Originally published Tuesday, 02 July 2013.
Many churches are beginning to see the significance of hosting single parent support groups as part of their discipleship and outreach programs. Having a single moms ministry and outreach program in your church is vital to enhance ongoing efforts in the body of Christ to make single parents feel welcomed in our churches. Single parents are the fastest-growing sector of our population, so we must be strategic with our ministry efforts in order to be effective.
So, here you are. You’ve started your single moms support group, ministry, outreach program, and/or Sunday School class, and…nothing. You see very little growth. You are not getting much response from the ads in the church bulletin or the flyers you’ve distributed in town. Or maybe the ministry has been going on for years and it is stagnant, hosting the same 4 ladies it has for years. What next?
Here are a few tips that can help you kick-start your program:
- Relationship development comes first. Oftentimes, we see leaders of single moms’ support groups become so overzealous for teaching single parents about parenting or finances or any number of other single parent issues that they forget that relationships lead to ministry. In other words, it is very hard to invest into someone’s life and give advice, encouragement, and correction, if you have never learned who they are. Take the time in your ministry to learn who your attendees are. Spend the time getting to know their story.
- Be open to change. Maybe you’ve always had your single moms support group on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday night. Maybe that was convenient for you, because the church was already hosting childcare during those times. Or maybe you held your group on a Monday or Tuesday night. Consider changing your times. Consider changing your length of meetings. Consider adding something new. Growing ministries are those who can keep things fresh and new. You don’t have to do things “the way you’ve always done them.”
- Consider the participants who are not yet here. Many times, we see single parent support group leaders surveying their current participants about changes that could be made within the ministry. (e.g. Do you want to change the nights of our meetings? Do you want to open up our study to single moms in the community, instead of those just in our church? Do you want to meet more/less frequently?) Many times, a single moms’ group stays at only 4 or 5 attendees, because those attendees are only focusing on what works best for them. The questions much shift from “me” to “we”. When we begin to ask questions, such as “How would those girls who are not yet attending a church feel if we opened up the group to them?” or “How much more convenient might a twice per month Bible study be for busy single moms, rather than having one every week?” Once leaders shift focus to those who have not yet started in their programs, there is great potential for new growth.
- Have fun and be flexible. Play games. Have fun contests. Be creative. If your support group is always 6-7 women sitting around sharing woe-is-me stories, your group won’t grow. If your support group is always 22 minutes of teaching 8 minutes of prayer, and 3.4 minutes of socializing, it becomes boring. Have fun. Be flexible. Enjoy the fellowship. If you don’t get to all 10 points you had prepared for this week’s lesson, it’s okay. Flexibility can mean great fun, and it keeps your participants excited and coming back (and bringing a friend)!
- Leaders, single moms support group is NOT time for you to share your story. Too often single moms’ support groups grow dry or stagnant, because the leader(s) think this is their time to share all about their divorce, their hardships, their story. It isn’t. These women need to see Jesus, not us! Our stories are merely used in bits and pieces to further enhance God’s faithfulness.
Author/speaker, Jennifer Maggio, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on single parents and women’s issues. She is an award-winning author and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She currently oversees one of the nation’s largest single moms support groups and has helped to launch more than 500 others in churches around the globe. She is a regular on radio and television. For more information, visit http://www.thelifeofasinglemom.com.