One of the great parenting challenges of our day is raising godly young men. Doing so as a single mother can seem impossible. So, as more single women come to Christ in schemes (and in poor communities across the globe), a key question is, “How can we raise godly young men when the father is absent and we’re on our own?”
Let me start out by saying that I accept, unequivocally, that God intended children to be raised by a man and a woman in the context of the lifelong covenant of marriage. The problem in our communities is that not all family circumstances are exactly ideal. You may have, as we do here in Niddrie, single parents trying to raise their children in a godly manner within difficult and complex circumstances. We must not, therefore, underestimate the importance of the local church family when it comes to pastoral issues regarding single-parents and discipleship. God, in His infinite wisdom, gave the fatherless the gift of the local church. Therefore, the local church has a crucial role to play in the life of single mothers.
Raising a young man as a single mother is much different than raising a young woman (trust me, I know from experience). Of course, boys and girls are equal in terms of spiritual worth, but they have different roles and needs within life and society. So, how can single mothers help their sons grow up to be godly men? Here are four ways.
1. Rely on God.
I know, this isn’t earth-shattering advice, but hear me out. Single mothers carry the heavy burden of trying to fill the role of both mother and father. It’s a seriously hard task. When you’re a single mum, there’s no tag team. You can’t pass the baton on when you’re exhausted. Ultimately, there’s no one but Christ to help you shoulder the many burdens. So you must rely on Him. Take your concerns to the Lord and cast your cares on Him (1 Pet. 5:7). Ask Him for daily grace. Pray, and then pray some more . . . and trust Him.
2. Find godly role models within your local church.
As young men grow up, they desperately need faithful, godly male role models in their lives. They need older men they can talk to—those who will teach and model what it means to be a godly man. When the father is absent, it can feel, for the mother at least, like there’s a big “help wanted” sign constantly hanging over the family. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that the absent father shouldn’t be challenged to live up to his responsibilities (he should), or that the mother should look for the next available man to fill the so-called “gaping hole” in her life (she shouldn’t). What I am saying is that the men in our congregations need to realise that there’s a role they can play in the life of young men from single-parent homes. The child needs a good man to get alongside him, befriend him, and show him how to be a man. That, I believe, is how God intended the fatherless to be cared for within the local church.
Now, this is a difficult road for a single mother to walk. For instance, how does she approach a godly man and ask him to spend some time with her child? Should she even do that? How will that be perceived? There’s a minefield of possible misunderstandings to be had there, but don’t let that be an excuse for procrastinating. Pray and ask God for help and wisdom. Approach your elders and ask them for their counsel, care, and support.
3. Be prepared to answer the hard questions.
There are some questions young men will ask us as single mums that, if we’re being honest, our answer would instinctively be, “Go ask your dad.” We all know the questions I’m talking about: the ones concerning pornography, masturbation, sex, girls, etc. These are uncomfortable conversations that most mothers don’t want to have with their sons. In an ideal family situation, a godly father would lead in teaching his son about these things.
But if you’re a single parent, you can’t delegate this. These conversations are difficult. There’s no getting around that. However, you need to ask yourself: If I’m not speaking into my son’s life about these things, who is? Young men will learn about them somewhere. Bite the bullet. I had to deal with the same issues myself by saying to my son “I’m so sorry you have to have this conversation with me, but this is the way it is. . . .”
4. Source good, biblical material.
If you’re a single mother struggling with where to start on some of these difficult issues, I found Every Young Man’s Battle to be a very helpful resource. Although this book is written for fathers and sons, don’t be put off, because it gives a great platform to help you talk to your son about some challenging things. I worked through this book with my son, and not only did it help him cope with the initial awkwardness of the situation, it also gave insight that I wouldn’t have known to bring.
Of course, no book or resource should replace you speaking into your son’s life personally. But they can help where your experience is lacking. At the end of the day, you might not think like a bloke, but you do know your son: you know how he ticks, what makes him laugh, what makes him sad, etc. Use the best of what you have, research what you don’t know, and pray and entrust him into God’s care. As with all material out there, refer to your elders/leaders to ensure it is helpful and biblically faithful.