- Larry Burkett Co-CEO of Crown Financial Ministries
- 1999 5 May
Dana (not her real name) vividly described how she had raised one boy and two girls on her own. At times, she had to work as many as three jobs, leaving very little time for her children.
Anyone around her should have been able to see her plight, and she kept hoping that someone in her church would reach out to her family. Unfortunately, no one did.
"I never have really asked for money," she wrote, "but I have asked for assistance in raising my children, I mean, that some of the Christian men in the church would on occasion take my kids under their wings and do some 'dad stuff' with them. If God ever convicted anyone's heart with the importance of this, no one ever yielded to that conviction."
Were the people of Dana's church insensitive or just unsure about how to respond to a single parent? Did they shun her because of her past, or were they simply at a loss for words around someone who didn't seem to fit into any of their church programs?
As the ranks of single parents have grown, the church has been overwhelmed by this new ministry challenge. At the same time, this challenge is an opportunity to duplicate the practical and spiritual outreach of the 1st century church, which is well-documented in the book of Acts.
To help churches understand the needs of single parents and establish ministries to these people and their families, CFC has developed a "Single Parent Ministry Training" seminar.
This seminar was a long-time goal of CFC's founder, Larry Burkett, who came face-to-face with the needs of single parents while doing financial counseling with Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1970's.
"In general, single parents were living on incomes less than half those of families I previously had been counseling," Larry recalls. "They had the same expenses for household items and additional expenses for child care that most didn't have."
"Small things, like minor car repairs, became major crises in their finances. Large items, such as orthodontic care, became insurmountable barriers that plunged them into debt and despair."
According to an article in the December 11, 1998 issue The Washington Post, single parent families now account for 27 percent of all families with children.
Even worse, many of these families have become so destitute that they're living on the streets. The need is growing, and Stephen Burger, executive director of the International Union of Gospel Missions, said last year that missions are having to develop or enhance programs for women and children. In a 1998 survey of 20,000 homeless people, Burger's organization found that 66 percent of the people it served were women with children, an increase of 20 percentage points compared to 1989.
However, helping single parents is not a job reserved for rescue missions serving homeless people in large cities. There are single parents everywhere: in churches, in the workplace, and in neighborhoods.
CFC's "Single Parent Ministry Training" seminar acquaints churches with the needs of single parents, shows them what other churches are doing, and gives them an overview of the financial struggles these people face. Then, it helps churches nail down their vision for single parent ministry and begin working to make that vision a reality.
God has placed His people on this earth to be His arms as well as His voice. Thus, the world's perception of God depends greatly on how the church fulfills its mission.
"I feel as though [God] has really let us down," Dana wrote, "that because the church didn't think my children's lives and souls were important, that [God] doesn't either, but in my heart I know that can't be true."
Regarding her church, Dana added, "Only one of [my] three children attend. They preach the word, but the truth is that they don't know us, and really none of them have taken the time to even try. They run about 200 in service, they have lots of programs, but we don't seem to fit into any of them."
Later, she wrote, "My son has proclaimed that he is an atheist, and neither of my daughters really think Christians are any different than anyone else, except that they criticize others a lot ... I just don't know what to think, or what to do, or where to go anymore. I've lost all faith in the church and whose love and caring amounts to nothing but empty promises and lip service."
Sadly, many other single parents may be feeling the same emotions. In the meantime, the Christians around them may be touched by their problems but unsure of what to do.
CFC has trained 50 churches around the nation in single parent ministry, and the door is open for other churches who'd like to begin this outreach, which has become so vital today.
Editor's note: For information about CFC's "Single Parent Ministry Training" seminar, contact Brenda Armstrong, CFC's single parent ministry director, at (770) 534-1000 or click here: CFC's "Single Parent Ministry Training".