GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–In a study of family values by one of America’s largest insurance companies, 60 percent of the nation’s single parents said they need support from their local communities, beyond their immediate families, to help raise their children.
Wouldn’t you think your church could be a large part of that needed support to help raise children?
You can begin by encouraging single parents in your church to let the church know when they need help. Often, human nature allows a person to think that everyone knows of his or her plight. In fact, that is seldom true. However, it is true that there are those who are eager to help families or individuals with needs, and your church is probably full of such people.
The church should be at the forefront of any effort to strengthen parents’ involvement with their children and help single parents raise their families. During back-to-school time, the needs are often critical and timing is crucial. But don’t stop there, because the needs of single parents are present throughout the year.
The following information may suggest ways that your church could help meet particular needs in your own community.
STRENGTHEN SUCCESSFUL CHILD-RAISING SKILLS
Offer programs or classes for monitoring children’s health needs, early childhood education, literacy training, career preparation and referrals for services.
Single parents of children with disabilities have special concerns and often need information about school services, local policies, therapy, funding sources, transportation, medical facilities and much more. The church where I’m a member provides respite care for such parents. It’s not a complicated process, but it sure helps both the parents and the children.
Interested persons — from college students to senior citizens — can offer emotional support, guidance and specific assistance to single parents and their children. Because of broken families, many children have little contact with adults who can help them develop emotionally. You must be aware that screening and supervision of mentors is extremely important in order to assure effective rates of interaction.
SENIOR CITIZEN VOLUNTEERS
American senior citizens today are the best-educated and most vigorous population of older adults in our history. And the senior population of our churches is an under-tapped resource of volunteers. Many communities don’t have programs such as the Foster Grandparents Program, so why shouldn’t churches be at the forefront of providing this sort of help?
Churches of all sizes have members who are nurses, doctors and dentists. Although single parents want to provide for their children’s health, some do not get “plugged in” to available local health services for one reason or another, and unresolved health problems often limit a child’s ability to learn and function.
Perhaps your church could provide a simple clinic that would be open at specific times to provide ordinary physical checkups. If that is not possible, the health workers in your church are good resource persons to make sure that all single parents know of the availability of, and have access to, community health services for families.
One of the concerns of many single parents at back-to-school time is after-school care. Although some schools and communities are good about this provision for single parents, others are not.
The Congress of National Black Churches sponsors Project SPIRIT, which focuses on instilling strength, perseverance, responsibility and integrity in young inner-city African American males. Since 1978, this program has featured daily after-school programs conducted in church facilities by older volunteers. Activities include tutoring, role-playing activities to teach practical life skills, snacks and prayer. Weekly education sessions for parents provide information on child development and effective parenting techniques.
BETTER NOW THAN NEVER
What Christian doesn’t know about the account of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-33? If the religious folks of Jesus’ day had provided for the man requiring help, there would have been no need for the Good Samaritan’s intervention.
The same is true today. If us “religious folks” of the church would fully accept our responsibility to help those in need, Good Samaritan organizations and government assistance would be unnecessary.
However, in most cases the church has dropped the ball, and the government has stepped in to provide needed assistance. It’s not that Christians and churches don’t want to help or don’t have the ability to help, but personal and church indebtedness caused by poor money management often diminishes their ability to provide for those in need.
Whether it’s because of the lack of funds or the lack of willingness to help in many churches, the only relief some single parents can find is through government programs. In today’s society few Americans see the church (or God) as their financial resource in times of need.
Perhaps it’s time for you and me and our churches to consider taking part in helping to turn this situation around. And back-to-school time provides specific needs and clear opportunities to help.
Harvey Nowland is a former senior writer for Crown Financial Ministries in Gainesville, Ga., who also has been a Southern Baptist pastor in Texas and Georgia and an International Mission Board missionary in Peru.