We church leaders repeat often that we desire to know and reach our mission field. And we also know that our mission field demographics are shifting dramatically in the United States.
Today, I want to focus on one large slice of the demographic pie in America—households headed by a single parent. That world is growing and shifting so quickly it is almost breathtaking. For now, I offer five factoids about these families. Consider the implications for churches as we attempt to minister and reach these persons.
- Nearly three out of ten families with children today are headed by a single parent. That makes this group one of the largest population segments in the nation.
- Four out of ten children in American are born to single women. That rate is six times its level since 1960. And the pace continues even though teen pregnancy has been declining.
- Hispanics and whites have the largest percentage increase in single parent births. African Americans still have the highest absolute percentage, but the faster growth is taking place among Hispanics and whites.
- Males are the fastest growing category of single parents. I think most of us are surprised at this development. The implications for churches are staggering.
- The vast majority of single parents are gainfully employed. Eight out of ten single moms are employed. Nine out of ten single dads are employed. The vast majority of these parents receive no government assistance.
These statistics provide incredible insights about a part of the population that many churches have no specific plans to reach or to minister to. With that in mind, I ask church leaders five questions to consider.
- Do the leaders in your church have an awareness of this large population group? Just an awareness of the issue can prompt action.
- Does your church have specific ministries designed for this population segment? A corollary question is: Are those ministries effective?
- What would your church need to do differently to reach this group? I specifically refer to current ministries and programs.
- Are there any attitudes that would discourage single parents from feeling welcome at your church? Some of you readers may give us some good insights there.
- Have you attempted to connect with single parents in your church to get clarity about this group? They would certainly be the best persons to help our churches prayerfully and strategically think about this issue.
Yes, times are changing. But we in our churches have a great opportunity to reach a growing segment of the U. S. population.
How will your church respond? Does your church already have a specific ministry or outreach effort to single parents?
(Note: These statistics were gleaned from The Retail Revival by Doug Stevens. The author further cites these sources: “Four in 10 Children Are Born to Unwed Mothers,” from FamilyFacts.org and “Single Parent Statistics” from Single Parent Magazine, June 2012.)