No one quite knows what to do with single dads when it comes to church socials and fellowship. While church should be the one safe place this man finds community and acceptance, sadly Christians assume he’s fine on his own. In reality, raising kids alone in this world (whether part-time or custodial) is challenging. There’s something pastors can do to minister the love of Christ to these dads. Here are a few dos and don’ts to get you started:
1. Fitting In
DON’T assume your singles ministry can meet his needs. During my years as a single father there were only two choices for singles. One was for college and career-aged singles, the other was for the over-fifty widows.
Neither was a great fit. I was a dad. I had more mature priorities than playing paintball with college kids. Yet I wanted something more active than a quilting bee.
DO encourage families to invite him over. He’s looking for couples who understand the ups and downs of parenting. He longs for mature conversations relative to him, and a husband and wife who can model a stable family life for his kids.
2. Measuring Up
DON’T assume you’re seeing the entire iceberg. Learn the whole story. What may look like signs of a deadbeat dad may just be a father striving to fund two households. A man who is unable to give child support payments is not necessarily a deadbeat dad. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the following are not deadbeats:
· Those unable to pay the full support due to low-income levels.
· Those who made financial arrangements with the mom outside of court.
· Those waiting for a court order instructing how much to pay and where.
DO pray for him, pastors. The media makes many solo fathers look self-indulging. The truth is, many single dads make guilt-driven decisions to measure up. Pray for your single dad to find a healthy balance and to discover his self-worth in Christ, rather than in their popularity or marital status.
3. A Helping Hand
DON’T assume that just because they are men, they don’t need help around the house or yard. Dads have limited hours in the day. They have dropped the kids off at school, worked all day, cooked, and helped with homework, baths, and laundry. The last thing he wants is to pull weeds on the weekend.
DO be tuned in to his response. No man wants to admit he needs help—it makes him feel inadequate. Keep asking. Typically, guys want help but feel silly admitting it. It’s called ego.
4. Tummy Yummies
DON’T offer to treat him and the kids to fast food. He knows how to do that. He longs for a home-cooked meal with something green and healthy on his plate.
DO encourage your congregation to invite him over for dinner or drop off a meal. He’ll appreciate a night off. Often a non-custodial dad will get his kids for the entire summer. The adjustment to suddenly feeding extra mouths for several weeks can be overwhelming.
Having a strong and helpful church community is a real blessing to those parenting alone. Your church has a wonderful opportunity to reach out to single dads. Although these guys have been around for a long time, reaching out to fathers without spouses is still considered innovative for churches. Whether the solo dad in your church is a well-established member or first-time visitor, your church can have an active and thriving ministry to single dads and their children.
An award-winning author and former single dad, Tez’s passion for ministering to single parents is evident. He and his wife have four children and serve as full-time missionaries. You can learn more at TezBrooks.com.
“The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce”