Loving others is more than just hanging out with and helping others who are similar to you. It is bringing hope to others, creating inclusive communities where every person is valued, sharing struggles and solutions, caring for others especially those who are marginalized and vulnerable.
Jesus ate with outcasts. He touched lepers. He founded His church with disciples of fishermen and society’s rejects like tax collectors, and told them they would be persecuted for following Him. He said following Him would be hard. ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23). He told the disciples to live a life of love and service of others especially the least.
‘For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
‘Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
‘And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (Matthew 25: 42-45 NLT)
This can require learning more about the journey of others and specific skills to be able to support them.
Are you looking to be equipped to better support those who are grieving, single again or single parents? Do you need to know what a singles friendly church looks like? Do you need to understand how support someone to change or live with a chronic condition?
The following resources and workshops may of benefit to you:
- Creating an inclusive and healing church for single people/Singles Friendly Church
- Strengthening single parents/One Together
- Supporting single again people/New Life in the Mourning
- Journeying with someone in grief/Understanding loss and grief
- Supporting someone to change/How to make a change that sticks link to page
- Supporting someone living with chronic illness/Chronic condition management
Underpinning many of these workshops is the skill of leading and managing a small group/ Facilitating small groups
Singles Friendly Church
Aren’t all churches friendly to singles? Yes and no.
A Singles Friendly church is one that is safe for and inclusive of single people – single adults, single again and divorced people, and single parents. Statistically Western society has close to 40-50% of people identifying as single but churches don’t always reflect that demographic. Some churches need a little nudging to be Singles Friendly.
Many times, churches are unaware of the bias towards marriage and family to the exclusion of single people. Often this is due to most of the church leadership being married and not having the personal familiarity with singleness, therefore creating a lack of understanding of single people.
Yet Jesus was single. The apostle Paul was single. When you look at the church (excepting the Catholic church) how many single leaders do you see?
Why don’t we see single people in church?
- Self-fulfilling prophecy of walking into a church and not seeing people you can relate to in leadership or in any great numbers means the person is less likely to stay
- Buying into the myths of singles and labelling them as a problem, instead of seeing their strengths
- Theological issues with divorce and single parenting (set against ‘biblical view of family’)
- Lack of understanding and help for people at the end of a relationship. The church may ignore the grief caused by the end of relationship and doesn’t offer counselling. In the death of the relationship there are emotions from loss and grief with no ritual to help process them, and many times stigma instead of support. There may be the added heart break of rejection by the person who was supposed to love ‘till death do us part’ and possibly a betrayal of trust in need of healing.
- Lack of understanding and assistance for the person’s practical needs. When a person becomes single again there is a learning process to take over jobs done by the partner and sometimes practical help is required. Often single parents are forced to move to cheaper accommodation and could use some help to pack and load.
- Lack of teaching on how each person’s identity being found in Christ, and worth as a much loved child of God, not in how others see them.
- Promoting being single only as a stage before marriage.
- Never talking about Biblical single role models like Paul and Jesus.
- Choice of language refer to spouses as other halves implying a single person is less than complete.
- Only using sermon examples about family life, and applying the teaching to couples. This can alienate and depress those who aren’t part of a couple or a family, and, implies the teaching is not applicable to them
Some popular blogs on these themes:
- 10 ways to alienate and drive divorced people from the church
- How to solve the problem of single people in the church
- 12 reasons why single parent kids are ‘too hard’
Singles are not homogenous group, they include:
- Never married people (defining the person but a negative, ‘not’ )
- Separated people
- Divorced people
- Single parents
Rather than label single people with a negative title that speaks of need (and their children if they have them) welcome them as individuals into community seeing their strengths and the assets they bring.
Churches that are inclusive of singles
- use examples in their sermons that can be related to all people not just married couples with children
- present scriptural single role models
- have strategies to connect singles into the life of the church (with child care considered)
- remove barriers for singles to be involved in leadership and serving in ministry eg child care
- look for the leadership potential in singles
- have representation by singles on committees and in leadership
Some may even have a targeted Singles Ministry. Singles ministry may cuts across many areas of church ministry including counseling, kids and youth ministry, men and women’s ministry.
A great starting point for any church looking at their single friendly status can be to determine the age and demographic of singles in their church and compare this to their community.
If you would like more information on Singles Friendly Church or to arrange a presentation to your church leaders of the Singles Friendly Church please contact us.
