How to Form a Single Fathers Ministry in Your Church
- Matt Haviland Founder, A Father's Walk
- 2015 12 Feb
They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31, NASB).
I’ve said it over and over: if we want to stop the bleeding in this nation when it comes to teen pregnancy, high school drop outs, crime, substance abuse, teen runaways and suicide, then we MUST get to the fathers! Yes it’s necessary to have programs in place to treat the above social and domestic problems; but just like anything, failure to address the root cause will result in repeated actions.
Without taking away from the amazing moms who are already pulling double-duty as a parent, the fact remains that fathers (or father-figures) play a significant role in their children’s overall academic success, social well-being, and self-perception. One way to reach deeper into your immediate sphere of influence is to form (or strengthen) an established single father ministry in your church.
Who is a “Single Father”?
By definition, a single dad is a man who is the sole provider or primary caregiver of his children, that we cannot deny. But there is a much larger (and often overlooked) population of men who fall under the umbrella of "single dad." Statistics tell us that approximately 83% of the time a mother will be the primary caregiver in a single parent home, and that only a minimal portion of all single parents attend church on a regular basis. Thus it is safe to say that one of the largest potential mission fields are unchurched, noncustodial fathers. Without a doubt, men such as these can be found behind the walls of a jail or in a halfway house; but also in the gym and at the mall. I’m sure there are even one or two single dads in your workplace, or maybe even in your own family.
Why is This Important to Recognize?
If you check out our latest YouTube video, you may notice that none of the guys in the video were ever married (myself included) before they became fathers. Yes, we have divorced men in the group, and a couple are even the primary caregivers of their children. But I want to emphasize the point that if no one steps into these men’s lives and leads them on how to be a great father and to raise their children in Christ, then as I stated above, the cycle is bound to keep repeating itself.
In our latest book The Daddy Gap, I write, “It does not matter how long a man remains fatherless, the fact is that he will continue down an unnatural path of despair unless acted upon by an outside force- that force being another man or God himself.”
I have seen some amazing growth in the guys in our group over the past couple years, and as one dad stated, “If this group wasn’t in Grand Rapids I really wouldn’t have a place to go.” Simply put, these men are great guys who have found themselves in difficult circumstances and they need a resource to help them along the way so they can be the best dads possible and pour into their children’s lives.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
So who should lead a group like this? Some may suggest we need to have another (or former) single father who understands what the guys are going through; others will say a single dad may be too unstable and have a pastor lead instead. “Yes” is my reply. These dads DO need someone who can lead them and understands their situation, someone who has been “in the trenches” before. A single father faces the enormous task of raising a child alone, or at least on their own during their parenting time. What about when you are being completely bashed by the other parent, or when another guy comes into the picture? How do we handle that in a Christ-like way? Or the challenges of remaining pure as a single man in a sex-infested culture? How about staying afloat financially when you are paying child support or alimony? How do you co-parent when you cannot communicate with the other parent? Is having a normal social life ever a possibility again? And so on…
There is no “one size fits all” answer in this line of work, and the group leader most importantly needs to be grounded in the Word, but also have a heart and compassion for the group and to be able to “get it” too. I’m fortunate enough (if you can call it that) to have walked the same path as many in the group and to be able to share God’s faithfulness in my own life through it all.
Some sample group guidelines include:
1. The “Golden Rule.” We NEVER slam the moms! Not only is it a sin, but the tragedy of badmouthing your children’s mother in front of them is always a risk.
2. Time Frame. Begin and end each meeting on time. If you want to stay and talk privately afterwards, that is fine, but let’s be sensitive to each other’s schedules.
3. Discretion. Keep it in the group and no gossiping.
4. Allow the Spirit to lead. If he takes you in a certain direction, be sure to be sensitive to his leading.
5. Everyone maintains as much consistency as possible. We’re all busy, but just like with anything, we grow more when we are regularly committed to something.
6. Scripture memorization/study. What’s the use of having a sword if we never use it?
7. Always open and close with prayer. Our group huddles up (like football) when closing out and we go around the circle to give each dad a chance to pray if he’d like.
I once heard a pastor say, “Our choices now have the ability to affect up to a minimum of three generations: ours, our children’s, and our grandchildren’s.” I would say this statement applies to us as leaders too. It’s now the norm for children born to women under the age of 30 to be born out of wedlock. With the divorce rate floating right around the same numbers, our choice to minister (or not minister) to single parents can have the same generational impact. But it is up to us to determine if it will be allowing fatherlessness to continue or to begin to heal single parent families through Christ. My prayer would be your church would join us in the unbelievable experience of ministering to these dads so that we can begin to transform generations, one family at a time.
Editor's Note: This is a follow-up to Why Should Your Church Have a Single Father Ministry?
Matt Haviland is the founder of “A Father’s Walk” single dad ministry and the author of A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers and the coauthor of The Daddy Gap. 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 daughter himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.