Once, when I attended some regional church doings, I found myself at the coffee break, seated with two deacons. We talked church. Then I asked them this question: “What percentage of the membership of your congregation consists of a father, mother, and at least one child?” After some thinking, they thought, well, perhaps 80 %. I suggested they check their church's directory, and make an actual count. Later they reported: “We were mistaken, the percentage is well below 60 %...”
What about your church? Perhaps we have not yet gotten used to it that nearly half of our memberships consist of widows & widowers, and many single people. Their situations differ enormously, no two situations alike.
Perhaps single people play a promising role in your congregation. But it is probably also true that we, as denomination, are overwhelmingly family-oriented. And the question may be asked: are singles sufficiently recognized and do they share realistically in the pastoral care?
Let me focus on one group among them: the single parent. As an elder you probably have one or two in your district. I comment single parents to your special care and concern. Most of them are women. But some will be men.
Life for young parents under normal circumstances can be hard. But single parents face problems and obligations alone, and often have additional problems. They miss the counsel and consolation of a mate who assumed his/her part in the family care. They often struggle with feelings of fear, fatigue, worry, regret, anger, uncertainty, and rejection. Their income is probably all too limited. They face the upbringing of children alone. New friendships are hard to establish. Logistical problems are harder to solve. Moments of rest and relaxation are rare. The work is never done. They have probably lost many of their friends from an earlier chapter of life. Visiting is mostly a thing of the past. And they will struggle with financial problems.
Elders, and other care-givers, do well to place single parents on top of their list of people for whom they care. Single parents are in real need for extra visits. Ask them about the realities of their lives. Listen carefully, remember what they say. See where you can help without taking over. Place them on top of your prayer-list too. When you find that there are real material needs, do not hesitate to enlist the deacons to help. And the deacons, too, will contribute through their ministry of consolation, as they represent the Lord Jesus.
Thank you for the reminder to care for the single members of our church and community. I needed to hear this!
Grace & peace,
Leon H. Johnston
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