“My name is Jessica and I’m a single mom. Since my divorce, I’m really struggling to find where I fit in at church. It seems like everyone who attends are families. And it’s so strange, but after attending for six years, I just feel like I don’t fit in anymore. Now, when I walk into church with my two kiddos, I feel like people are wondering what the story is, like, “Where’s the dad?” Maybe it’s just me, but I feel people are judging me because we couldn’t keep our family together.”
Single parents experience spiritual community in different ways. Some don’t feel welcomed or seen by the church especially after divorce. Some have felt hurt or wounded by the church. Some attended church with their ex so going to church alone after divorce can feel awkward. Others continue their connection to church but overall, statistics tell us that 67% of single parents do not attend church. The primary reasons cited are because they feel they will be judged or that they don’t belong.
Founder of Solo Parent Society, Robert Beeson shares that he felt uncomfortable and kind of embarrassed and judged going into church with his three young girls and no mom. For a season, he didn’t go to church very much. He still pursued God, but he missed out on the community that church can provide. And single parents need to have spiritual community, maybe more so than ever before, because we are parenting alone.
Single parent, Elizabeth Cole, understands how single parents feel when they say they feel awkward being at church. After divorce, she struggled with shame and wondered if her marriage struggles meant she didn’t have a right to come to God’s feet. But she knew she needed connection to God, so she pushed through her own reservations and kept going even when it felt uncomfortable. One of the things she had to do was to not make going to church about other people and focused on her relationship with God and her need for Him.
A safe spiritual community is important. There are three key steps to rediscover spiritual community:
- A healthy perception of community
- Optimal community
- Serving in community
A healthy perception of community
Some solo parents believe they are being judged or feel unwelcome, but that perception isn’t always accurate. There is an enemy who doesn’t want us to have healthy spiritual community and who wants us to believe we aren’t welcome or don’t fit in at church. As solo parents, we need to evaluate our perceptions. Often, other people aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re thinking about themselves. Some of our feelings of not belonging are based on our own assumptions or feelings of shame that we project unto others. We must look carefully at what we are choosing to believe, and we need to challenge our thinking. We may assume the couple sitting next to us is judging us when that is the furthest thing from the truth. Maybe the looks we are getting are genuine interest and a desire to get to know you better. Elizabeth said that when her relationship with God is in a healthy place, she can tell herself a different story about what other people are thinking. Once we take time to challenge assumptions, we lower barriers to connection and become open to the relationships we need.
Finding optimal community
Another key to rediscovering spiritual community is to take seriously what God says about church. God wants us to be connected to the body of Christ in unity. We need each other. It’s important to take the time to find the optimal community for you. If you’re wondering how to connect to a spiritual community as a single parent, ask God. He may lead you to stay at the church you were attending, or he may lead you to a new church. No church is perfect but perhaps staying at a church you used to attend with your ex is too distracting. Maybe you need a more neutral setting to worship freely again. The key is to ask God proactively and follow where He leads you, knowing that connection to church is part of His plan for believers. Elizabeth found what she needed when she started attending a new church after divorce. She has discovered great teaching, opportunities for learning and growth, and she found Solo Parent Society at church. Taking time to seek the right community is crucial. We need a place for accountability, training and healing, and our kids need this too. As you consider options, don’t hold on to anything as being set in stone. Sometimes it’s time to move on. Let the Holy Spirit guide you and give you peace about where to find spiritual community.
Church is critical but don’t discount the value of other ways to connect to a body of believers. Solo Parent Society provides community for single parents in small groups. Jesus taught believers to meet in each other’s homes and share meals together and carry each other’s burdens. When you’re a solo parent, find safe people who are strong enough to be there for you and who will help you bear your burdens. And there will be times we do that for others. This is part of God’s plan and design.
Another way to connect to a spiritual community is through serving. As solo parents, we may need to be on the receiving end of things. That is normal and to be expected as we go through transition. But there’s something sacrificial and healing that takes place when we serve. The act of giving and pouring out means we end up being surrounded by others doing the same thing. When we volunteer and serve our community, we find community! And when we include our kids, we provide that for our kids too. Strong, godly relationships can develop for our kids with other adults. And as we serve, we are all reminded we have something to offer. Even after divorce or loss, even if we can’t give money, we can still find a way to give back with our time. This brings a sense of value and meaning for us and for our kids and it is time well spent together. As you serve your community, you don’t have time to sit in self-pity, it builds community for you and for your kids, and it teaches them to give to others too.
Rediscovering spiritual community is vital to stay healthy as a single parent and to raise healthy kids. Three steps to help you move toward that connection are first, to challenge your perceptions of what others may be thinking, second, to take time to find optimal community (church, Bible study, small group, etc.) and third, to find a way to serve others. Each of these steps will move you closer to rediscovering the spiritual community that you and your kids need.
As you rediscover spiritual community, let Solo Parent Society be part of your journey. Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts, and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.