There are approximately 15 million single mothers in the country today, and depending on what report you read, some suggest as many as 25 million. The single-parent home is the fastest-growing sector of our population. A child today is just as likely to be born outside marriage as within. Divorce rates still hold at roughly fifty percent. And there are grim statistics of poverty, low education, high crime, drug use, and more that plague many single parent homes.
But perhaps the most staggering statistic of all is that two out of three single moms in the country today do not actively attend a local church.
As part of the body of Christ, this bothers me immensely. But it isn’t enough to simply be “bothered.” We must be moved to action.
I was, by most accounts, a walking statistic for many years.
I wanted everyone to know just how wronged and hurt I was. My mother was killed, so I lived in a single parent home. My dad was an alcoholic who married six times. I was sexually abused for nine years, beaten, forced to steal, and forced to view pornography. I was pregnant four times by the time I was nineteen years old and although I was high school valedictorian and had scholarships to attend colleges nationwide, I wound up living in the projects on food stamps and welfare. I had little hope. I lived in domestic violence, duplicated abuse in my home, lived below the poverty line, and wouldn’t dare walk into a local church.
I had been raised in the local church, but I was convinced the walls of the church would cave down around me, if I walked back in with all the sin in my life.
I was certain I would not be accepted. I could never be as perfect as all the others inside the church. It was only at my breaking point, when I had absolutely nowhere else to turn, that I reached out to a local body of Christ. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt unworthy of love. Even though the congregation was cordial to me, there were no other single moms there and I didn’t feel I belonged. I was too old for the youth classes and too young for the adult classes.
Fast-forward several years: I became an active member of my local church (through great determination to overcome my own shame), got married, and secured a great job.
Yet, I never forgot those lonely times, huddled on a bathroom floor, feeling that no one else understood. After more than ten years, I left my corporate successes behind and took the leap of faith into full-time ministry. Through this God-given passion to see single mothers connected to the house of God, our team launched The Life of a Single Mom Ministries.
Single mothers across the United States and beyond struggle to find a place to fit in.
Many churches cater to the two-parent household and single mothers are left sitting alone at church, struggling to find a Sunday School Class or connect group for which they belong. They often “date” the church a few times and determine there is no place for them. Consequently, divorced, unwed, and widowed mothers leave the church and sometimes never return.
To date, TLSM Ministries has helped more than 500 churches in 19 countries launch or improve their single parent support ministry.
We estimate approximately 20,000 families have now connected to a local church through our efforts. We specialize in equipping the church with resources, support groups, and single parent events. The heart of TLSM (and we believe also the heart of our Father) is to see that no single mother walks alone.
Single moms belong in our churches, thriving and contributing.
One-time single parent events aren’t enough. Twelve-week divorce recovery classes are not enough. Ten-week single parenting classes aren’t enough. Single parent outreaches for Thanksgiving or Christmas aren’t enough. All of those things are wonderful, but they simply are not enough. Churches must have long-term, sustainable single parent ministries, so that single mothers can connect no matter their stage of parenting or their personal story.
What is your church doing to support single parents and how can you make a difference?
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single parent issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She has appeared in hundreds of media venues, included Daystar Television, The 700 Club, Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, and more. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook.
*Photo credit: Beyond Elements