I want to speak to the church as a single mother in hopes that someone will listen.
As a single mother, never married, I began our single moms' group with Cypress Church in Columbus, Ohio, in March, 2014 and we have quickly grown to over 70 single mothers with nine small groups from all stages and circumstances of life. We have been able to witness baptisms of both mothers and their children, countless stories of life transformation and rededications to Christ, and children are learning first-hand what Christ can do if we put our trust in him!
I have found an incredible church of people who embrace and love me unconditionally, but there have been many occasions where I never felt like I truly fit in. Those feelings most likely evolved from my own insecurities, but lack of knowledge and awkwardness by others about the issues surrounding single parents also posed challenging circumstances. This was really not the fault of anyone, but the issues were almost never openly discussed.
For those who have grown up in the church and are familiar with Scripture, the Bible's clarity regarding widows is unmistakable, when one had a spouse who is deceased. Simple to understand, right? However, a single mother who is divorced or even worse, never married? How does this fit in?
Well, I've discovered that it fits in perfectly! We are a family with a missing parent in the home. We are a walking demonstration of God's perfect love, mercy, forgiveness, and redemption for those of us who have turned to him and made him our Lord and Savior.
If I could express the intimate thoughts and feelings of a single mother for just a moment, I hope to illustrate a way that Jesus is desperately needed in our churches. I'm not single, but I'm not married. These thoughts always taunt me with a feeling like a twisted twilight zone when I let myself think about it. I don't quite blend well with singles groups who can choose to socialize at any day and time. Not that I have time for that, but if I did, I would need to pay for childcare that I have no money for.
I don't quite fit in with married women, either. I weep silently and alone behind closed doors after my children go to bed, because they have witnessed more than any child ever should, and to even hint that I am burdened would wound them even more. My burden is with the heavy responsibility of two parents. I am just half a paycheck away from having no food in my refrigerator, and my rent is a week late.
My children's father is absent. I want the best for my children, but I am exhausted trying to consistently love and discipline them after working two jobs that pay minimum wage. My poor children are starving for my completely drained attention. I am often hurt by comments from some well-meaning women who casually discuss other people's children misbehaving. The children mentioned are my best friend's children, and she is a single mother as well.
I will observe from a distance for a long period to see if your fruit is real and I will pull away and isolate myself if I sense judgement. And 9.9 times out of 10, I will not ask for your help, no matter how dire my need. I refuse to be that woman others complain about–abusing our country's welfare system. And the last thing I need from you is pity.
What do I plead for from the church? I pray that my children and I are loved and accepted unconditionally by you while we try to live in a world that floods us with words and actions that say we can never be good enough.
I believe all churches should have a single moms' support group. Why? "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling" (Psalm 68:5). If God is a father to the fatherless and defender of widows, then when the world looks to the church, they should also see the tangible face of Jesus. However, only about one percent of all churches in the United States have some form of active single moms' support group!
While the fight for preserving the family unit must continue, we must also intervene with hope and connection in the midst of the growing population of single parents and their children.
Over twenty-four million children are currently in single-parent homes (85% headed by mothers), and seven out of ten of those children live in poverty. It is well-documented that these children, without strong outside involvement and support, are 10-20 times more likely to suffer problems with emotional adjustments, educational failure, abuse, neglect, trafficking, homelessness, incarceration, addiction, abortion, and other issues.
Although statistics appear to be discouraging, there is good news! First and foremost, we know that we have a Father in heaven immeasurably larger than any brokenness we experience here on earth and by firmly standing on this truth, we can overcome evil in this life. Secondly, having a sustainable Christian-based single moms' group makes it four times more likely that she will connect to a local church. What makes this so significant? Only one-third of all single mothers attend any church, meaning that most of them and their children are unreached and desperate for the connection and support that a local church could be offering.
What can we do? Invite, invite, invite! If she turns down the offer, don't give up. She may have been hurt by the church or someone. Remember that we are walking witnesses. Ask her out for coffee and get to know her; get to know her story. She is constantly giving to others and for someone to want to see her for who she is, is something she longs for. She desperately wants to feel connected, but is afraid of judgement. Let her know that it is okay! Form a small group. This is the best way to keep retention and sustainability. This is where we will see women place their faith in Christ and experience significant life transformations. In a world that that is brutal and fake, authenticity is something she craves!
Does your church really want to make a difference in our troubled society? You can go right to the heart of it and reach the most at-risk children before it's too late. If you would like more information for how to begin and maintain a single moms' group within your church, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. [Stacy Yeager, M.Ed. (ASCP)cm]