Some years ago, I was part of a ministry which reached out to women and children living in shelters. One of my favorite things was collecting donated items and taking them to the shelter. The staff was just as excited as my assistant and I were. It was like Christmas every time we went there because mothers and their children were going to get things they really needed. I remember buying photo albums and cameras for the expectant mothers so that they could capture those precious moments. One staff member mentioned that the women did scrapbooking as a form of therapy so we bought scrapbooks.
One of the women I met at the shelter was a young, single mother. We took items for her and her unborn child. After she left the shelter we kept in touch at her request. We dropped off donated items for her and met her family. When she was in the hospital, she called to give me the good news–she had a son. Sadly, we lost touch. I hope that she and her son are doing well. I think the last I heard, she was working at a drugstore. She believed in God and found comfort in His Word.
I remember that a church member had a problem with our ministry helping this unwed mother. I believe that sometimes Christians are so particular about what is morally right and wrong that they neglect what is needed–compassion. When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, not once did He make her feel ashamed or embarrassed. He showed her love and compassion. He even commended her for being honest about her current living arrangement. She was living with a man who was not her husband after having gone through more than one failed marriage. Instead of condemning her or refusing to have anything to do with her or withholding His love, Jesus offered her living water. He offered her salvation. He showed her grace. The way He treated her compelled the woman to go and tell others about Him.
It’s tough enough for some women to raise children on their own without having to deal with criticism and feeling that they had committed the unpardonable sin. I met a young woman who worked at the same homeless shelter. She left her church because of the people. They treated her shamefully because she had had a child out of wedlock. The church is not expected to ignore these things or excuse them but at the same time, they are not to be judgmental. They are to be mindful that people will fall into sin and that they need compassion. Only God is allowed to judge. And the Bible assures us that when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but He told her to stop sinning.
Single mothers should not be made to feel bad because they had a child outside of marriage. Mind you, some choose to raise their children on their own without the help of the fathers. It’s sad to know that many women stay away from church because they are ashamed and they are afraid of the kind of reception they would get once it was discovered that they are unwed mothers. People might be friendly until they notice that there is no wedding ring. In churches where people don’t wear rings such as the Seventh-day Adventist church, it would be harder to tell until they notice that she and her child are never accompanied by a male. Someone might come right out and ask her about her husband. She could evade the question or be like the Samaritan woman and admit that she is not married. It won’t be long before she feels uncomfortable being there and will stop attending.
I was reading this post written by a Christian woman who was an unwed teenage mom and she made the point that there was nothing at her church for single mothers. Ashamed, she stopped going to church and for seven years she lived in shame. She calls for churches to step up and reach out to the single mothers in their midst. “Whether they are unwed or divorced, many single moms need parenting advice, financial instruction, emotional support via networking, and Spiritual growth opportunities. Let us find these women in our communities, both the churched and the unchurched. Let us minister to them at their point of need. Let’s begin the single moms groups. Praise God for the cutting-edge churches across the country who have already embraced the concept! Has yours?”
Does your church have a ministry for single mothers? If you were to suggest this to your pastor do you think that your pastor would be open to it? We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Most single mothers don’t plan to have children out of wedlock. Many dream of falling in love, getting married and then having children. I know of women who regret having children before they got married. Some of them envy other women who got married first. One woman is currently living with her partner and their child and is hoping that one day they would get married. Until that happens, she doesn’t feel comfortable going to church. And she has no plans of returning to the church she had been a member of until they discovered that she was pregnant. She left the church after she learned that there were members who were out for her blood. The whole experience had been a traumatic one for her and it took a while for her to reach the point where she could put it behind her and forgive the people who condemned her.
As a church, we ought to reach out to unwed mothers inside and outside of the church. If your church doesn’t have a ministry to help these women, pitch the idea. Start a ministry. It can be a part of the Singles’ or Women’s Ministries or Community Service. Do something. I was moved to start the ministry because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example and to be a good neighbor like the Samaritan man. Although I am no longer at the church, the ministry is still going strong. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your pastor about starting the ministry, then you can find a single mother who needs help and help her. You can encourage other church members who might be interested to help the other single mothers in the church. Be a light right where you are. By helping these mothers, you are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor.