This is a special episode of CareCast with Roland Warren, Care Net’s president and CEO, and Jennifer Maggio, founder and CEO of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. This episode of CareCast was recorded live at the Care Net National Conference 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference’s theme was “Come Alive,” based on Ezekiel 37.

It was our first-ever conference to be hosted in the aftermath of the Dobbs Decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. More than 1,600 pregnancy center staff and volunteers gathered to sharpen their skills for reaching out with Christ’s compassion to women and men considering abortion. Whether you attended this year’s conference or not, don’t miss this. Roland sat down with Jennifer to chat about her life, her work, and her keynote address. Let’s listen in on Roland and Jennifer’s conversation.

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Interview with Jennifer Maggio

What follows is a modified transcript of this special CareCast episode; an interview with Roland Warren (RW) and Jennifer Maggio (JM), from Care Net’s National Conference in Phoenix, AZ

RW: Thank you so much for being a part of Care Net’s 2022 conference here in Phoenix. It’s been great to learn more about the amazing ministry. I was delighted that you were available and that you could speak this year. So, Jennifer, tell our podcast listeners a little bit about what you talked about with the audience today.

JM: Well, I think it was a word of encouragement to keep fighting the good fight. When I was praying about our time together, this hard place that we all find ourselves in. Whether it be the hard place of running a clinic or just going to work every day – and how to learn to fight from the hard place. It’s such a necessary part of ministry. It’s such a necessary part of the Christian journey, so I think that’s the gist of it – it’s learning to get good at fighting there.

RW: Yeah and that was such a timely word, because as you know, with Roe being overturned, what’s happened in our nation, and the vitriol and the attacks – and one of the things I talked about in my keynote was the rejection that you’re feeling from the culture and this is even closer to home; families – even maybe a child that you brought into the world – because you made a life decision in that child has adopted a pro-choice worldview that had you done so – they wouldn’t even be here – just how painful that can be. So, I think that is an important aspect to bring out in terms of the Christian journey.

JM: I think it’s also in recognizing that we are not fighting against flesh and blood. I talked a little bit about that today. But I think we know that like many of us raised in the church, we hear the Scripture but really understand what it means to bring that Scripture to life and what it means to be reminded of how to war effectively in the spirit realm – and not against the child that disagrees with us on this issue or against the family member who you were shocked that they don’t have the same view that you do. And, so, that’s the other part of it is, learning how to fight there and not wrestling against all the people that are in our lives that disagree with us.

RW: I think that’s a good word and frankly I received that today. That was an encouragement for me and a challenge for me too because I’m a guy who’s a doer; so a lot of times it can be very easy to kind of, you know, lean on my own strength. And particularly, if you’re in a situation like you have been with as a single mom – and I watched my mother as a single mom – you just going to go do stuff. And a lot of times it seems like if I stop to pray or stop to enter into that spiritual realm, I’m not moving. So can you talk a little bit about that, like, how do you do that? And how do you encourage folks connected to your ministry?

JM: I can so relate to you. I think part of the doing is controlling. So, if we can control our environment, then we’re going to do it well. We’re going to outrun everybody else. And so, I think that’s probably been birthed out that single-parenting experience for sure.

But I think as I’ve learned through the years, my deepest prayer – and the Lord really showed me this in November 2020 – of what it was to go to the next level with him and the prayers that I needed to pray that I was scared to pray – which is – revealing the mysteries in heaven and revealing His Kingdom and what does that mean. What did it mean to pray “reveal his word to me” in a way that it would come alive off the page?

I’ve been a Christian for many years as have you, and many that will listen are, and so what does that mean to go deeper? Well, it means, “Ok, how do I wrestle not against flesh and blood?” Well, first of all, I don’t have to be on social media fighting all the time right?! There’s a time and a place, but the truth of the matter is that what’s going to speak volumes is the joy of the Lord that’s in my heart, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, the ability to respond in gentleness – which is a fruit of the spirit. That is wrestling in a way that teaches people that they want what you have.

People will fight with you about this issue because of something else that’s going on in their life. I have found that most young people don’t even know why they’re mad about the issue. They don’t even know why they are pro-choice. But a lot of times when you get deeper, it’s abuse, it’s trauma, it’s the need to fight about something because of a root cause.

I think part of wrestling “not against flesh and blood but in the spirit realm” is understanding the root of the matter. It is shoring up in the spiritual disciplines. I talked some about that today – about really getting an effective prayer strategy – not just the flippant prayers that we pray before meals and before bed, and we’re kind of giving God the last four minutes of our day. But what does it mean to get into the war room to really engage with him?

I don’t know about you but sometimes the demands of ministry on my life – I’m so busy doing ministry that I’m not intimate with the father. The conviction that falls on me… then when I get into that prayer space, I can conquer the world. I’ll come out of that space, and I am ready to engage.

RW: That’s a challenging word for me. I’m going to take what you said to heart. Frankly, I already have, actually, in the time since you spoke, to spend some time with the Lord, based on some things that you said – just really powerful.

I want to transition to talk more about your ministry, The Life of the Single Mother. I learned about it when I was writing my book Raising Sons of Promise and by God’s grace, I met you. The other part of that title is “A Guide for Single Mothers of Boys” and I can’t remember how I got connected. I got an email about your ministry, and I was like “Oh my gosh. This is exactly the issue that I’m writing about and the heart that I have for single moms having grown up with a single mom.” Working through National Fatherhood Initiative and seeing the results of single motherhood in terms of the fatherhood issue. So, it was just a godsend that we were able to connect.

