9 Things Single Mom Ministries Should Never Be

With over 22 million single parents in the United States today and numbers continuing to rise, many churches are launching or at least exploring the idea of single moms’ discipleship and evangelism in their ministry and outreach plans.  

As the leader of a national nonprofit committed to working with churches to help them develop an effective single moms’ ministry plan and a former single mom myself, nothing delights me as much as the mobilized body of Christ looking for creative ways to serve the single mother-led family (and single dads, too)! While there are many churches hosting single moms’ ministries, Bible studies, home groups, or events, single moms’ ministry is still a fairly new ministry concept and there isn’t much on the market to assist churches with effective ministry strategies, particularly as it relates to what works, what doesn’t, growth strategies, and trouble-shooting.  

Having served a few thousand churches over the last decade, including various sizes, denominations, and ministry types, I’ve learned a few things about effective growth and implementation strategies. I’ve also learned much about what not to do in single moms’ ministry! Below, find nine things a single moms’ ministry should never be.  

  1. Unbiblical // Perhaps the hardest part of this ministry has been in educating churches what single moms’ ministry is and what it is not. The criticism our ministry would often receive, especially in the early years of launch, was that single mothers’ ministries somehow supported unbiblical behavior. Gosh, I’m not sure I have the space or time to address this issue in its entirety, but let me simply say this. First, no single mothers’ programs we’ve worked with (or even heard about) endorse any anti-Biblical behavior. Healthy single moms’ ministries exist to meet a need for women and children. They show the love of Christ, promote Bible study, offer fellowship & discipleship, educate in life skills, mentor, and more. They do not promote divorce, unwed pregnancy, or any unbiblical behavior. We recognize single mothers arrive at their journey through a variety of scenarios, including death of a spouse, grandparenting alone, foster care, divorce, and unwed birth. And yes, some of those scenarios do involve sin. However, drug addiction ministries do not support drug use. They simply meet people where they are, offering hope and restoration through Christ. Single moms’ ministries should never be unbiblical in their teaching or promote sinful behavior and none that we know of, actually do, but I wanted to address this issue upfront, since it is a concern that your pastor or congregation may express in the onset of launch or consideration of such a ministry.

  2. Unapproachable // Remember junior high? Remember how you’d actually never want to go back? The cliques at lunch. The insecurity. The awkward moments at a locker surrounded by the “cool kids”. The certainty that you didn’t fit in. Junior high isn’t exactly known as the friendliest, most approachable, season of life. Don’t be like junior high! Work to create a welcoming environment, where new moms are not only welcomed, but sought out. Create strategies where no mom sits alone. Recruit friendly volunteers who have the gift of hospitality that can bring attendees into the fold and give them tasks to help them feel closer to the group. Create ice breakers and intentional time of fun and fellowship. Attempt to minimize cliques within the group.  

  3. Stuck // One of the most frequent phone calls our ministry office receives is from frustrated ministry leaders who have been leading single mothers’ Bible study for some time and the ministry doesn’t seem to be growing in numbers or spiritual maturity. Growth takes place in two ways: a). outwardly – in terms of sheer numbers in attendance and b). inwardly – in terms of spiritual growth among attendees. Effective single moms’ ministries are those who are seeking ways to grow in both. Outward growth means analyzing marketing strategies and communication. Inward growth means spending time seeking the Holy Spirit, praying, studying the Word, and teaching others to do the same.  

  4. Self-centered // Effective single moms’ groups cannot be focused on self. They do not exist to bash exes, repeatedly share our own personal stories, sabotage growth for others, or play victim. Effective groups must be focused on Jesus first, then servanthood to others. Questions such as, “How can we expand our group to reach more moms? How can we make the group more engaging? What fresh ideas could help those in our group and beyond our group grow in Christ? How can we serve new single moms or those who have a need in our community?”  Jesus came not to be served but to serve. (See Matthew 20:28). He is a perfect example of focusing on others first. While certainly a single moms’ ministry is to pour into the lives of those in attendance, it is also to corporately look for ways to serve others and to call each other up to a higher level with godly counsel and wisdom.  

  5. Worldly //There are plenty of social groups available for women, men, singles, marrieds, or others to socialize, if one’s only desire is to from friendships or network. But a single moms’ ministry at the church is different. It is a holy place of growth, healing, fellowship, community, and its center should be on God’s Word, His instruction, and His will for our lives. Too many group studies (single moms or otherwise, for that matter), begin to take on a worldly culture that glorifies self, sin, or culture. Be mindful of this in single moms’ groups.  

  6. Church-replacing // Single moms’ ministry is a Bible study that is created as a support for single mothers and their children (or single parents, in general.) It is NOT meant to replace regular attendance with the collective church. Single moms’ ministry leaders or Bible study leaders do not replace the importance of pastors within the church. Both group Bible study and church attendance with the whole body are important to a Believer’s life. Both serve a role in shepherding single mothers. However, group studies should not circumvent the importance of getting planted in a local body of Believers. 

  7. Structure-less // Ensure that your single mom’s group has structure. Busy moms are juggling homework, multiple jobs, and endless demands. They will want to know the group is worth their time. Now, obviously investing in God’s word and with His people is always well worth our time, but as leaders, take the time to provide organization and structure to your meeting. I recommend meeting two times per month (not weekly) and utilizing the 30-30-30 rule. 30 minutes of food & fellowship. 30 minutes of teaching. 30 minutes of discussion time or Q&A.  

  8. Inconvenient // Think through a busy single moms’ schedule. Two jobs. Possible three. At-home businesses to increase income flow. Three kids. Homework. Carpool duties. Household chores. Processing the monthly bill payments. Soccer practice. And the list goes on. Be sure that as you are evaluating the meeting time, location, and day, that you analyze the days that work best for busy moms. Our ministry has worked with over 2,000 churches and far and away the churches with Friday night, Saturday night, or Sunday afternoon meeting days are most highly attended in comparison to their weekday or weeknight counterparts.  

  9. Siloed // Single moms’ ministries (or any ministry, e.g. youth, widows’, womens’, etc.) are not meant to segregate single mothers from the rest of the church. They simply exist to enhance a single mom’s overall life experience in her walk with Christ. They exist to allow the mom to forge friendships with women who are in a similar life season and to garner insight from those who are perhaps further along in their single parenting experience. Ensure that your single moms’ ministry is well-connected to the other components of church life, taking care to advertise other church events and ways to get involved. Further, single moms’ groups can often be unique ministries within a community, so I encourage ministry leaders of other single moms’ groups to connect to one another.  

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

 

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