Serving Kids and Single Parent Families
In the best of times, single parenting can be challenging. Mix in a global pandemic—quarantines, isolation, economic depression, disrupted school schedules, and more—and it can feel unbearable. All around the church, opportunities abound for serving those who are hurting and in crisis situations. For those of us who serve kids and families, our single parents present us with a wide-open door of ministry to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those parenting alone.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, consider offering some very practical support to the single parents in your ministry:
- Check in. Give them a call or sed them a text letting them know you are thinking of them and praying for them.
- Let them know they can call you. Often times, single parents don’t have someone to check in with them at the end of the day or during disruptive times. They need another adult. Let them know they can depend on you and call when needed.
- Lend a hand. Offer practical support like helping pick-up the groceries, watch the kids, or run an errand for them. Consider putting together and providing a list of members in the local church who are willing to serve single partners with specific needs such as auto mechanic work, appliance repair, or school tutoring for the kids.
- Be emergency support. Assure them that you are available to help whenever the needs arise, especially if there are emergencies. Often times just knowing someone is there and cares about them, gives the single parent peace of mind.
What else can your church and children’s ministry do to meet the needs of these kids and their families?
What attitudes might be keeping your children’s ministry team from addressing the needs of kids and their single parents? The needs of single parent families are overwhelming. How can our ministry possibly meet them?
Yes, the needs of single parent families are overwhelming — family finances, childcare while the parent works, emotional issues resulting from loss of one parent and loneliness of single parent, discipline of children, children’s educational needs, etc. Can we turn our back on these needs?
Do you remember the story of Jesus feeding five thousand men besides women and children? The disciples were aware of their hunger and suggested that they be sent away to find food elsewhere. Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16, NIV). The disciples satisfied the hungry people with the resources that were available to them—five loaves and two fish.
Surely God does not intend for our single parents and their children to look elsewhere outside of the church for their needs to be met. Let’s use the resources available to us and expect God to multiply our efforts.
Ideas You Can Use
Meet the Challenges
Having children of single parent families in your children’s ministry does pose some challenges. Don’t ignore these challenges. Confront them and determine ways to overcome them.
Challenge #1. Alternate-weekend kids.
Children of divorce often spend every other weekend and an extended vacation time with the other parent. This means that the child does not attend your children’s ministry regularly. How can you overcome this challenge?
- Don’t overemphasize weekly attendance.
- Record both parents’ mailing addresses and phone numbers. Mail important information to both addresses.
- If possible, keep track of each child’s visitation schedule. When a child is absent, call him at the home of the other parent to let him know he was missed. If the child has email, keep in contact regularly via e-mail.
- If you have a several children who are alternate weekend kids, don’t do projects that require more than one session to complete.
- As much as possible, plan fun events and special programs on the weekend that the majority of the alternate weekend kids will be present.
Challenge #2. Focus on the family.
How does your ministry depict family? Many times teaching, programs, events, and even logos and announcements focus on the two-parent family. Make a conscious effort to include every type of family in your ministry.
- Watch out how you label ministries and events. If you don’t have a dad, a Father-Son fishing trip doesn’t sound too inviting.
- Don’t fail to teach God’s plan for the family but do emphasize that God loves and blesses every family that seeks Him.
- Let each child and his parents know that they are an important and valued part of the local church family—which is God’s family.
- Emphasize likenesses rather than differences.
Meet the Needs
Children and parents of single parent families often have unique or more pressing needs. Here are some ideas that you might implement in an effort to meet those needs.
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Ask teens and single young adults in your congregation to volunteer to be a “big brother” or a “big sister” to a child from a single-parent family. These volunteers could spend time with a child helping with homework, teaching a skill needed for participation in a sport or hobby, or just “hanging out.”
- Divorce Recovery Support Group. Offer children who have recently experienced the divorce of their parents the opportunity to participate in a support group. In the support group they can share their experiences and learn life skills that will help them cope better. Several programs are currently available:
- Involve them. Involve the child in the life and ministry of the local church. Don’t let obstacles such as attendance on alternate weekends or lack of transportation, keep the child from being a part of ministry or service opportunities. Do everything possible to make sure he is a part of what’s happening in your ministry.
Single Parents’ Needs
- Childcare. Often single parents have no one to turn to when they need someone to care for their child. Develop a list of trustworthy people in your local church who would be willing to provide childcare when needed. As much as possible, offer childcare arrangements for all events that involve parents.
- Parenting Tips. Often single parents need someone to talk with about childrearing problems. Ask capable parents to come alongside of single parents was mentors. Also provide help with various parenting challenges in the form of information sheets, training materials (books, podcasts, articles), and support groups.
- A Sense of Belonging. As much as possible, involve single parents in the life and ministry of the local church. Invite them to be a member of the parent council or to chaperone a children’s outing or teach a class. However, be sure that you don’t place too many demands on them.
- Recognition. Acknowledge single parents in your local church.
- Single Parent Sunday. Some churches create an awareness of single-parent households and also provide encouragement to these single-parents and their children during Single Parent Sunday. Single Parent Sunday might include—
- Single parents serving as greeters, ushers, etc.
- Specific needs of single parents and their children such as carpooling, childcare, maintenance, tutoring, etc. listed in the bulletin. Provide a response form that can be completed and placed in the offering plate or given to an usher.
- Invite a single parent to share his/her story.
- A message that focuses on issues of single parent families and God’s provision.
- A prayer time for our single parent families.
- Honor single parent families with a gift certificate or coupon for a free service such as housecleaning, childcare, meal preparation, car maintenance.
- Fellowship with single parent families at a luncheon with the pastor’s family and the children’s ministry staff and their families.
- Remember birthdays and holidays.
- Parent Birthday. Help the child of a single parent prepare a card and a small craft for his parent’s birthday.
- Let each member of your children’s ministry team sign a birthday card for a single parent. Include a small gift and notes of encouragement with the card.
- Make sure that single parent families have what is needed to celebrate important holidays such as Christmas and Easter. If they and their children will be alone on the holiday, make sure they have received an invitation to celebrate with another church family or plan a celebration for all the single parent families.
Kidshare: What Do I Do Now?
Designed for children whose parents have divorced or remarried, Kidshare helps you provide a safe place for kids to talk about their feelings. KidShare helps kids grow emotionally and spiritually, look forward to the future with optimism and discover they can trust God to help them daily.
Facilitator Guide ISBN 0805498885, Price $12.95
Can Anyone Fix My Broken Heart?
Hope for Children of Divorce
The author draws from her own personal experience to bring hope to children affected by the tragedy of divorce. Illustrator Abigail Garner portrays a young boy walking through his parent’s divorce. ISBN 157921228X, Price $6.99
Helping Children Cope With Divorce
Designed to help congregations plan and implement a support group for children ages 6-10 whose parents have experienced divorce, this all in-one book includes 8 easy-to-use session plans, reproducible activity pages, a sample registration form, a leader training session and a bibliography of additional helpful resources. ISBN 0881772704, Price $19.95 These resources are available from Lifeway Christian Resources.
DivorceCare for Kids
DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) support groups are a safe, fun place where children can learn skills that will help them heal. DC4K groups blend, games, music, stories, videos and discussion to help kids process the divorce and move forward. Groups meet weekly and are designed for children ages 5-12. Find out m ore at https://www.dc4k.org.
This blog includes some information first published in the Children Ministries Newsletter, Volume 7, Issue 7, July 2003