Churches Are Missing the Big Opportunity to Minister to Single-Parents

Single-parent homes are far more prevalent in the United States than most realize. They comprise one-quarter to one-third of homes with children in many communities. In your community, the number could be even higher. Consider the neighborhood around my church in Bradenton, Florida.

  • Single Mom Households: 31%
  • Single Dad Households: 12%
  • Married with Children: 57%

Of households with children around my church, 43% are single-parent homes! If you do not know this figure for your community, you can get it with our Know Your Community report.

The United States is an anomaly when looking at data in other countries. According to Pew Research, the United States has one of the world’s highest rates of children living in single-parent households, more than three times the global average. For comparison, look at the rates in other countries.

  • United States: 23%
  • Canada: 15%
  • India: 5%
  • Nigeria: 4%
  • China: 3%
  • Global Rate: 7%

Many studies reveal homes with a mom and dad are generally healthier. While the problem is ubiquitous in our country, it’s best not to make assumptions about a parent. You simply cannot know the health of any household—good or bad—unless you are close to the family. There are plenty of single-parent homes that are healthy and plenty of two-parent homes that are not. Also of note, U.S. children from Christian homes are equally as likely to live in a single-parent home as those who are religiously unaffiliated.

Single-parent homes are in every neighborhood. In some cases, there are more single-parent homes than two-parent homes. Why do churches miss this large demographic?

  • Single parents don’t announce themselves. When people make introductions, they rarely begin by sharing their marriage status. You must get to know them well first.
  • Churches operate with an idealized picture of the family. We should aim for ideals but also meet people where they are. Many congregations are simply not looking for single parents. When you are not looking, you will miss what you do not see.
  • Churches do not go to them. Single parents are with their kids. If you are not volunteering in the community where the children are, then you won’t cross paths with a single parent.
  • Churches are not prepared for them. Many children’s ministries are structured with two-parent homes in mind. I’m always baffled by churches offering limited children’s ministry options. How should a single parent be involved in the church without help? If a single mom wants to sing in the choir, but the church does not have a children’s ministry, what should her kids do while she is singing? I realize single parents are efficient and hard-working, but they can’t be in two places at the same time!

Why should you care about the number of single-parent homes? This mission field is enormous. Over 18 million children in the United States live in a single-parent household. But remember, to reach them, you will likely need to change how you do children’s ministry in your church.

How many single-parent homes are in your community? Order your Know Your Community report to find out. The report contains a wealth of information about your neighborhood.

Posted on January 31, 2024


As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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6 Comments

  • Julie latter says on

    I agree churches of all demonantions need to recognize single parents more, I didn’t choose to be a single parent after a accident and even now my daughter is grown up I still don’t feel like there is truely a place for me in a church.
    I haven’t said anything to the church leader where I’ve changed to but I think his wife has spoken to me once and that was at a bible study I went to. I’ve noticed it in a couple of churches, plus having a hidden disability from the accident has also been a barrier in a couple of churches I have tried. I don’t live in America.

    I have skills that can still help people and compassion, empathy to lead people but it goes unrecognized

  • Thanks for the focus on this. As a single parent whose child is now grown, I have often felt overlooked and unwanted in churches. As you stated, many idealized nuclear families may not be healthy either. Please get to know us instead of condemning us for whatever path we are walking.

  • We have done the KYC report. However, ours doesn’t have this information in it–certainly not a section with a graphic like this. Is this a newer version of the report?

  • The church I serve is intentionally engaging with single parents. We used the material from Church Initiatives called Single & Parenting. Sadly, they have discontinued this material and will not be revising it, although it remains available for use. The statistic for single-parent homes is almost exactly the same in my community in Michigan. We are just at the tip of the iceberg of reaching single parents in our community. I’m happy to talk to anyone who wants to engage in this ministry. It’s tough, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time.