more than 13 million across the United States with 27 percent living in poverty and 24 percent receiving government assistance. Many of these single moms come from generations of single moms with no hope of ever breaking this cycle. Currently, 78 percent of our prison population comes from a single-parent home, according to the Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. A study released in March 2007 by University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine found that almost 50 percent of the single-parent homes have some form of sexual abuse.
Is it any wonder that 22 percent of all pregnancies today end in abortion (Guttmacher Institute, July 2008)? Potential single mothers are fearful that they simply cannot parent alone. They are scared — overwhelmed — with the idea. Where are the resources for single moms? Where can they go? Sure, there are government programs to put food in the mouths of her hungry children, but what about her emotional state? Where does she go for friendship and networking? How does she achieve financial success? Does she know the resources that are available to her, other than government assistance?
For far too long the church has run from the single mom. Some studies suggest as many as 67 percent of single moms currently do not attend church — many citing fear of being judged as key. Of course, we offer them food when they are hungry. We may occasionally perform a home repair or provide toys at Christmas. However, do we stop there? Dare we open a Sunday school class exclusively for single moms? A Bible study? Or even a full-scale ministry?
It seems that many churches fear what others may perceive about a single mom's ministry. We know that God meant marriage to be forever (Malachi 2:16, Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:8). We also know that our God commands sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 6:13, Galatians 5:19). Does ministering to single moms mean that we, as the church, condone unwed pregnancy or divorce? Of course not — any more than drug rehabilitation programs support drug use.
If we don't reach out to them, who will? For many, the only counseling they receive is from the local government-run health unit, where they simply receive a pat on the back and a safe-sex discussion. Are you okay with these precious moms receiving a condom, or should we be giving them Christ? How can they make it without Christ filling them and renewing them daily? How do they not simply give up?
As Christians, our heavenly Father has commissioned us with several tasks. Psalms 146:9 says, "He upholds the widow and the fatherless." Luke 14:13 calls us to "invite the poor." I Timothy 5:3 advises us to "honor widows." The widow, oftentimes, is the single mom. The orphans are left by a single mom. The poor are the single moms.
As a former unwed, teen mom, I can tell you that 15 years ago when I began the journey, there was nothing for single moms at the local church. I was ashamed and fell away from church attendance. For almost 7 years, I hung my head in shame.
Whether unwed or divorced, many single moms need parenting advice, financial instruction, emotional support via networking, and spiritual growth opportunities. Let us find these women in our communities, both the churched and the unchurched. Let us minister to them at their point of need. Let us begin the single moms groups. Praise God for the cutting-edge churches across the country that have already embraced the concept! Has yours?
For more information on how to start a single mom's ministry, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.
Jennifer Maggio, author of Overwhelmed: The Life of a Single Mom, currently runs a single mom's ministry, where she has counseled several hundred single moms. As a former unwed, teen mom, Jennifer has a passion to reach out to these women and encourage them to live the life God intended, free of shame and guilt.