A few months ago, I had a chance to meet a single mother who later wrote me with a question about being a single parent. So I turned to a friend of mine whose family I admire and asked if she would participate in today's Q&A blog post. Rhonda Crosby graciously agreed and supplied this thoughtful answer. Though this is aimed at single parents, I wanted to post it online because I think it should make us all think about how to support and serve these families in our churches.
Q: I'm a single mom of a 5-year-old girl who seems more and more desperate for male attention. I know the Lord is sovereign over her and her needs. I've also felt for some time that there is something the church can do to reach out to her, but I'm not sure what that would look like. These family guys have kids of their own to care for, and I don't want to be a burden. I also don't want to miss a chance for my daughter to be served because I'm afraid of inconveniencing anyone. Anyway, just wondering how other single moms find male care for their kids.
A: I can relate to your situation about wanting to surround your daughter with godly men role models. When my daughters were two and three years old, their father left us and we were all impacted by the divorce. I found myself often in a panic, feeling like I had to make right for all that was wrong in their experience of being a child in a single-parent home. It was my desire to schedule them for situations where they could be around godly men so that nothing would taint their view of men or marriage. Anxiously, I would worry and fret for their future.
Years flew by before someone in my church approached me and suggested that I evaluate my thinking on the matter from a Biblical prospective. The lessons that I learned set me free and corrected my responses. I will share these with you in a very abbreviated way, knowing that there is a depth behind each one. Hopefully you will be provoked to study God’s word and seek counsel. Remember, start with one thing….adjust course….take the next step.
Realize that we all live in a broken world.
Sin has affected us all whether is it something done to us or by us. It is the very reason we need a Savior. As a single mom, I am not required to be my children’s savior, but to guide them, protect and love them as they encounter the world around them. We are all sinners, disappointing each other and God.
Rejoice that we have a great Savior.
Despite your desire to see your child influenced by a godly man, make sure that you do not make the godly man “the savior”…the focus must be on meeting and knowing Jesus Christ as the Savior who will never disappoint and always has our best interest at heart. Our Savior is mighty to meet, save and provide for all of our children’s needs. Children in single-parent families will face challenges that are unique in nature, but they will also have the ability to know God in ways that other children may not experience. We should be personally affected by the grace that God has shown to all of us.
Reflect on God’s word.
Make sure that you are thinking and responding in ways that are flowing out of correct doctrine. This happens by reading God’s word, hearing God’s word, reading books, walking transparently with godly counselors and praying for God to illuminate His truth. Your child’s strength will be rooted in the teachings about God and what she believes about Him. Her character will be fashioned by what she reads about God, what she observes in your life about Him, and what the Bible says about God and how your church worships God. Place into her life a confidence in God’s strength not her own strength.
Respond in ways that teach your child how to focus on the Lord.
When your child is desperate for things, people or experiences, you should seek to understand her heart and identify why she is longing to attain such things. In and of themselves, the thing, person or experience may not be wrong, but the place that they hold in her life could be creating idols that replace the rightful place that only God should occupy. Help your child to appreciate things, enjoy experiences and value people, but not to rely on them for true joy and satisfaction that can only be found in a right relationship with the Lord. Direct your child to know more about her Heavenly Father. Involve her in reading and discussion about the character of God. Help her along to experience and get to know her Heavenly Father in a way that most kids do not know God. I cannot stress enough the need for children to know God above all else.
Now that the foundation is laid, we can look to how others can come along side of us to help us in the journey of parenting. Ask your pastors to identify and introduce families who might include you in their family functions. Do not assume that it is a “burden” or an “inconvenience.” Trust that if people don't have time, they will tell you. It may not be one role model or family for a lengthy period of time, and it may change frequently in different seasons. Take the initiative and invite families into your home for meals or activities. Participate in ministry activities where your child can see godly men serving. Sit with or near men in worship so that your children can observe a godly man in adoration of the Savior. Have conversations with your child about the godly qualities that are witnessed in men who pursue the Savior. Applaud those qualities and the evidence of God at work.
Often, I would create the opportunity, sometimes I would ask for assistance, and at other times people would ask us to join them. It was more beneficial for my children to see godly men in action within the context of their families rather than one-on-one. Before each activity, I would clearly state our appreciation to those involved for allowing us to see the interactions of their home. There were numerous families led by godly men who supported us at different seasons through the years in a myriad of experiences:
- A childless couple would take my girls fishing
- We invited people into our home for Sunday lunches and theme parties
- An older couple would take my girls for ice cream
- The girls were involved in mission trips
- A family invited one of my daughters to go on their family vacation
- We served in children’s ministry and observed the leadership of godly men
- Families opened their home and included us at holiday meals and celebrations
- We participated in small group meetings, youth meetings and worship where they observed men passionately worshipping the Lord and studying His word
- The girls would babysit for families, arriving a little early and staying a little later so they could watch the family in action
- One family invited us to go to the zoo
- The girls volunteered to work in the church office where they were able to see pastors and leaders at work
- Though they lived at a distance, we made it a priority to regularly communicate, visit and linger with their uncles
- When around godly men, I would ask for manly counsel (in front of the girls) to give them another perspective of situations that we were encountering
- On milestone birthdays, I would have couples participate in their birthday parties to give them advice, encouragement and counsel
- There were conversations where I would draw them out about commendable traits that witnessed in men
- We would organize day trips and request families to join us
All this and more ... over the course of 18 years. Though it wasn’t regimented, I tried to stay sensitive to the Spirit’s promptings, attentive to situations and creative in my approach.
Rely on and trust your Heavenly Father.
There is no sure-fire-method that will guarantee that our children will make us proud. It is by the grace of God that anything good happens in our children. For the most part, as parents, we will fail over and over again. Once again, we need to make sure that our parenting is not relying on our skills, our insights or our experiences. It is God who works in our children, despite our parenting failures. As parents, we are to diligently instruct our children to set their hope in God by observing the glorious deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders that He has done (Psalm 78:4).
It can be overwhelming to think about raising children as a single parent. The range of emotions, thoughts and fears can be immobilizing. But, we must realize that we are not operating as a single force ... God is with us! “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
As we journey into different seasons, we will have opportunities to see Him in uncharted courses, but take comfort in His words: “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them and into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42: 16)
As a side note, my daughters are now in the final years of college, passionate for the Lord, serving in the local church and sharing the Gospel within their spheres -- a testimony to His goodness, kindness and faithfulness despite our less-than-perfect circumstances. I will be praying for you in the days ahead and anticipate hearing how God will meet you through this season.