How a formerly homeless mother's ministry has empowered churches to help thousands of single moms

On National Single Parent Day, churches are urged not to overlook struggling single parents

The Life of a Single Mom ministry is designed to provide long-term, Bible-based services to single mothers and help churches launch their own ministries.
The Life of a Single Mom ministry is designed to provide long-term, Bible-based services to single mothers and help churches launch their own ministries. | Courtesy of The Life of a Single Mom 

As a formerly homeless and severely abused single mother, Jennifer Maggio of Louisiana knows firsthand the difficulties of raising children without a husband. After finding the Lord in the early 2000s, she felt a call from God deep in her spirit to help other single mothers facing those same trials she endured. 

This conviction led her to launch her own single mom’s Bible study in 2007. Over four years, what began as three single mothers meeting her at a local church branched into a multi-church ministry that has since served thousands of single mothers by guiding them to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The 44-year-old founder and chief executive officer of The Life of a Single Mom ministry told The Christian Post that her hope is “to see that no single mom walks alone.”

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Jennifer Maggio
Jennifer Maggio | Courtesy Natalie Miller Photography

“As a former single mother who laid on a bathroom floor in government housing and contemplated taking my own life at 19-years-old, I know how dark it can get. I also know how hard the journey back into a local church can be, even for a lifetime church girl,” Maggio detailed in a recent interview. 

“My personal story is one of God’s redemption and grace, but it was a long and winding road. It allowed me to see the need to establish single moms’ groups in churches and teach churches how to minister effectively to these families.”

As Monday marks the National Today Calendar’s National Single Parent Day, Maggio said that churches must recognize the problems single parents face because there is a “dire” need for more ministry services for single mothers in America. 

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau shared by Statista, “there were about 15.31 million children living with a single mother in the United States in 2020.” Meanwhile, “half of all marriages end in divorce and fewer people are choosing to get married.”

According to a 2019 Pew Research study, the United States has the world’s largest Christian population, but “about a quarter of children live in single-parent homes.” Children in the U.S. are more likely than children elsewhere to live in single-parent homes, Pew warned, partly because smaller households are prevalent in wealthier countries, which tend to have aging populations and lower birth rates. 

The Life of a Single Mom ministry has helped provide consulting to over 1,600 churches nationwide on how they can aid and educate single mothers in three core life-skill areas: parenting, finances and health and wellness.

“We are in an all-out crisis in the United States in terms of fatherlessness, and the data is overwhelming that these families are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” Maggio said, referring to the Pew study, which is a compilation of census and survey data collected by governments and survey organizations in 130 countries since 2010. 

A call to the American Church

Despite millions of children living in single-parent homes in America, another Pew Research study compiling data from 2010 to 2018 finds more Christians live in double-parent households than single-parent households. The study shows that while 34% of Christians live in two-parent households, only 9% of Christians live in single-parent households.

Maggio believes this reality should be an “even bigger incentive” for every church in the nation to be on the frontlines, helping serve single mothers to bring them to Jesus Christ. 

“There is always a need for single moms’ ministry. … The demographic that exists in your churches doesn’t always represent the need in the community. With [less] single moms not going to church, it is highly likely that you may not have many moms in the church to launch a group. But they are in the community. If you build it, they will come,” Maggio said.

She stressed that launching a single-parents group at a church doesn’t cost much.

“We teach churches that one garage or bake sale can get that ministry launched and going,” she said. “It takes very little financial support to get a successful ministry going for single moms. Our ministry shows you how.”

For Maggio’s ministry, each single moms’ group is spearheaded individually by host churches. The ministry volunteers at each church provide training, curriculum, coaching, troubleshooting, Christian support meetings, conferences, online education, direct services for single mothers and ongoing support for new groups.

Single mothers participate in Bible-based support groups run by The Life of a Single Mom multi-church ministry, which was first founded by Louisiana resident Jennifer Maggio. The ministry has served more than 750,000 single mothers nationally by guiding them to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Single mothers participate in Bible-based support groups run by The Life of a Single Mom multi-church ministry, which was first founded by Louisiana resident Jennifer Maggio. The ministry has served more than 750,000 single mothers nationally by guiding them to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ. | Courtesy Jason Cohen Photography 

“The spiritual needs of single mothers include: overcoming abuse, battling bitterness, stress management, forgiveness, healing from past pain, and so much more. Our ministry is designed for the long term. We don’t think that short-term, 12-week classes provide enough support,” Maggio said.  

