Not Alone

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.
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No one can understand the struggles of being a single mother better than another single mother. Several United Methodist churches in Missouri have worked to bring single mothers together and give them some support through the ministry The Caring People.

The Caring People is not a United Methodist ministry, but has spread through United Methodist connectionalism. Rev. Brian Smith of First Monett learned about the ministry at nearby Washburn from Rev. Debra Alumbaugh who was pastor there at the time.

First Monett United Methodist Church is a part of the Missouri Annual Conference.

“It sounded like it was beneficial, and I didn’t know of any similar ministries being offered in our county,” Smith said.

The Caring People was the organization that got the ministry started at Washburn, so Smith contacted them. The organization sends a representative to conduct initial training for volunteers, then provides ongoing training and support for the group.

Courtesy photo.

When Jessica Karsten saw the flier Smith posted on the bulletin board at First in Monett seeking helpers for a group to support single mothers, she was all in.

No one worries too much about how to define who is in the program. Some of the women are married, but the husband may be away in the military or incarcerated. Some are grandmothers who have taken over responsibilities for raising their grandchildren.

The ministry used to participate in the Wednesday night meals at the church, but these have not yet resumed after being canceled due to the coronavirus. The church has resumed other Wednesday night programming, so the children can participate while their mothers are in their own small group session. During the October meeting, the mothers and volunteers took the church van to the neighboring town Aurora to make Christmas ornaments at a pottery business.

The Caring People was started by Herschend Family Entertainment, which owns several theme parks. Karen Stone, a member of Community in Columbia who recently moved to Ohio, was hired by The Caring People in 2011 to expand the ministry to other communities.

Earlier this year Stone said that there are Caring People ministries at nine United Methodist churches in Missouri and new programs are in the development stage at five more. She said many churches want to help make a difference with single mothers in their communities but don’t know where to start. “This is a way for churches to be outwardly focused and have an impact on their community,” Stone said.

Single mothers are often skeptical about churches reaching out them, Stone said. Many have experienced a lot of betrayal and hurt.

“Single mothers are often survivors and don’t want to ask for help but want to do it on their own,” Stone said. “We try to convey we’re here to be with you – it isn’t a handout. The greatest gift we give is friendship and letting them know that they are not alone. Then we can tell them about the God who loves them. We create an environment that is safe and welcoming and give them a meal and unconditional love. Unconditional love is hard for some people to do, but it creates an environment where people can grow and thrive. It’s helpful for them to see that people do care.”

excerpt from a story on Missouri Annual Conference website

This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.