Once a month on a Sunday afternoon, Elmhust (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church welcomes a growing group of women to its Single Mothers Support Group, also known as SHE— Sisters Helping Each other. Just beginning its eighth season, the ministry held a spa event to pamper women who are more often busy working and providing care.
“These women, who normally never get any personal attention for themselves, finally can sit back and be blessed in the name of Jesus,” said Jane Loerop, who coordinates the ministry along with 15 women on a steering committee. Loerop said there are 325 women on the ministry’s email list. More than 100 women and their children came to the spa event, including 11 women who hadn’t been the to church before. She said the ultimate goal of the ministry is to introduce mothers and their children to Jesus Christ, expressed through the genuine love they receive at every meeting. Mothers and their children are welcomed for lunch and then separate programming for the children and the women. Seventeen volunteer table-hosts, some from the church and many from the community, organize the monthly meetings—sometimes sharing practical advice, such as a session on money management, but always presenting a Christ-centered message, Loerop said,
“It has been really rewarding to see these women join Elmhurst CRC and then get involved in the life of the church either through Coffee Break or Little Lambs [an outreach Bible study and children’s program],” Loerop said. “I just encourage all our CRC churches to embrace and value our single moms. Our churches have no boundaries. . . . What an opportunity we have to start a new generation of Christians.”
Though the group at Elmhurst CRC provides its own monthly programming, using a combination of Christian teachings on DVD, visiting speakers, and activities—other churches wanting to begin a ministry with single parents could access program material from an organization called Church Initiative (CI). Bethel CRC in Waterdown, Ont., has just begun its third session of Single and Parenting, a 13-week series produced by CI specifically for churches to support single parents. Joanne Adema, who runs the children’s program alongside the Single and Parenting group at Bethel, said the church had help from Operation Manna, the fund of Diaconal Ministries Canada, to offset startup costs for the ministry. Now the group has one of the first participants leading this current session.