Tim Challies
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March 31, 2024

Thirty percent of families in the US are led by a single parent. Nearly nineteen million children have just one parent in their home. And while the actual numbers will vary from nation to nation, most of the Western world experiences something similar—large numbers of families that are led by just one parent. Sometimes the cause is divorce, sometimes death, sometimes unplanned pregnancy, and sometimes any number of other factors. But the reality is that more people than ever are raising families alone.

And this makes me wonder: Are our churches a safe and attractive place for such families? Do we welcome them and make them feel accepted? Do we account for them in our ministries, in our programs, in our sermon application? Do we acknowledge that single-parent families not only exist, but form a significant part of the population? Do we truly value them?

It was these questions that compelled me to read Anna Meade Harris’ new book God’s Grace for Every Family: Biblical Encouragement for Single-Parent Families and the Churches That Seek to Love Them Well. Though I do not have experience in being part of a single-parent family, I do serve a church that has included a good number of them. And I have wondered if we have served them well. Her book is meant to provide comfort and counsel to single parents while also informing and training churches to love them well.

Harris became a single parent in 2010 after her husband succumbed to colon cancer. At that time, their boys were nine, twelve, and thirteen years of age. And she was left to finish raising those boys and to press on in life without her spouse, her partner in so many of life’s blessings and challenges.

Her chapter on vulnerability helped me better appreciate how single moms are often especially vulnerable in any number of ways and often carry that sense of vulnerability with them throughout life. And her chapter on shame helped me understand how churches can inadvertently increase the sense of shame that so many single parents carry, even when the circumstances that led to being single are in no way their fault. These lessons and so many more have helped me better understand, better appreciate the challenges, and, I trust, better love those who are living them out.

The hope and confidence in this book is that the challenges of doing all this alone can be met within the church where God’s family can step up, care, love, and provide. The church is meant to be a place where the fatherless can find a father figure and the motherless a mother figure. It is, in short, a place where God means to bless every family—even, and perhaps especially, those families who are most broken and most in need of his grace.

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Tim Challies

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