Serving Single Dads
How the church can do more
by Todd Shupe
According to a recent post in the DailySignal.com, one in three children live in a single-parent household. This clearly presents challenges for the parent who is raising the children. A child needs an active father and mother in their life and when one is missing or present on a limited basis, it can be difficult for the child. Men face the same challenges as women in raising children, but some churches fail to offer programs and support for single fathers..
This issue is very personal for Mark May. During the day, he is the chairman and CEO of his own company. But his real job is raising his two boys, Caedan, 15, and Kamden, 13. May has been a single dad for four years, and he shares joint custody with his ex-wife.
May says that when he sees a single mom, his instinct is to offer help and assistance, but as a single dad, he doesn’t feel the same concern from others. (Perhaps they feel that men don’t need help?) Or it could be that since most pastors have not been divorced, they are at a disadvantage in relating to the needs of single dads. They don’t have the necessary experience to relate to these men who tend to be quiet and low-key. As a result, church leaders tend not to develop ministries for them … the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” theory.
Single Dads Share Their Thoughts
“ it is important to remember that we are the church, the Body of Christ, and we are called to serve each other. The church has the opportunity to help single dads raise children as effectively as a single mom. The church can provide fathers with the confidence to know they can do it alone. ” – Erik Burns, Denham Springs
“ Churches need an engaged youth program to help children understand divorce and that God’s love is greater than divorce or anything created by man. ” – Peter signorelli, Prairieville
“ i would say the biggest struggle as a single dad was feeling the void that i imagine my daughter felt from the absence of her mother. ” – Jimmy Haase, Addis
“ Single dads need help to address the needs of young girls. Women in church can advise them on a number of issues and provide a strong faith-based woman in their lives. ” – Paul Murphy, French Settlement
“ Church and society seem to believe single dads can do everything alone and tend not to provide them with the assistance that they give single moms. ” – Pastor Jermaine T. Maberry, Crowley
A few close friends can make all the difference. May has a small circle of friends that he can meet with immediately if he needs parenting advice or emotional support. His circle is totally comprised of married men who are caring and very good listeners. They are a valuable resource because of their availability and willingness to help with any problem.
As for the children, an active church-based youth program is critical. Mark felt blessed by a youth pastor who was engaged in his kids’ lives and made sure they always felt welcome and had a good time. Because of an open door policy, the children felt comfortable talking with him about problems such as “Why are my parents getting divorced and what does this mean for me?”
Mark is passionate about helping the next generation of single and divorced dads. He does not want them to have to go through the same hardships he did. He says he “muscled through it,” but he encourages fathers to do more than that. “
“Keep your kids involved in youth programs at church and attend church on a weekly basis,” he said. “Engage them in Bible studies at home and reinforce God’s love for them. Show them God’s love with your actions as well as your words, and get a small group of friends or an accountability group that has open, confidential and honest communication.”
Todd Shupe is the President of Wood Science Consulting, LLC and served as a professor and lab director at LSU for 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog toddshupe.com. Todd is the Secretary of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, Database Coordinator for Gulf South Men, and volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, Iron Sharpens Iron, Open Air Ministries, HOPE Ministries food pantry. Todd is currently preparing to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men.