Resources for ministering with single people
’Many single adults are not in the church body because of the lack of an organised opportunity for relationship with other single adults who have interests and issues similar to theirs. A targeted ministry for single adults can attract them and bring them into a loving fellowship of believers.1
Here are some resources to help you grow your churches inclusivity of single people:
- Join the Single’s network http://www.thesinglesnetwork.org/ Sign up for their newsletter, lots of articles, resources and connections for singles and for ministering with them
- Read Reaching Single Adults by Dennis Franck (available through the above and Koorong)
- There’s a growing movement overseas to form a prayer group for those who want to get married called Pray for a mate http://www.prayforamate.com/about.html Kris Swiatocho says, ‘The church needs to help single adults meet each other in a healthy way, directing them toward godly friendships and teaching them the principles of courtship and marriage preparation. Otherwise, they will find other ways to find a spouse, often outside the church and possibly, with someone who isn’t a believer.’
- Franck, D (2007) Reaching single adults, Baker Books U.S.A, p73
Photo credit Gary Bendig StockSnap
Strengthening single parents
Why support single parents
God gives special care to single parents. Many times in the Bible, God exhorts His people to look after the widows and orphans and makes specific promises to help them.
In our English translations of the Bible there are many words in the original Greek /Hebrew that we have translated as only ‘widow and orphan’ but there are other meanings to the original words. Orphan could mean ‘a fatherless child’, ‘a bereaved person’, ‘comfortless’ or even ‘lonely’1, while widows could be ‘those lacking a husband’1. Single parents and their children are part of today’s widows and fatherless.
Single parents make up an increasing proportion of families in Western society. In Australia single parent families account for 15 percent of all families 2. Of these single parent families 87% are headed by lone mothers. The Australian Government considers single parent families to be at a higher risk of disadvantage in the areas of “ income, housing, employment and social participation” 3.
The ‘For Kids’ Sake’4 report released in 2011 from Sydney University details data used to gauge the deteriorating mental and emotional wellbeing of young people in Australia and attributes some of the rise to the rapid changes in family structure, and in particular the rise in single parent families. It explores the reasons for the increase in lone parent families including the rise in parental separation due to divorce, the breakdown of co-habiting relationships (which the report says is four to seven times higher than the breakdown of marriages), and the increase of births to single mothers. Many of the statistics in the report are replicated in studies in Britain and USA.
Both reports regard financial stress as a big issue in single parenting. Working may help with the financial stress but brings with it the stress of juggling work and care for children.
God was concerned because single parents had no-one to offer them shelter and protection or to provide for them. He said not to cheat the orphans or He would be their ‘powerful Advocate who would go into bat for them’ (Proverbs 23:10 MSG)
God’s people should:
- Share blessings with them
- Provide justice for them
- Care for them
For more on this read the blog God cares for the single parent- so should the church
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27 NLT)
To flourish as a family, it cannot all depend the single parent. They will need community to provide the role models they cannot be and they will need support to survive the tough times. The church is ideally placed to provide this. Some blogs on this topic:
- 7 practical tips to strengthen single parent families
- 6 words single parents need to hear from you and the church
One Together is a resource for individuals and the church
One Together is a resource for single parents. It encourages them to be their best and flourish as a single parent family. There is
- A website for single parents with information, tips to help them thrive and additional resources such as a FREE 7 day devotional. There is a monthly blog and people can sign up for a monthly email update with additional resources
- Workshop that churches can provide click here
The content tends to fall into a few categories:
- Being a good role model. This includes the single parent living a life of purpose and dealing with their emotional baggage.
- Growing parenting skills with strategies relevant to the single parent.
- Establishing support networks and community. To flourish as a family, it cannot all depend the single parent. They will need community to provide the role models they cannot be and they will need support to survive the tough times.
- Strong, J. (1996) The new Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Inc, USA
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census QuickStats, http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/036
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, Article: One Parent Families by Susan Linacre, Australian Social Trends 2007, p1 http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/3A8D1AA0F3AB7D66CA25732F001C94E6/$File/41020_One-parent%20families_2007.pdf
- For Kid’s sake: Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People, Professor Patrick Parkinson AM, University of Sidney, July 2011 http://sydney.edu.au/law/news/docs_pdfs_images/2011/Sep/FKS-ResearchReport.pdf
Supporting single again people
Relationships end and a person who was once part of a couple becomes single again. This could be due to the death of partner, separation and divorce from a registered marriage or the end of a defacto relationship. Whatever the cause becoming single is more than potentially altering title from Mrs. to Ms., it is a change in identity, and the loss of the relationship and future dreams causes intense grief.
Statistically 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce. The break up rate for co-habiting relationships is higher.
Here’s some steps to be inclusive of divorced and single again people in your church:
- Recognise and support people in the loss and grief caused by the end of relationship. For some practical how to’s of supporting someone through loss and grief scroll below to ‘journeying with people through grief and loss’. Those who are divorced or broke up with a lifetime partner will experience loss and grief with no ritual to help process them, and many times stigma instead of support. There may be the added heart break of rejection by the person who was supposed to love ‘till death do us part’ and possibly a betrayal of trust in need of healing.
- Be aware of the emotional, mental, physical, social, spiritual and other needs of the person, as the end of a relationship affects all areas of health. I lost my job with the loss of my marriage as we ran a business together.
- Offer counselling and have any resources or referrals to help the person.
- Offer practical assistance. There is a learning process to take over jobs done by the partner and sometimes practical help is required. Often single parents are forced to move to cheaper accommodation and could use some help to pack and load.
- Be single’s friendly (scroll up)
- Do not teach divorce is an unforgivable sin and to remarry is to commit adultery. I know women who stayed in abusive marriages because they were taught divorce is an unforgiveable sin. Others have left the church to remarry.
The last dot point is underpinned by theology. If you are interested in my understanding, you can read ‘Topic 29 What the church and Bible say about divorce’ from my book ‘New Life in the Mourning’ by clicking here .
My overarching view is, ‘God invented the union of marriage and the Bible upholds it as the ideal. The breaking of the marriage union is a sin. It may happen long before separation and divorce occur, and it may be broken by a partner’s abuse or infidelity rather than when one person leaves the marriage…We need to look at the whole story of the Bible and not just focus on a few verses. Yes, God hates sin but his overall message is about our relationship with God, God’s grace, love and forgiveness through Jesus, his Son. The Bible talks about compassion, not condemnation. Our sins were forgiven two thousand years ago.’ p. 199 & 193
New Life in the Mourning is a resource for individuals and the church
New Life in the Mourning is a set of resources to bring healing, wholeness and purpose people at the end of a relationship including:
- website with information, practical ideas for the person and resources such as FREE 7 Day devotional guide. It is updated regally with a monthly blog. People can sign up for a monthly email update with additional resources
- book for those experiencing the end of a relationship and pastors/counsellors. “This is a useful volume for pastors to have on hand both for their own understanding of the issues and for counselling newly-single people.” Dr Vanessa Chant, Head of Counselling, Tabor College, Sydney and Dr Barry Chant Author and teacher, Founding president, Tabor College. See below for more information
- course; you can be equipped and provided resources to run a course to support people in your church and community who have experienced the end of a relationship
New Life in the Mourning: The Book
Released in August 2010, the book is a helpful reference for those who have experienced the end of a relationship. The topics are quite detailed balancing personal stories with well researched advice and containing “growth assignments’ to reinforce the message. The Christian dimension is interwoven but not pervasive.
The blurb says:
And they lived happily ever after. That’s the dream ending we all expect from a committed relationship, but dreams can become nightmares, and relationships end. But as Vicky Legge explains with authority and compassion, the end of a relationship doesn’t have to be ‘the end’. It can be a challenging, confronting and painful time that brings mourning, but there is hope for a new life.
Change is unavoidable. Growth through change is optional. New Life in the Mourning offers practical guidance to navigate the end of a relationship caused by separation, divorce or relationship breakdown. You’ll discover how to
- overcome negative emotions and grief
- heal and find wholeness
- move on, choosing to live an abundant life of purpose.
New Life in the Mourning has been written by someone who has experienced the journey and knows there is light at the end of the tunnel. Vicky Legge has used her own, very personal, experiences to minister to many people who have found themselves single again, some of whom share their stories of finding healing and hope amidst the often devastating end of their relationships. She encourages you to take the journey as well, and to find ‘new life in the mourning’.
“I’ve read “New Life in the Mourning” and it’s as though there’s a sensitive, informed, wise companion through a deeply challenging process. The book is well organized through its structure and the cross referencing reflects how our minds work in times of challenge. “New Life in the Mourning” balances personal stories with well researched advice so that the reader has confidence in what is being read. The interweaving of the Christian dimension is very effective and it reminded me of how my faith provided solid stepping stones in uncertain times” Anonymous age 55
“The title says it all – New Life in the Mourning. Here is a practical, realistic approach to rebuilding after a marriage breakdown. Vicky Legge has been through it and she knows. She doesn’t deny the mourning process – indeed she encourages her readers to embrace it and gives practical hints about how to deal with it. But at the same time, drawing on her own experience together with insights from the best in the business, she points out how new life can come – physically, emotionally and spiritually. The layout is attractive and the book is easy to read. This is a useful volume for pastors to have on hand both for their own understanding of the issues and for counselling newly-single people.”
Dr Vanessa Chant Dr Barry Chant
Head of Counselling, Author and teacher,
Tabor College, Sydney Founding president, Tabor College
“Legge’s book will offer comfort to many people who are wallowing in the depths of despair after a partnership breakdown. Legge knows that divorce is not the end. She is living proof of that and in this book has offered a lifesaver to all those that believe there is a rainbow on the horizon and that in every life some rain must fall. New Life in the Mourning is written with grace, heart and intellect”. Wendy O’Hanlon,- Acres Australia
Journeying with people through loss and grief
Grief occurs from loss, loss is a result of change, and change is an ever present part of life. We lose people, material possessions, part of our body or a bodily function, our role/identity, even future hopes and dreams, and the freedom of choice. So all people will experience loss and grief in life.