“Counseling through their pain and struggles takes time. The journey to healing is one that is varied for each mom. Many are dealing with trauma, such as divorce or death or loss of a relationship. ... There are survival tools, such as parenting, money management and life balance. The important thing is to walk each mom through her journey with Christ as the firm foundation.”

Single moms in and out of Church

The issue with many existing single mom ministries, Maggio said, is that many churches host a one-time event, such as a Christmas party or a free oil change. But churches don’t usually offer any Bible studies specifically designed for single moms. In contrast, other churches might offer a Sunday school class, Bible study or some other type of single moms’ group, but they don’t provide the outreach events that often attract new families. 

“Our ministry teaches churches how to do both and why they are important in reaching the single mothers that are both inside and outside the walls of the church,” Maggio said.  

The Life of a Single Mom ministry website offers 150 Bible-centered online life-skills classes through the online platform Single Mom University, which provides hundreds of Christian educational videos, e-books, podcasts, articles and webinars each year. The platform also ministers to incarcerated single mothers. 

The Life of a Single Mom ministry aims to reach single mothers inside and outside of the Church.
The Life of a Single Mom ministry aims to reach single mothers inside and outside of the Church. | Courtesy Jason Cohen Photography 

Additional ministerial services include Christian-based case management, licensed counseling, direct financial assistance and product distribution, such as diapers, toiletries, food and makeup. 

“We teach churches that the most successful ministries are the ones that do several things,” Maggio said.

“First, they establish a safe and effective single moms’ group study. Next, they work alongside other ministries within the framework of the church, such as youth or children’s ministry, helps or food service teams, benevolence funds and other supports,” she said.  

Many churches that have adopted a single moms’ group with guidance from Maggio’s ministry also have men who volunteer to provide services, such as mowing the lawn, repairing a car, mentoring their sons, setting up for conferences or mopping their church after events.

Raised in a single-parent home

Maggio said her inspiration came from her personal experience as a single mother for almost a decade. She parented two children alone through financial hardships, parenting challenges and extreme emotional trauma.

Jennifer Maggio leads a discussion for an audience of single moms at The Life of a Single Mom annual conference.
Jennifer Maggio leads a discussion for an audience of single moms at The Life of a Single Mom annual conference. | Courtesy Natalie Miller Photography

Maggio was also raised in a single-parent household by her father after her mother’s sudden death in a car crash when she was 17 months old.

Maggio suffered years of sexual assault as a child and experienced malnourishment, abandonment, poverty and physical and emotional abuse. 

“Unfortunately, the loss of my mother led my father down a path of destruction, remarrying several times and becoming an alcoholic. And I am sure that some of that trauma played a role in my becoming a single mother years later,” Maggio told CP. 

“Helping single mothers is a life-calling for me. Every step of my journey led to this. The sleepless nights with two babies under 2, the years of having no money or hope, the years of carrying shame as a single mom, the years of managing business, learning human resources, accounts payable, recruiting, processes. Every season has led me to this moment of serving single mothers. When you step into your purpose —  whatever that purpose is  — there is peace and joy.”

The most rewarding part, Maggio said, is helping single mothers by giving them what they need to “thrive.”

“The most important thing I have learned through running my ministry is how to hear the voice of God and how to teach single mothers that He is with them and He has not left them, and there is still a plan and purpose for their lives. My life experience often gives me great credibility with single-mothers,” Maggio said.

“It’s not about me or that I founded it or that it’s my ministry. My hope is one day that no one remembers my name, but they remember this Jesus that transformed their life and gave them hope when there seemed to be none.”

Working for a common cause  

Maggio’s ministry is not alone in its effort to help churches aid single mothers as other ministries are working for the same cause. 

One such ministry is the New Commandment Men’s Ministries, founded by former Pastor Herb Reese in Illinois.

His ministry is designed to help churches start their own men’s ministries aimed at helping widows, widowers, single mothers and fathers and fatherless children. 

Reese, who served as a pastor until 2002 of the independent Baptist house of worship Lighthouse Baptist Church in Quincy, said he recalls the time over 20 years ago when he first realized that his church was not doing much of anything to help serve widows, single parents and fatherless children in his congregation. 

Today, his ministry has helped about 1,000 churches in their ministries to single parents.

Former pastor, Herb Reese founded New Commandment Men's Ministries, which has helped about 1,000 churches in their ministries to single parents. 
Former pastor, Herb Reese founded New Commandment Men's Ministries, which has helped about 1,000 churches in their ministries to single parents.  | Courtesy Herb Reese

The 69-year-old former pastor told CP that he was inspired to start the ministry by one of his previous congregants named Teresa — whose husband died over 25 years ago. 

