Four Easy Ways Your Church Can Minister to Single Dads
By Tez Brooks
Single dads often find it difficult to fit in at church. No one quite knows where to place them when it comes to socials and fellowship. While church should be the one safe place this man finds community and acceptance, in reality, raising kids alone (whether part-time or custodial) can be challenging for a single man. There is something we can do to minister the love of Christ to these dads.
Here are just a few dos and don'ts to get you started:
1. FITTING IN
DON'T assume the singles ministry can meet his needs. During my years as a single father, there wasn't much by means of fellowship. I had two choices. One was hanging with college and career-aged singles, the other was the over-50 crowd.
Neither was a great fit. I was a father. I had more mature priorities than playing paintball with college kids. Yet I wanted something more active than a quilting bee with widows who smelled like vitamins. I didn't see myself as a single--and in many ways I wasn't. I'd been married and fathered children--my entire persona was wrapped in the title of "husband/father." I really didn't want to go back.
Many dads share this battle. Before the split, his community consists mostly of married couples. Now they look at him like udders on a bull.
DO invite him to spend time with your family. He's not on the prowl, nor a threat to your marriage. He's looking for couples to offer moral support and understand the ups and downs of parenting. He longs for mature conversations that are relative to his daily life. He's looking for families that model stable family life.
2. A HELPING HAND
DON'T assume that just because they are men, they don't need help. It's easy to run to the aid of a single mother when it comes to serving the members of your church--and we should. It's biblical and it blesses them. But few remember that single dads too have limited hours in the day. They have dropped the kids off at daycare or school, worked all day, cooked each night, and helped with homework, baths and laundry. The last thing a dad wants is to clean out his gutters or pull weeds on the weekend.
DO be tuned in to his needs. No man wants to ask for help. It makes him feel weak and inadequate. It's called ego, and it gets huge when we don't have a wife to keep it in check.
3. ROMANTIC DISTRACTIONS
DON'T attempt to fix him up with a woman. A widower needs at least a year to grieve. If he's divorced, studies show it typically takes a man 3-5 years to recover. He might want to date, but he's not ready. You're not doing him a favor being a matchmaker. Besides, depending on the circumstances, some people have strong convictions against remarriage after divorce. Best to leave it alone and let God arrange any courtships.
DO assume he will never remarry. This paradigm shift will drastically change the way you interact with him. Encourage him to use his singleness to serve the Lord.
DON'T ignore the fact that he's a man and he's lonely. If he doesn't have full-time custody of his child, he has periods of free time that could later lead to regret. He needs a trusted male friend that understands how susceptible guys are to temptation. Someone who can lovingly confront, challenge and encourage him. Church community is one way to keep him busy and away from isolation.
DO ask his permission for this kind of relationship. Be persistent if at first he's hesitant. He needs accountability whether he wants it or not. But it must be his choice.
Your church has a wonderful opportunity to reach out to single dads. They've been around for a long time, but reaching out to them is still considered innovative and new for churches. It may take some investigating to discover the felt need of a single father in your congregation but married couples in the local church can have a thriving ministry to single dads and their children.
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Award-winning author Tez Brooks was a single father for seven years. He has four children. He and his wife Christine serve as full-time missionaries with The Jesus Film Project. His latest book, The Single Dad Detour: Directions for Fathering After Divorce, is available on shop.cbn.com. To learn more about how you can minister to single dads, go www.everysingledad.com.
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