It takes a village. This ancient truth became a catch phrase in the mid-1990’s. It’s origin is much earlier, although no one is sure about it’s true roots. Some say it’s an African proverb; others believe it comes from a Native American tribe. Nevertheless, the statement holds true.
James wrote of the orphans and widows of the world, calling Christians to care for them. In his own way, he told them, it takes a village.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
I became a single mother in the 1980s. At the time, 19.5% of households were headed by a single parent. In 2011, the percentage had increased to 26.5%. There were an estimated 11.7 million single parents in the US in 2010.* Even though our numbers were high and climbing in the 80s, many looked at us as failures. Including us.
No one wants to say, “And then we were three,” and mean that what once was a family is now a broken home with a parent and two children.
In the past, I’ve mentioned the difficulties I experienced in accepting my divorce while remaining within the church. The main reason I stayed in the church was the need for that village. They might not like the fact that I was divorced, they might not even blame me for it, but what mattered to the church was the children.
After I graduated from college, I got a job in Atlanta and moved. Members of my home church connected me to some friends in Atlanta and their church. This lovely family made walking through the doors of a much larger church a bit easier.
Our village grew.
Our new church was bursting at the seams with a flip-flop schedule. The first hour offered Sunday School and a worship service. In the second hour, everyone switched places. The only catch? My children’s Sunday School classes occurred in the second hour, but the class for single and single-again adults occurred in the first hour. Yikes!
The church had a plan!
They knew that single parents needed to spend time with others in a similar situation, so they set up a class for the children of single parents that met during that first hour. Volunteers from the singles ministry rotated teaching the class. I could get the fellowship and encouragement I needed, and my children could attend Sunday School. Plus, the singles who volunteered to teach became close to our families in a way they never would have, otherwise.
Our village grew more.
As we got to know people in the church, families sometimes offered to take my children into the first service, so they could attend the Sunday School class designated for their age group.
Our village continued to grow.
About a year after we moved to Atlanta, our church moved into a larger facility, eliminating the need for the flip-flop schedule. But what a wonderful service they provided during that time. Thanks to the thoughtful planning of some creative person(s) and the willingness of others to serve, my children knew a large number of people in this two thousand member fellowship. People who were significant in their early years.
The pictures I have shared on this post are of my daughters at a Hawaiian luau held by the singles ministry and at a trip to the circus with the single again ministry. Beyond Sunday, the service continued.
I wonder how many churches have programs like this today? It was almost unheard of at the time, but with the increase in single parent homes, I’m hoping churches haven’t forgotten that orphans and widows in our world include those in single parent homes.