Strengthening Single-Parent Families

by Monique Nunes

Traditional, two-parents families are, sadly, no longer necessarily the norm. How can the church assist single parents juggling work and children?

The reasons really do not matter. The personal pain or historical circumstances that have led to the reality are not a priority. What matters most is this: How can the church of Jesus Christ provide ministries of mercy and inclusion to everyone, including those living as single-parent families? Less than half of families now have two parents, yet so many congregations carry out programs as if traditional, two-parent families are the only kind.

There are many versions of single-parent families. So, how do we who have been saved by God’s mercy extend a merciful hand of support to those without spouses, some of whom feel horribly isolated?

    1. Look. Keep your eyes open for signs of singleness. Sometimes we are so preprogrammed to assume that everyone has a family like our own that we fail to take note of single-parent families. The majority of single-parent families are busy and hardworking. Looking for and finding opportunities to provide support is easy for eyes that are sensitized to the signs of singleness. Yes, keep your eyes open, and then keep your heart open as well (Eph. 1:18).
    2. Listen. Before we speak or presume that someone has a spouse, we should take the time to listen. “Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listening can also happen more formally as we establish opportunities for single-parent families to gather together and voice their concerns, their common opportunities, their dreams and their needs.
    3. Learn. As we listen to the concerns of single-parent families, we have opportunities to learn from them. We may learn that not all single-parent families are failing. Some are actually flourishing and have developed support systems that provide models for the church to replicate.
    4. Lead. It starts with you. It starts with intentionality. Perhaps God has placed you in a position to establish the help that single parents need. Perhaps you yourself are a single parent, and God is using your gifts to help others in that same position. On www.theparentreport.com, the author of “Life as a Single Parent” writes about why it is important to take care of yourself for the kids’ sake:

      “The job of raising kids on your own is . . . a tough one. After all, it’s single parents who must carry out all of the parenting roles . . . from provider to nurturer and all else in between. And that leaves little time for a social life. Yet, according to family life instructor Jodi Pemberton, there is no one who more needs a network of family and friends than the single parent. ‘It’s easy for a single parent to get themselves into a bubble,’ explains Pemberton. ‘Between work and quality time with the kids, a single parent has little time left to go out with friends, so they don’t network and get the support system that they need.’”  *

    5. Leave no family behind. No family deserves exclusion. Every type of family can benefit from a church marked by hospitality and openness (Heb. 13:2). Congregations can organize an evening of games, food, fun and fellowship in which social interaction across generations can occur. A buddy system can also be set up in which mutual accountability and checking in with one another happen through a quick phone call (which might include a telephone prayer), an email or SMS text message.

      For example, one family may need help with taking or picking a child up from school, and another family with homework, meals or transportation to and from the grocery store, doctor or church. Youth groups could have “sitter nights.” This will give the parent some needed time alone or time to connect with family and friends.

    6. Lean. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). We are not left without a source of strength, forgiveness and renewal on which to lean. The Holy Spirit provides this as we lean on God’s Word through hearing His Word preached and studying Scripture. Receiving Holy Communion regularly is a way of leaning on God’s power together as a family of faith, confessing together that Jesus is Lord. Basking daily in our baptismal forgiveness is a great way to lean on our Lord for help.

      Every day is a new day. Every family is a holy family. While programs matter and congregational activities are important, nothing is better than the power, presence and peace of God that surpasses all human understanding.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Parenting Families: From ME to WE
by Lutheran Hour Ministries
This is a DVD-based, six-session resource for improving parenting skills and building a stronger family—traditional, single-parent or blended.

Marriage by God’s Design
by Tim and LeeAnn Radkey
Today, there are a lot of conflicting ideas about what marriage is and isn’t. What does it all mean? Are there any concrete answers, or is it all just opinion?

Successful Single Parenting: Bringing Out the Best in Your Kids
by Gary Richmond
Overflowing with the truth of God’s love and grace, Successful Single Parenting offers practical ideas and suggestions to help you raise healthy, confident children in a supportive, loving family atmosphere.

Men, Fathers, Family, and the Life Issues
by Lutherans for Life
This downloadable resource covers topics from families living in a post-modern world to how men deal with abortion to parenting as a single father.

Go to www.cph.org

* Quote reprinted by permission of WM Communications Inc., www.TheParentReport.com© WM Communications. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Monique Nunes serves as an administrator at Baltimore Lutheran School, Towson, Md.

August 2011

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