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Jennifer Maggio Christian Blog and Commentary

Jennifer Maggio

The Life of a Single Mom

With an estimated 15 million single mothers in the United States and numbers increasing daily, it is imperative that the local church have a thriving single mothers program. And no, a one-time Mother's Day Banquet or annual Single Moms Oil Change isn't enough. Those are great programs and we love that churches around the country do them, but single moms desire long-term Bible studies, discipleship, and support groups.

It is estimated that 67% of single mothers do not actively attend church.  As the church – the body of Christ – this should pain us. It should keep us up at night. Many single mothers do not feel they belong in the house of God. The fear that they will be judged. They are concerned that others will not understand their journey.

It is important that we understand that single mothers, like all of us, desire genuine connection and fellowship with those who best understand our situation. We all want to know that someone has walked the path we are currently on, and not only survived, but thrived.

So, why should we formalize a single moms' ministry within the walls of our church?

The Bible tells us so. We have been commissioned with certain duties by the Lord. Psalms 146:9 informs us “He cares for the widows and orphans.” Luke 14:13 challenges us to “invite the poor.”  1 Timothy 5:3 advises us to “take care of the widow.” The widow, many times, is the single mom. The orphans are left by a single mom. The poor are often single moms.

Single parents are one of the fastest-growing sects of our population. What better way for our local churches to grow than to conect with the 9 million unchurched single mothers in the country? This respresents more than 20 million women and children and they are in our neighborhoods, grocery stores, and schools.

Single moms need more than just a Christimas toy drive once per year for her children. They appreciate that sort of thing, but she desires sustained connection with the house of God. She longs to learn more about financial stewardship and parenting effectively. She needs long-term fellowship with other single mothers in similar seasons of life. She wants to know that she is not alone.

A single moms' ministry is not the same thing as a singles ministry. I love singles ministries. I have great friends who run singles ministry. But singles ministries are typically co-ed environments. Many single mothers are recently divorced or vulnerable and need a private support group for women only. This allows the freedom to express concerns and hardships sans the added pressure of the opposite sex. Additionally singles ministries, at least in most churches, tend to be for 40s and up. Single moms in their 20s and 30s can often be missed when a church only conducts a singles ministry.

And perhaps the most important point – single moms ministries do not condone unwed pregnancy or divorce no more than addictions' ministry condones drug use. We know God's word calls us to live in sexual purity and that marriage was intended to last forever. We know that and embrace that, as believers. However, we cannot ignore that there are millions of single parent families that exist today. We must address the needs of those within our community who find themselves parenting alone.

Our mission on this earth, as Christians, is to populate Heaven and plunder Hell. We are to seek out the marginalized, hurting, broken, and poor. We are looking for those who do not know the love of the Father that we know. They do not know the Jesus that forgives all sin, erases all record of wrong, and loves unconditionally.

Jennifer Maggio is critically-acclaimed author and speaker who is also  founder The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. TLSM was founded from Maggio's own journey and resolve to not be just another statistic. Maggio has appeared on more than 100 radio and television shows and writes articles for dozens of magazines. Her products are endorsed by LifeWay Christian Stores, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and many more. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com

With almost 15 million single parents in the country today, many churches are beginning to focus on the need to minister to single parents more effectively. There can be tons of questions about how to minister to the needs of single parents in a more effective, creative, long-term way. One of those ways is through a single moms support group. It provides long-term discipleship, beyond simply an outreach, one-time event, or meal.

For those who have not started a single moms support group in your church, here are a few things you may want to know.  For those who have started a group and are frustrated with the lack of growth or possible issues within the group, read on. We'll try to help you with those questions, too.

Before I launched The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, I was fortunate enough to work and attend a great church that allowed me to explore what works and what doesn't with this people group. I made lots of mistakes along the way, but service within the church allowed me to gain great wisdom and insight on ministering to single mothers. 

Here are a few things I've learned that may help you in your single moms ministry endeavor:

- Recognize that not every single mom is a "churched" divorced single mom. Less than 1% of the 300,000 Christian churches in the country have single parent support groups. The few that do often focus on the single moms that are already in their church. This is a big problem, in light of the fact that only 33% of single moms attend church. In order to grow your support group, you must focus on reaching those outside your church.

Teach relevant materialIn my work with helping to grow single parent groups, one of the first things we do is change the teaching material. Many of the groups are teaching deep Bible studies on the book of Ruth, the Proverbs 31 woman, etc. While these are excellent teaching tools for the future, focusing on deep Bible study, when a single mom's life is potentially falling apart (financially, emotionally, and with her parenting skills) is not a timely message.

Meet at a time that is convenient for the momFriday nights, Saturday nights, or Sunday afternoons tend to work best. Moms who are parenting school-age children have homework to contend with. Wednesday nights tend to be most convenient for the church, as childcare workers are already available, but this is probably not the best time for the mothers. And if you want to begin to reach outside the walls of the church to bring in mothers who aren't yet connected, offering a more convenient meeting time is critical. In addition, a full work-week tends to make a single mom's support group a daunting task, not a welcomed break......but if you meet on a weekend, she is more relaxed and open to receive new friendships and experiences.

There are a ton of tips that we have found work, but this gives you a brief start. Having said all that, recognize that groups do not grow overnight. Be diligent and faithful with the women you have!  For more information on answering all single parent ministry questions, training new volunteers, growing the ministry, effective discipleship, logistics, and so much more, visit  http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.

Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and Chief Executive Officer for The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. TLSM is a global nonprofit committed to seeing no single mother walk alone. The focus of the ministry is to equip and empower churches to best reach single mothers. 

Battling Insecurity

            In junior high, it seems nothing can be worse than a new school year and the dreaded lunch break. It is the time when your social future is seemingly decided.  You awkwardly stumble through lunch line, heart pounding, as you receive the sloppy joe, boxed milk, and cold fries. You retrieve your plate and turn to find a seat. Inevitably, it happens. You quickly survey the room, scanning the crowd for even one familiar face, and everyone seems to have found their group of friends. Cliques form and many teen girls are convinced they don’t belong anywhere.

            I thought insecurity was marked for just the awkward pre-teen and teen years, until I broached my twenties with the same problems. In my early twenties, like many that age, I struggled to find who I was, where I fit in, and what I wanted for my future. It seemed that everyone had their lives more together than me. I fell into comparison, always struggling to measure up. It seemed someone always had a better life than me in so many ways. They were prettier, smarter, and more organized. They had more money and more friends. They were thinner and happier. Whatever the comparison, I struggled to move beyond it.

            I don’t think most would have known how insecure I was. I carried myself well at work and had friends, but my insecurity reared its ugly head in many ways.  If I walked by office staff at work, I was convinced they were talking ugly about me. I often isolated and didn’t want to meet new people in social settings. It gave me great anxiety. Upon meeting new co-workers or friends, I would shake their hand, convinced they were sizing me up and instantly they would see all my flaws. It caused me to not only isolate, but also to be angry or petty. Many times, my own insecurity would allow me to gossip about a new girl at work or make snide comments if she succeeded in an area. I didn’t rejoice in her victories, but rather demeaned them, as it only highlighted those things I felt about myself.

            It trickled into church life, too. I hated joining new Bible studies or groups at church, because when I walked into a new environment, I thought others would stare or possibly judge me. Sadly, the insecurity led to lonely nights at home and probably lost potential friendships, too.

            I am thankful to have walked the journey and grown in confidence of who Christ has created me to be. It has surprised me recently to see many women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond still struggling with the same insecurities I battled so many years ago. I guess I always thought that as you got older, insecurities just automatically dissipated.  It doesn’t. I am convinced that Satan’s plan is to whisper in our ear, constantly, how we don’t measure up and we never will. He convinces us others won’t understand, their lives are better than ours, and we will never be accepted.  Insecurities take root and if not careful, we become easily offended, bitter, angry, and petty.

Here’s some advice on battling the beast of insecurity:

  1. Recognize that everyone will battle. Insecurity isn’t just for awkward teen girls, single girls in their twenties, or even women for that matter. It is a tactic Satan would love to use against us all. In fact, he’ll use it more frequently, if he finds it successful in your life. You are not the only one.
  2. Know who you are. There have been times when my feelings didn’t necessarily line up with who God said I was. I didn’t feel strong, courageous, forgiven, hopeful, chosen, renewed, beautiful, complete, and free. But just because I didn’t feel those things didn’t mean that they weren’t true. Our feelings are dangerous. The Bible is full of great Scriptures that give us a glimpse into the love our Heavenly Father has for us and how he sees us. All else is a lie from the enemy who would attempt to convince you that you do not measure up.
  3. Guard against retaliation. You have likely been told by a friend, co-worker, or others something that wasn’t life-giving. Maybe someone made a snide remark, untrue statement, or devalued you in some way. Be slow to anger. Maybe they are battling insecurity in some way. Resolve to pray for that person, when it happens.

There are many Scriptures that can encourage you through insecurity and help you win the battle. Here are a few of my favorites:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

 

** Article first appeared at iBelieve.com.

Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker whose personal journey through homelessness, severe abuse, and single parenting leaves audiences riveted. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and Overwhelmed: The Single Moms Magazine. For more info, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.

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