There are plenty of outside referral programs; single parents NEED to feel welcomed and catered to right in their own church. We just held this past March the second annual Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo and I would say that the number one feedback comment I received from the public was “There just isn’t anything for single parents in the churches.” Yes, there are programs like Divorce Care and Single & Parenting, but they are temporary and must follow a curriculum. What happens when the program is done? Where do the parents go from there? Some possibly may join other groups, but considering the fact that single parents make up approximately 27% of all households and it is now the norm for children to be born out of wedlock, we simply cannot wait any longer for others to pick up the slack. I know many churches are already feeling the pinch when it comes to staff workload and financial resources, so that is why it is imperative to train other leaders (I would suggest a single father or two) who are sound in their walk with the Lord to take the reins and multiply small groups everywhere.

3. Men’s groups are created for discipleship and community, but is a single father able to have his specific and unique struggles catered to through these groups?

Again, this is about focusing not only on discipleship as a whole, but meeting the needs of what single fathers face on a regular basis. How do we handle the moms in a Christ-like way if things get sticky? What about if a step dad comes into the picture? Or financial struggles such as child support? Anger and bitterness? Is it possible to leave a godly legacy even as a single parent? (The answer is YES! to that last one, by the way.) Sure, these are topics that are not usually addressed to a congregation as a whole, but that surely does not negate the fact that they are out there. Also, please know that single parenthood is across the board when it comes to race, age, economic status, and so on. It is not about “How did this happen?” but more like, “Ok, we have a situation here. Now, how do I heal, overcome, and get back on my feet so that we can ensure a Christ-centered life for both me and my children?” We have a small group on Thursday nights at a neutral location through A Father’s Walk here in Grand Rapids. In the past few months I have seen some of these guys grow in exponential ways and have seen some wonderful prayers answered. Although I had little to do with any of this (to God be the glory), it is still a huge blessing to me and confirmation that I am on the right track with the ministry (1 Corinthians 7:17).

As I mentioned in the opening segment of this article, fathers are responsible to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (seeEphesians 6:4). The Swiss did a study back in 1994 and the results based on this verse were astounding:

“In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful the mother’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of mom’s devotion, between half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.” –Swiss study, 1994, entitled, "The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland”

I encourage everyone reading this to really begin to pray if this can become a reality in your church. There is something called “The Law of Diminishing Intent.” Basically, the longer we wait to do something, the less likely we will be to fulfill our original goal. Don’t wait on this. The next generations are hanging in the balance when it comes to either blessings or curses based on what happens with today’s fathers. My family lineage has been changed for God’s Kingdom, who will be next?

Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.  

Publication date: May 9, 2013