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.
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 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 places to provide this.
Read about why to focus a ministry on single parents below and consider a workshop for church leaders ‘Ministry with single parents‘
Single parents in Australia
Single parents make up an increasing proportion of families in Western society. In Australia single parent families account for 22 percent of all families and 1 in 5 children under the age of 15 are in a single parent family. This has risen from 14% in 1987. 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” 2.
The ‘For Kids’ Sake’3 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.
- Strong, J. (1996) The new Strong’s exhaustive concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Inc, USA
- 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
About One Together
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 and tips to help them thrive
- Workshop that churches can provide
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.
One Together workshop
The One Together workshop is a resource churches and other pastoral care workers can run to support single parents in their journey to be their best.
The two and half hour workshop consists of short DVD presentations, group discussion, self reflection and group brainstorming for solutions. This group interaction is an important part of the workshop as it creates a network of support. In addition participants realize they are not alone and others are going through the same experiences. Group work facilitates problem solving skills and confidence in the participant’s ability to be able to handle some of the demanding aspects of single parenting. There is an easy to follow workbook to record answers and contains some of the material for later reference.
I am exploring offering the workshop in an on-line package for churches/pastoral care workers to use. Please let me know your thoughts and sign up to the newsletter to be informed. Training to provide the course would be provided in a free online course ‘Ministry with single parents‘.
One The first section centers the ‘one’, the single parent and assisting them to be the best parent they can be. Participants learn about being a role model, forgiveness and self-care.
Together Single parenting does not mean parenting alone. The second section discusses the ‘together’ aspects of single parenting beginning with loving the children. Participants learn about love tanks and ensuring children can receive love, seeking support, dealing with parenting partners including an absent parent, the concept of seeing a single parent family as a family and meeting children’s emotional needs.
“very informative and gave useful ideas on how to better my relationship with my children and how to show them more love” single Dad age 43
“ I found the topics and info covered in each topic was very helpful, relevant, practical and was very beneficial to become a confident single parent to be able to raise happy, well-adjusted children into adults.” Single Mum age 39
“I found the course to be very useful, with many practical ideas and information, that could apply to single parents form a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstance” single Mum age 29
If you are interested in running a ‘One Together’ workshop
The workshop is designed to be facilitated by lay people experienced in leading small groups. The workshop uses the group process to increase participants’ belief in their ability to solve their own problems and gain confidence in their capability to achieve an outcome. This is built by the experience of successful achievement, positive role models, encouragement of others, and positive emotions.
Whilst no specific training of group facilitators is required, it is necessary for those leading a the workshop to watch the ‘Facilitator Instructions’ section of the DVD and read the ‘Facilitator notes’ in the Facilitator Manual. These give insight into the principles behind the format of the workshop, outline the structure and content, and raise awareness of areas that may provoke an emotional reaction in participants.
To run a workshop you will need to purchase a ‘Starter Kit’. It contains workshop materials to the value of $120 for $100.
- Facilitator manual
- 2 x A4 posters
- 1 x A3 poster
- Pack of 25 advertising flyers
- 10 x workbooks.
The outlay for a Starter Kit will be recouped by running one to two courses (dependent on participant numbers and charging suggested rates to participants). Suggested charge for participants completing One Together is $15 for adults and $10 for pensioners/students, and the ideal course size is six to ten participants.
Due to different requirements of organizations using the course, there are two versions: one with Christian content and the community version without Christian references.