"The widows and orphans of our society are
found in single-parent families," Gary says.
We may miss the opportunity to benefit from the presence of
single-parent families by having any of the following unproductive
- "This man needs a wife!" or "This woman needs a husband!"
- Healthy marriages will somehow be contaminated by hanging
around with divorced people.
- If we support a single-parent family, it's the same as approval
of divorce. None of these attitudes could be further from the
truth. The richness that comes to our churches through the healing
experienced in divorced families is a precious gift of God and
speaks volumes about the love of the reconciling God we serve.
"Many churches are family-oriented," says Linda. "In the mind of
the church, we mean to include everyone who attends. But in the
mind of a single parent, the word 'family' alone can be
Linda suggests that we make a conscious effort to use inclusive
phrases such as "church family" instead of "family." The idea that
marriage and parenting are synonymous with family is a big mistake
in today's world. We need to offer opportunities for all kinds of
families-two-parent, single-parent, non-parent (no children in the
home), and other-parent (children live with people who aren't their
parents)-to come together as the redeemed community of Christ.
We also need to be aware of the subtle ways we portray families.
If our church logos picture a mom, dad, and two kids, we may
unintentionally alienate a whole group of people. To look at your
church's events through the eyes of a sensitive single parent,
consider these issues:
- Are the events named in such a way that they welcome
individuals and families of all kinds? It's worth sacrificing cute
titles, such as "Doughnuts With Dad," for the sake of making
everyone feel welcome.
- Are the images inclusive of all kinds of family configurations?
Remember there are families of all kinds: two-parent,
single-parent, non-parent, and other-parent.
- Are child-care arrangements offered for all events that involve
parents? This is especially a need for single parents.
- Have you considered how to make each event easier for
single-parent families? For example, many single parents are better
able to participate in midweek events if a meal is provided.
Your church can be a haven of peace and acceptance to families
recovering from the crisis of divorce. Provide a place of
consistency in the lives of children and parents as they begin
their healing process. As you nurture and care for these new family
units, being careful to address the specific needs of individual
families, you'll bear witness to the restoring power of God's
Lori Niles, associate pastor of family ministries at
Moreland Church of the Nazarene in Portland, Oregon, teaches
children's ministry at Nazarene Bible College. Please keep in mind
that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to
It may seem difficult to keep up with the needs of children who
live in two families, so use these suggestions from veteran
- Design all forms to reflect the possibility of two parental
- Enter both parents' addresses into your database under the
- Send mail addressed to the child to both addresses.
- Assign all the children in-house mailboxes so you can put
important papers and notices into the boxes. Children with
non-weekly attendance can collect their things without missing
- Minimize projects or lessons that require cumulative
participation. Instead, do lessons and projects that can be
completed in one session.
- Avoid or limit emphasis on weekly attendance. If you have to
keep track of attendance, don't use charts or public displays that
make a child's attendance stand out. Avoid giving prizes for
- Be sensitive about inviting both parents to attend an event
together if their relationship is hostile. However, make every
attempt to involve both parents in the joy of spiritually leading
their child or children.
- Present your event calendars to families as far in advance as
you can so they can make visitation modifications if
- Invite grandparents on both sides of the family for extended