Today, more than 11 million households are single-parent homes—which means that thousands of one-parent families are in our churches and neighborhoods. Dr. Dobson says, “Single parenting is the most difficult job in the universe.” So how can we help single-parent families?
Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan offers an excellent example. The traveler in Luke 10 fell into the hands of robbers and was stripped, beaten and left for dead.
Help in time of need
Whether never married, divorced, separated or widowed, single parents have often been similarly robbed of security and stability; stripped of respect and trust; and beaten down by betrayal, abandonment and loss. They have been left alone. Some encounter judgment, and others fear their lot will be poverty and hopelessness.
My friend Alice has experienced it all. “Soon after my divorce and after my ex-husband promised never to be a deadbeat dad, the father of my children quit his job, left the state and ceased to provide child support,” she says. “My children were crushed, and I was devastated. I had four kids, a part-time job and a house I couldn’t afford. I couldn’t afford to move either. During that time, I lived day-to-day not knowing where the next meal would come from or how I would keep the utilities on.
“The overwhelming responsibility was heavier than I could bear. It was painful to watch my children go without basic provision and to feel so helpless to do anything about it. We all felt abandoned and insecure. If not for the faithfulness of God and the generosity of Christians, I would have succumbed to deep depression.”
As in the parable, when the good Samaritan came along, he brought help for the person’s physical needs, healing for a shattered identity, and hope. For Alice, the body of Christ did the same.
The good Samaritan bandaged the traveler’s wounds—both physical and emotional; poured on the healing oil—a soothing, medicinal salve; and applied an antiseptic wine that cleaned the wound so healing could progress. Then the good Samaritan sacrificed his own plans, time and resources to help the traveler recover. So did all those who helped Alice.
“Go and do likewise.”
Single-parent families are called “the hidden mission field” and for good reason. Often they have little or no connection to other church families, and immediate or extended family may live far away. We can use our gifts, time or resources to help them. Some of us are gifted in prayer, mentoring, teaching, financial counseling, childcare or organizing special events—all things that can equip single parents to parent more effectively.
Perhaps the Lord wants you to adopt a single-parent family. Being a “grandparent” to a single-parent child is one of the best ways to help these families. Plus, things such as car care, computer problems and home maintenance are frustrating for single parents. Maybe you can help a single mom clean her garage or mow her lawn. Perhaps you can take a single dad’s children overnight so that he can have a night off.
Another possibility: Those with financial resources can meet a need that a single-parent family may have—as in the example of the good Samaritan. He was a great help to the wounded traveler, but he couldn’t do it all, so he paid the innkeeper to care for the man. Single parents often earn less money, and many receive no child support. Helping with school supplies, birthday presents, church camp fees or clothing can make a big difference in their tight budget. Paying a utility bill or rent, even once, can mean the difference for a single parent between balancing her budget and going into debt.
A cursory tally of your neighborhood or a quick call to your church will help you discover how you can be a good samaritan. If each of us does our part, loving and caring when we can, single parents and their children can experience the compassion of the Good Samaritan.