Every parent I've ever met belongs to the PTA—poor, tired adults. It's hard to be a parent. It's even harder to be a single parent. I want to look at three aspects of the single-parent family by considering Timothy, a young man in the Bible who was raised in a single-parent home:
1. The cultural reality. Acts 16:1-3 tells us that Paul the apostle revisited a town called Lystra, where he asked Timothy to join his evangelistic team. It was probably on Paul's first missionary journey through town that Timothy—along with his mother and grandmother—were saved (see Acts 14). Now, Timothy was the son of a mixed marriage: his mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was Greek and wasn't around anymore. Likely he had died. In other words, single parenting has been around a long time. It's a reality.
2. The caretaker's role. Paul, later writing to Timothy, made mention of "the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5; see also 3:14-15). In other words, "Your mom and grandma fulfilled their primary role: they passed down their genuine faith and belief in Jesus to you."
If the only thing you pass on to your children is a spiritual heritage—setting them on the path to know Jesus Christ—you've given them everything. Life is hectic and demanding, especially for single parents, so make sure you zero in on the most important thing (see Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
3. The community's responsibility. Paul stepped in and became a spiritual father to Timothy; he called him "a beloved son" (2 Timothy 1:2) and "a true son in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2). And Timothy joined Paul's mission team and became his right-hand man, eventually going on to pastor the Ephesian church.
But none of this happened magically. It happened intentionally when Paul took the time to invite, invest in, train, mentor, and then send Timothy. This is where the church steps in. God "sets the solitary in families" (Psalm 68:6), and the church is that family for single parents. Our responsibility is to offer support.
Here are a few practical things we as the church can do to help single parents: First, offer assistance. Mow their lawn, pull their weeds, or fix their appliances. Just help out. Second, be available, whether for adult conversation, to help them reenter the job market, or just to weep with them. Third, consider becoming a spiritual mentor to offer needed direction and guidance, like Paul did for Timothy.
And here's my encouragement for you if you're a single parent: do your best and commit the rest. Don't expect perfection from yourself. Just do what you can and make sure what you can do is the very best: leaving your kids with a spiritual heritage in the Lord.