If you are supporting someone to promote healing, hope and purpose (abundant life) in their life, then you will need to know how to support them through loss and grief. However in Western society we don’t always deal with grief well – burying it instead of expressing it. We expect people to be over it, patting them on the head and saying ‘there, there – it will be alright,’ telling them it’s time to get on with their life!
As individuals and churches we are not always helpful in how we support people through grief but we can learn about grief and grow our skills in caring for those experiencing it. See blog How to journey with those in grief
Understanding the process of grief
Understanding the experience of grief, can help you support a person through loss and grief.
One way to understand grief is to consider it as a process containing stages that we move through, although oscillating backwards and forwards. For example, my four stage model based on researching other models and my experience at the end of my marriage:
Stages of grief
Involves denial, numbness, physical effects, withdrawal or busyness
The Reality Stage
Acknowledging the reality of the loss and understanding the implications of the changes.
Involves many emotions including anger, depression, fear, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness.
Intense pain and sorrow.
Accepting the implications of the loss and new reality.
Withdrawing emotionally from what is lost.
Involves saying goodbye, forgiveness.
Healing and becoming ready to invest emotionally in the new reality.
Involves hope, peace, forward planning.
There is now a move away from stage models of processing grief describing them as ‘linear’. The Worden Task model based on grief following the death of a loved one ‘suggests that grieving should be considered as an active process that involves engagement in four tasks’ 1 which are shown below against my stages.
|Stage of grief||Worden task based model|
|Shock stage||Accept the reality of the loss|
|Reality||Process the pain and grief|
|Letting go||Adjust to a world without the deceased|
|Moving on||Embarking on a new life (still with connection to the deceased)|
Watch the video below for an explanation of the process using my stages and Worden’s task
Other models include
- The Dual process Model of Grief by Strobe and Schut, articles on it as What’s your grief and Mindfulness and grief
- Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 5 stages
A simple word explanation of the process is we accept the reality first in our heads, then in our feelings, and then we can adjust to life’s new pattern.2
How you can help
Here are 5 steps that can help.
- Be there for the long haul which includes both being there present and listening, but recognising long term support is required see blog 5 steps to support in someone experiencing loss and grief for details
- Recognise and name the loss see blog Step 2 Recognise the loss for details
- Understand the process of grief and help the person engage with it see blog Step 3 Understand the process of grief and help the person engage with it for details
- Know when to refer see blog More answers to the questions how do you support someone who is experiencing loss and grief
- Self-care see blog More answers to the questions how do you support someone who is experiencing loss and grief
All the steps should be considered together. If you need some training in skills to support someone consider the ‘understanding loss and grief’ workshop. The on-line version is being tested in March 2018
1 Hall C, Beyond Kubler-Ross – recent developments in our understanding of grief and bereavement, Australian Psychological Society Dec 2011 https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/2011/december/hall/ accessed 25/4/16
2 Wright, H. N (2004) Experiencing Grief B & H Publishing Group, U.S.A, p10
Photo credit 2 chairs Aaron Burden
Understanding loss and grief workshop
Understanding loss and grief is a workshop to assist participants to gain greater comprehension of the concept of loss and the process of grief, and how to support people experiencing them.
Understanding loss and grief interactive workshop covers:
- What is loss and grief
- Christian response to loss and grief
- the process of grief
- stages/tasks of grief
- strategies to support people through grief
- helping the person engage with the grief process
- managing difficult emotions
- Individual experiences of grief
- Length of grief and grief avoidance
- resources and referrals
The workshop is not a counselling session and hence not suitable for those in the midst of intense or unresolved grief.
Workshops can be conducted at a time and venue to suit the organization by negotiation. The duration is 2 hours.
Other training available
Ministry with single parents
Ministry with single parents presentation discusses the realities of and outcomes from living in a single parent home which account for nearly a quarter of all families, and barriers to community support. It explores how to strengthen to single parents families with practical examples. Presentations can be conducted at a time and venue to suit the organisation by negotiation. The duration is 2 hours. Free on-line course being developed.
Facilitating Small Groups
Facilitating Small Groups interactive workshop for leaders of small groups such as home groups, short courses, recovery groups, Bible studies etc. There is a standard half day workshop covering the importance of small groups and how people change, preparing, communication skills to building relationships and ask powerful questions, and evaluation. Additional sessions can be added.
Chronic Condition Management and self-managment
Vicky has developed a passion for Chronic condition management both as a health professional and from personal experience. She is an accredited trainer in the Flinders’ Program and has been trained in Stanford Chronic Disease Self Management program. Vicky can provide workshops in CCM to health professionals and chronic condition self-management to people living with chronic conditions. She is co-author of the My Life: Healthy Living Journal