Question of the week: How can I get the single parent family involved and serving over the holidays?


48423278 - merry christmas! happy mother and daughter hang a christmas garland.

A children’s minister asked me this question recently. It inspired me to share these thoughts with you.

Christmas is hard on many single-parent families. While some single-parent families are struggling to adjust to this new lifestyle, others have been single parenting for years. These are the single parents who are ready to serve and give back.

From my observations over the past years, I’ve come to the conclusion that most single parents go through three distinct phases or stages of parenting.

  1. Stage 1: Surviving and becoming a parent without a partner
  2. Stage 2: Transitioning from crisis to reality
  3. Stage 3: The emerging healthy single parent

It is in stage three when single parents have healed and moved from hurting into a healthy life that they are ready to serve. These are the single parents who are no longer needy and emotionally vulnerable. They want to give back to the Lord. Many times, they want to give back to the church family that has covered them in prayer and walked alongside them in their journey.

Suggestions for serving

  1. Mentor and help a struggling single-parent family survive the holidays. (Healthy single parents will understand and remember what it’s like to survive the holidays. They will have empathy and understanding.) Encourage a single parent to take charge of the following:
  • Help the children purchase or make gifts for both parents.
  • Send the single parent a Christmas card. (You’d be amazed at the lack of Christmas cards and wishes single parents get. Many times, family and friends turn their back on the hurting single parent.)
  • Invite the single-parent family to attend a Christmas celebration at your church or in your community.
  • Invite the single-parent family over on Christmas Day, if possible.
  • Or invite the single parent who might be without the children on Christmas to come over for the day or dessert.
  1. Hand out programs for a Christmas concert.
  2. Fold programs for the Christmas concert.
  3. Decorate for Christmas. (Many churches have a tree that has to be decorated, as well as other Christmas decorations around the church building.)
  4. Set up for a special event (e.g., put up chairs and tables for refreshments).
  5. Serve on the group that tears down and cleans up after an event, such as a church-wide Christmas celebration or Christmas Eve service.
  6. Bake cookies or desserts for a special event.
  7. Make coffee or punch.
  8. Serve refreshments.
  9. Be a greeter at the door.
  10. Look for single parents with special skills. You may identify someone who is a great marketer, excellent financial planner, chef, or skilled tradesperson. (Most single parents work to support their families.) Look for ministry opportunities that would benefit from such expertise.

Serving during the year

Many of the ways listed above can be used throughout the year. Other ways single parents can serve include:

  • Helping with a church-wide mailing (e.g., stuffing envelopes, folding items, and stamping)
  • Making phone calls
  • Supplying items for a food pantry
  • Sorting clothes if your church has a clothes closet
  • Serving in the benevolence group (single parents who have grieved the loss of a loved one will be cognizant of how to approach a grieving widow or widower.)

Even the single parent at the beginning of the single-parent journey and the transitioning parents could benefit from giving to others at Christmas. Some might not want to, while others are just waiting to be asked.

In what ways does your church encourage single parents and kids to serve?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on December 15, 2014.

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