Reese said he remembers his church held a funeral for Teresa’s husband, and the congregation sent her cards and flowers. Following the funeral, Teresa did not attend church as often as she once did. 

Due to Teresa’s attendance at church every once in a while, Reese felt many within the congregation assumed she had already grieved and was moving forward in a healthy way. 

But one evening, Reese visited Teresa and discovered that she had been secretly struggling emotionally for many months.

“Teresa was really devastated. She was crying herself to sleep every night on her living room floor and sleeping on the living room floor all night long. It just broke my heart, and I realized we were doing nothing for her,” Reese recounted. 

“And the thought came in my mind; ‘churches are supposed to be [an extension] of the love of Christ, and it has no relevance to her,’” he added. 

After discovering Teresa’s depressed condition, Reese remembers going outside to his car, sitting in her driveway and weeping.   

“As I was weeping, I remember praying: ‘God show me how to minister to this woman.’ As a pastor, you’re really frustrated because you have all kinds of responsibilities. So you can’t just commit to spending hours upon hours over months trying to address the needs of one person,” Reese said. 

“I just kept putting off the idea of starting a ministry for widows, single parents and fatherless children because I had too many responsibilities already.”

‘Sharpening the focus’

A few weeks later, Reese took a group of men from his church to a Promise Keepers conference in Indianapolis. After the conference, he looked through different books in a small area where attendees could purchase Promise Keeper books. 

As Reese searched through the books, he found a pamphlet titled: “Sharpening The Focus of Your Men’s Ministry.” On the back, there were examples of successful men’s ministries. 

“There was one in South Dakota that had divided their men up into teams and had assigned their men to widows and single moms in their church. And I thought, ‘Oh, this is exactly what Teresa needs,’” Reese said. “It just kind of jumped off the page at me. And I said, ‘Well, this would be long term. This would be consistent; something practical.’”

On the way back from the retreat, Reese told the men from his church about the idea of starting a men’s ministry for single parents. Then, 16 of the men volunteered to help out with his new idea. 

Reese started New Commandment Men’s Ministries as a group of 16 men split into groups of four. Each group was assigned a widow or single parent to visit monthly.

The groups of four men would help widows, widowers, single parents and fatherless children by assisting them with housework and financial needs. They also encouraged and uplifted them and their children. Teresa was assigned her own group of four men. 

“Teresa started coming to church more often and she was smiling for the first time in months and months. And the second thing I noticed was these guys loved it. I mean, they were having a blast,” Reese detailed.

He said that since he saw the ministry’s success in his church, he has continuously devoted his efforts full-time to help other churches start similar ministries.  

Through witnessing Teresa’s story and the story of many other widows firsthand, Reese said he learned that churches often only know how to provide short-term care for their congregants who have lost a spouse and don’t know how to provide consistent long-term care.

He noted that many churches often hold a funeral service and reception meal or send flowers and cards to widows and widowers. But churches tend to move on to handling other responsibilities and “forget” about the widows and widowers. 

“I mean, you really see how frustrating it is for widows because the church just doesn’t know how to minister to them,” Reese said.

“These are people who have had a life-changing tragedy that’s going to affect them for years, and all the Church knows how to do is projects. If you have a broken window, we’ll fix it. If you have a leaky pipe, we’ll fix your pipe. Those are projects. They need relationships. They need consistent love through a ministry.” 

Role models for fatherless children

Having a men’s ministry helps single parents, but it can also help fatherless children, Reese said.

“The fatherless children are helped immediately when that team shows up for that single mom because that team is providing adult Christian male role models for that home, which is lacking in adult males,” Reese explained. 

“Year after year, these children see the teams of men provide faithful, consistent service and Christian love that has nothing to do with marriage, or sex or procreation, but it has everything to do with the love of Christ. And so those kids, watch that. And they see that happening. And they go, ‘Oh, this is what a Christian man does. This is how a Christian man lives. This is how a Christian man loves.’ And so it’s very healing for these kids."

The Christian men who have volunteered to serve the single parents also tend to benefit from the ministry because they typically learn “valuable lessons,” Reese said.

“Christian men need to know how to express the love of Christ to women they are not related to physically but are related to by faith,” Reese proclaimed.

“Irrespective of sex, it is very important for men to learn to love, especially in our sex-saturated culture. And when they do, it’s an ah-ha moment, and they say, ‘Oh, this is what it means to really respect women, to accept them as a fellow believer in Christ and to minister to them and to serve them and to be faithful to them.’” 

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