Shortly after publishing my last post What’s a Single Mom to Do?, I thought about editing it to downplay the emotions that so clearly came through. But I decided not to because I intentionally wrote the piece from a place of raw emotion and did not want to wordsmith or otherwise water it down with a clinical application of the tensions single parents feel, and in many cases, are made to feel, in the church. Nonetheless, I probably came off a bit harsh on the church, which is a bit unfair. There are some congregations that do demonstrate care for the realities of single parents and avoid the careless cliche-ish ways that singles, and particularly, single parents are sometimes treated.
I came across this post by Ed Cyzewski, The Church was Super Lucky to Have Me as an On-line Consultant. I confess that was somewhat convicted having just posted a criticism of how the church handles single parent, fatherless households. Ed rightly notes that there is a substantial amount of on-line energy devoted to rebuking the church for her woes, as if she is beholden to our virtual criticism. Instead he exhorts,
I’m just wondering if we could spent a bit more time writing about what’s working, what’s good, what’s out of the ordinary and unexpectedly good and authentic.
These aren’t always the most controversial or clickable topics. Frankly, they’re often hard to find, and unbearably ordinary without the flash and flare of big personalities. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to write about all of the things that make church wonderful. It looks like a friend who offers to bail you out of a hard time, families who bring over meals when you’re struggling, single moms who support your wife through the tumult of a newborn, pastors who share openly about the burdens on their minds, elders who listen to the congregation, and leaders who are wholly invested in making church the best experience possible for the children who show up.
There are stories of hope out there, and I’ll be honest, I need them. I need to know that some good things are happening. It’s not all celebrity preachers building mansions out there.
On that vein, I thought it would be good and encouraging to talk about some positive experiences that I’ve had, where people have reached out and cared about our situation.
About 1 1/2, I made the leap into the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) from the independent, bible church world I had known. The reasons were primarily driven by theological/doctrinal issues initiated by solidifying my doctrine of the church. To say the change has been refreshing would be an understatement.
Prior to that I was at a Bible Fellowship church for about 4 years since my arrival in Dallas. Now in a post where I want to focus on the positive, I want to guard how I describe that experience. However, my points here would be undervalued and underappreciated without the contrast. Though I served in various capacities, heard some good teaching and and met some good people, it was a pretty lonely experience. But I was especially disappointed at the indifference for expressed needs, especially related to support for my son who lost his dad just one month prior to his 7th birthday. He was 11 when we first started attending there.
When I expressed an interest in finding a mentor for my son, I was told by the Family Pastor at the time that it would be difficult and that they weren’t looking to start any new programs. But if I wanted to start something up I could present the church leaders with a plan. Huh? So much for taking care of the widows and orphans. In hindsight, I’m surprised I didn’t make an issue of it then…or even stayed at that church. Then later on, I was met with disregard when I expressed to the high school ministries director my concern for a mentor, especially given that my son was losing interest in spiritual things and could care less. Mentioned in person. Email sent. No reply. No help.
So when I arrived at my wonderful Presbyterian congregation, I was immediately struck with the friendliness from so many. From the first day on, people intentionally made an effort to get to know us and reach out. Whereas I would spend so many Sundays previously running in and out without talking to a soul, now I can’t leave without having at least three good conversations and getting to know people better…and people that wanted to know us better. Though my son is not always with me, I have been overwhelmed by the outreach that has occurred.
The pastor who checks in from time to time to see how we are doing
The elder that called during the ice storm to make sure that we are ok and see if we needed something
The dinner invitations to get to know us better
The rallying around transportation needs as they have arisen
The associate minister who works with youth and has outreached to my son, taking him out on occasions and filling in transportation needs
Its a far cry from the mentor relationship that my son needs, but the fact that people have cared enough to reach out means the world. They listen. They invest. They care. Even better that not once have I been shamed about my single-parent status or the difficulties that I’m having with him and church attendance. We are accepted and loved. While I know that no one, or no church is perfect, it seems an awful lot like what the body should look like. I am convinced more than ever that if church is a lonely experience, especially if you are a single parent, somethings just not right. I’m grateful for Town North Presbyterian.