Sixteen years ago, I was a homeless, severely abused, teen mom pregnant for the fourth time. I eventually found myself living in the projects using food stamps and welfare simply to make ends meet. It certainly wasn’t the life I had dreamed of. Perhaps it was the fact that my mother was killed or that my father was an alcoholic who married six times to mask the devastation of her death. Maybe it was the countless sexual abusers in my life. Or maybe it was the years of failed relationships that I foolishly hoped would give me value. Whatever the reason, this lifelong church girl was certain I belonged anywhere but the local church.

There are approximately 15 million single moms in the United States. And with divorce rates at 50% and 1 in every 2 babies being born outside marriage, these numbers are expected to rise. 67% of today’s single parents are not actively attending a local church (The Church and the Single Mom, Carepoint 2011). Yet, less than 1% of all Christian Evangelical churches have any type of formalized single mother’s program and outreach plan.

Even as you read, many of you may be thinking of single moms that are thriving in your church. You may be thinking of Angela who had a rough divorce, but has now bounced back and is thriving in the house with her two precious kiddos. But for every Angela in your church, there are two other single mothers in your community convinced they don’t belong there. Many cite fear of judgment and rejection as reasons why they don’t have a home church.

You may have a Singles’ Ministry or Divorce Recovery Program. Maybe your church does an annual Single Moms’ Oil Change or Mother’s Day Banquet. All of those things are beautiful starts to an effective single parent program. But we must go beyond that. Singles Ministries tend to be an older, co-ed, program that may not work for your 20s, 30s, and 40s single moms fresh out of a failed relationship. I’m a huge proponent of Divorce Recovery, but what happens after the 10 weeks end? What about the moms who were never married? Banquets and events are great ways to serve single mothers and reach new moms, but be certain that you have a formalized Bible study, Connect Group, or Single Moms’ Ministry to plug them into for long-term discipleship and fellowship.

So, what’s your God-given passion? Poverty? Abuse? Crime? Homelessness? Human trafficking? Orphans? You name the passion and I’ll quote you the statistic that ties them directly or indirectly back to single parent homes – moms and kids that are precious to our King.

Father, let us never see these families as merely a statistic or a number. May we never paint them all with the same brush. Let us be a living vessel for James 1:27. Give us creative, fresh, new ideas on reaching the unreached. Amen.

(Article first appeared at http://www.arcchurches.com)

Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker who travels the country sharing her personal story of homelessness, abuse, and teen pregnancy. She is founder of the global nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom, and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. For more information, visit http://www.jennifermaggio.com.