If you’re a single parent, you’re in good company. There are more than 10 million single-parent families in the United States. Anywhere you look, you’re likely to find another single parent. Anywhere but church, that is. Only five percent of single parents regularly attend worship services. That’s an unfortunate statistic, because belonging at church is not a matter of marital status or having a partner in parenting. Because of the unity that comes from Christ, there’s a place for everyone in church.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then ye are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. —Galatians 3:28-29 KJV
Know you belong
This is a rich promise from God, and there’s great value in knowing that you belong, no matter what. But what does belonging at church look like, practically speaking? For all people, single parents included, building community with other church members is the key to getting connected and staying connected. Even for single parents, who often have jam-packed schedules and a laundry list of responsibilities, it’s possible to get plugged into your church and know that the people there will stick by your side through the good and the bad.
Join a group
Joining a group is a great step toward building community. You might be uncomfortable in a married couples study or a college-age singles class, but many churches have a variety of Sunday school classes or small groups, so find one that’s a good fit for you.
Consider joining a single-gender class, such as a women’s Bible study, because the members of such groups often span many age categories and phases of life. Find what connects you to others, and use that to help you select a group that you’ll fit right into. As a bonus, if you select a class that meets at the same time as your church’s youth or children’s programming, you’ll have the benefit of knowing that your kids are having fun and learning at the same time as you.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to feel like you belong. Serving gives you a sense of ownership in your church’s ministry and also helps you get to know others. Some single parents enjoy volunteering in the areas where their children are involved, because it provides an opportunity to bond with them. But if you find that a different area of service better meets your interests, don’t feel guilty; it’s good for your children to see that you are using your abilities to serve, even if it doesn’t involve them.
Consider your schedule as well as your talents, and try to select an area where you can help on a regular basis. Not only is consistency beneficial for your church, but also, the more you are involved in a volunteer position, the more it will help you plug into your church community.
Seek a ministry that’s a good fit for you
If you want to get connected with other one-parent families, think about seeking out a church with a single parent ministry. Not only can such a program help you meet other people who might deal with situations similar to yours, but it also can be a great resource for support. Some of these ministries offer free programs that are especially useful for single parents, such as home repairs, oil changes and babysitting nights. If your church doesn’t have a single parent ministry, consider talking to the leadership about how you could be involved in starting a program.
Developing deep friendships and building a support system at church does take time, but the sooner you jump into church life, the sooner you’ll develop a sense of community with the others around you. Even if you’re feeling stretched thin with parental responsibilities and other obligations, it’s worth investing time toward getting plugged in. In time, the payoff will be a strong support system that is there for both you and your children, as well as the confident assurance that your family is a valuable part of your church, where you most certainly belong.