There are a variety moms that come to worship and manage their kids single-handedly. A single mom, a pastor's wife, a wife without the spiritual support of her husband, a wife whose husband is away for work (military, oil, farming, business, music...), and it can even be a grandma with her grandchildren.
I realize that a single parent can be a mom OR dad but since this is a women's blog I am going to address this topic from a mom's perspective. Onward Christian soldiers...
1. Get rid of high expectations.
She may come on time or late. Her kids may sit quiet or have outbursts. She may be dressed up for once or have wet hair and no nylons. She may make it to church every week or miss services occasionally.
Don't expect that the kids will behave or misbehave. Do plan on them being who God made them to be - kids!
Like Colleen commented on Corissa' s post, When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us "With three little ones, church can be a struggle. Especially if your husband is not able to be there to help. My husband is in Koine, and travels most Sundays to different churches. I keep trying to perfectly pack the diaper bag to keep all three kids happy during church. The littlest one needs random objects to keep her hands busy. And, if we attend the “late” service, she will want lunch right in the middle of the sermon. The older two are fairly well behaved, but still want snacks and the occasional coloring activity. There are some Sunday mornings that do not go as planned. I cannot imagine the kids cooperating during church. We go anyways. I usually am surprised on these days by their behavior. Then there are others like two weeks ago… baby is on the move and can be impossible to hold. The middle decided he should keep his hands down the back of his pants the entire sermon. And the oldest was wanting to be mommy and boss her siblings around. Being at church, no matter the struggle some days, is still worth it to me. I love hearing the kids sing along or ask questions about the sermon. They are listening…"
2. Share your stories!
Storytime! Share stories of when you didn't have it all together. Moms often think that their children's cries and nudges are noticed by those around them. *insert paranoid shifty eyes here* Hearing that we are not alone and that this phase will pass is great encouragement! Check out our friend and mentor Linda Buxa's timely blog post - To the moms who take their squirrelly kids to church.
3. Don't be a grabber.
Always ask before you take a child "off her hands." It may make things worse. Church may happen during nap time, the child may be shy, not feeling well, or like most children they prefer their mommy in a crowd. This is okay and it doesn't mean anything against you.
After church I'll be in several conversations and then next thing I know I have no idea where any of my kids are! Most of the time I can safely assume my kids are playing, eating one too many cookies, or are in the loving care of my church family (and hopefully still in church!) but it is always appreciated when people ask first.
4. Grandparent the family.
Some church couples have kids in high school, out of home, or are grandparents. If you fall in one of these categories consider asking a mom if you can sit next to her during worship to help. Do you have a teenager who is interested in babysitting? She can help out during worship!
This can be a wonderful help and creates a greater sense of church family and consistent support for the family. We've got each others backs!
Be a sister's keeper. You can sit with her kids when she goes up for communion, plays music, or sings with the choir. When she has to change the baby the older children can stay seated next to you and hear the message in church. When she has to feed her baby in the pew or in the nursery the older children will helped.
Either you or an usher can help the mom get the crew back to the car. There is so much to carry! Sunday school papers, busy bags, diaper bags, the infant carrier, and the same wiggly kids. Parking lots are tricky and having an extra hand for the littles ones to hold while crossing the parking lot is a life saver.
5. Simply smile and say "Thank you!"
When you are in church you will likely get distracted from a kid's cry, a hymnal slamming to the ground, Cheerios cascading to the ground, or water cups (even children!) rolling under the pews. But when you look over your shoulder and make eye contact with the mom - instead of quickly glancing away - smile! It shows that you are happy her family is there. Especially acknowledge any good behavior or character you noticed to that specific child. Children are the church's future!
Women AND men, acknowledge the effort and sacrifice single parents make to bring their kids to church. It would have been easier for them to not come at all. May our actions and attitudes make kids feel ever so welcome to come into God's house. In a way we are kind of on their turf...
...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16
What are some other ways we can help single parents?
If you are a single parent, how can we help you?
In Christ we are family.