10 Things Single Mom Ministries Should Always Be
By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
With more than 22 million single parents in the U.S. and numbers continuing to rise, many churches are beginning to create single moms’ or single-parent ministry programs, including outreach and discipleship. Many of these plans include regular Bible study meetings via a Sunday School class, connect group, home study, ministry, or some similar structure. This is especially exciting to me. As a former single mom who struggled getting planted back in a local house of worship for some time, what I wouldn’t have given for a formal single moms’ ministry to be offered at a local church during that season! I walked back into that local church in 1999, and the journey of getting connected and growing was a difficult one, but one I learned much from.
In 2003, I married and was no longer a single mom, but I never forgot the moments of feeling like I didn’t fit in or the struggles of parenting alone. That season was one that forever changed me. What I learned during that season later birthed a national ministry in 2011 committed to helping churches forge strong, meaningful, and sustainable ministry plans for the single mother and/or single parent family. A few thousand churches later (and many mistakes along way), there are a few things that I’ve learned about how to start, grow, and nurture a single mom’s ministry within the church.
And without a doubt, there are ten things a single moms’ ministry should always be:
Statistics suggest that 67% of single mothers do not actively attend a local church in their community. The reasons are likely many, and some beyond our control, but as a leader of a single moms’ ministry, consider ways to create a welcoming environment within your group. Do you have warm and friendly greeters at the entrance of your meeting? Do you have spotters placed inside the group to intentionally sit with those sitting alone? Have you coached leaders and volunteers on effective ways to make small talk? Do you have diversity in age and race on your leadership or volunteer teams? Other ideas include creating a welcome gift for new members or a welcome team to follow up with new attendees.
Many single mothers work two jobs, attend post-secondary education, and/or juggle homework, football practice, and household duties, just to name a few. In order to solicit attendance to an additional Bible study, the meeting day and time needs to be convenient for busy single mothers. Consider the difference in attendance between mid-week services and weekend services at church. This is usually due to the demand on peoples’ schedules. While it would be impossible to select a day that is convenient for every single mom, as their schedules are as varied as their stories, I have found that weekend meetings are far more popular in attendance. Consider hosting single-mom ministry meetings on weekend evenings or a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
I was told a long time ago that honor goes a long way in relationship-building. When people know they are respected and treasured, they are more likely to listen. Single moms’ ministries should always be honoring single mothers, including being sensitive to the variety of arrivals to that journey, respecting the diversity of the experience, e.g., death, divorce, adoption/fostering, unwed pregnancy, etc., as well as their season of life. Some mothers have walked with the Lord for many years, while others are meeting him for the first time, so take care to be aware. However, honor should not stop with single mothers. It should include honoring volunteers and leaders who serve within the ministry, as well as pastors and church leaders who have approved the ministry. We always honor in word and deed.
As a very busy, type-A mom of three, nothing is quite as frustrating as attending an unorganized event. Organization also lets attendees know that you honor their busy schedule and honor the Lord’s anointing on the ministry. Organization could include a number of things. Here are a few: starting & ending on time, being prepared for the lesson, planning meals and childcare in advance, pre-planning duties for volunteers, gathering all necessary supplies for event, advertising, communicating with attendees pre- and post-event, and more. While no one is expected to prepare for every scenario, events and groups run far more smoothly when leaders have taken the time to prepare in advance.
While parenting, in general, is quite an adventure, single parenting is all the more complex. Take the time to research curriculum that enhances the overall life skills of single moms, including but not limited to, parenting techniques, money management strategies, and emotional and spiritual health. Creative additional topics could include, minor car & home repairs, cooking on a budget, healthy movement, and others.
While life skills are important, nothing will replace a fully surrendered heart to the Lord. Any number of programs teach 15 parenting techniques or the 8 best ways to save money, but knowing the Savior who heals, redeems, restores, renews, gives hope, expands the fishes and loaves, gives wisdom, and moves mountains, changes everything. He will make a way when there seems to be none. He will provide guidance in various parenting seasons. He will offer the peace that makes no sense. This is critical to every single mother's group.
Loving people is being honest with them. As with every meaningful relationship, it is important that leaders are honest with attendees of the single moms’ group to identify potential red flags, offer insight into difficult situations, and display growth areas in their lives. The purpose of studying God’s Word and gathering in community is for iron to sharpen iron. This means we have to tell loved ones difficult things, such as when they are being unfair, unreasonable, disrespectful, or immature. God calls us up to a higher level. We must give truth, when moms aren’t walking in the ways of the Lord or need attention in an area. This is to always be done in love, compassion, sensitivity, and care, followed by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Ensure content in the group is relevant to the mothers’ experience. For example, if the majority of mothers attending all have school-aged children, then teaching lessons on toddlers and infants is probably not relevant to their season. Further, if many of your attendees aren’t churched or haven’t known the Lord for a long time, then perhaps a 12-part study on the book of Revelation should be skipped. Likewise, popular Christian authors who share stories about their husbands throughout the entire curriculum may not resonate with attendees.
The purpose of any Bible study for each of us – single moms, married moms, spiritual moms, young, young at heart – is that we’d enter a deeper and deeper relationship with the King of kings and that we’d know more fully his plan for our lives and his instruction on how to lives. This means that every leader, member, and volunteer should be committed to growing, changing, and having our lives transformed by the Lord.
Have some fun! Schedule a game night. Enjoy a trivia night. Host a barbecue or summer social. Laugh together. Play icebreakers at the beginning of every meeting. Give away door prizes. Attend roller skating or bowling events together. Teach moms to laugh again and not take themselves too seriously. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/rosiesun
Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others.