So, talk to me about your ministry and how you see your ministry connected to the work that Care Net does in terms of helping folks who are facing pregnancy decisions.

JM: That’s a great question. So, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries was birthed on my bathroom floor in 1999. I’m living in the projects – on food stamps and welfare. I’m a single mom of two kiddos and the journey was a hard one. It was one that I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it. I was suicidal at one point and really, all these things that we know can be part of a single mom story. But God got me up off the bathroom floor. He taught me some things on the journey. My children are now adults and have done well. Really what the ministry is about is, number one, teaching the church how to do single moms ministry well.

So, it’s teaching churches how to form single mom support groups, Bible studies ministries, and how to minister to those unchurched single moms. The ministry is giving the single moms the life skills they need because we’re talking about the down and dirty things that nobody is talking about, we’re talking about… sex and dating, overcoming abuse, and raising a son without a male in the home. We’re talking about these issues that are complex, they’re hard, and we’re getting to the meat of it. We are talking about all of the kinds of things that are true to a single mom story, but the church won’t talk about it. That’s really the two primary things we’re doing -empowering the church and then empowering the single mom directly.

RW: I was so inspired when I learned about what you’re doing because I absolutely saw that as a son growing up with a single mom. I always talk about how I grew up in sort of a single-mother culture. I mean, most of my aunts were single mothers; my sister was a single mother for a period of time; my cousins were single mothers… so that was the life experience that I had and the power that a single mom has to be able to break that cycle.

I think the other thing too that inspired me about your story, you were saying that you know when you were in church and you kind of feeling down, there was this woman who said “I see you…” This was very interesting in terms of a connection between what I was writing about; because I’m using the story of Ishmael and Hagar. As you know from that story, the angel comes and meets her after she’s run away from Sarah and she’s – I don’t know where she’s at and she might even have been even suicidal – at that moment and she starts to rejoice because there’s a God who sees me. When you told me that – when I talked to you the very first time – I thought, “Oh my gosh, we’re meant to be connected.”

Of course, she’s called to raise her son and named him Ishmael which means “God hears.” So you got a God who sees and the God who hears every time she called Ishmael by name, she remembered God hears and then also she has that promise from God that God sees it as well. I really think your ministry is so critically important.

What do you think are some of the barriers for churches? Why do you think churches are not connecting to this issue the way that maybe they should be?

JM: I think part of it is this fear that they are somehow endorsing unbiblical behavior. I think that it’s, “Hey, we don’t want to endorse divorce.” We don’t want to endorse divorce. Make no mistake, there’s no Care Net clinic out there that’s endorsing unwed pregnancy. There’s no Life of a Single Mom Ministry that’s endorsing this. It’s simply meeting a need the same way that drug addiction ministries meet the needs of people who are addicted. So, in the sense that there’s a need that’s out there, we’re going to get in the trenches with the moms we’re going to serve them well. I think that’s part of the issue.

The other component is that church leadership doesn’t always have a single parenting experience. If you’ve never had cancer, it’s hard for you to understand how to do cancer ministry well. You might see that there’s a need, but you really don’t know how to connect the dots. That’s what we saw as a ministry, which God had burdened me with was my experience of going back to the church. It was hard to go back to the church after I fell away. And then what the church did well and what they didn’t. That’s really how I birthed the ministry, what did they do well that we could teach other churches to do?

I think that the pregnancy crisis clinics, for years, have done an amazing job of saving babies from abortion. I think they’ve done a great job of forging relationships with these mothers and then they pass the baton to a church – that isn’t equipped to do it well. It’s not that the church doesn’t love. It’s not that they don’t have compassion. It’s not that they don’t have grace. They don’t know the logistics of how to truly serve that mom – not just for the first year of a baby – what if she’s a single mom until the kids are 19?

And so we want to teach churches that single moms ministry is about – not just a period of time – but the long term. Those moms can ebb and flow out of it. Maybe they go on to marry or maybe they graduate because the kiddos move away, and they move out of the home. But it’s really about, “I’m going to be here every Friday night, and whoever shows, up we’re going to minister to those moms.”

Most churches see it as a 10-week class. They don’t see it as a long-term ministry. And if I might be super candid, I think that they also worry that, financially, moms can be a burden on the church. There’s a lot of financial need that exists in single-mom homes. So, they don’t know how to navigate that piece. The church thinks they have to have all the answers. We’re teaching churches, you don’t have to be everything – you just have to be something. You have to introduce them to Jesus, and we’ll teach them the rest.

RW: Your ministry is so desperately needed and from a Care Net perspective. We want to work more closely with you because the pregnancy centers need to be able to move folks from the pregnancy center to the church where ongoing support and discipleship.

JM: When I came off the stage just a few minutes ago, there was a line of women and do you know how many of those women were single mothers? Now, they’re on the front lines of Care Net. They’re on the front lines of serving others. They’re on the front lines of changing lives. And yet many of them, at home, are parenting these three or four kids. They’re trying to figure out how to navigate it. I just want to say to whoever is listening out there if this resonates with you so deeply because you are that single mom. God sees you. He is going to walk you through the teen years. He’s going to walk you through the toddler years. He’s going to walk you through every season of life. You are well equipped because He is well able. I want to encourage you, as you go and serve others, to serve others out of the compassion that you want to receive from the church.

RW: I think this is a case for churches to think about this issue in a contemporary way. James 1:27 talks about religion that God our father finds as pure and faultless – that we care for the orphans and widows in their distress and keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. When that was written what was an orphan? It was a child without a father. What was a widow? It was typically a mother without a husband. So the difference was those husbands and fathers were dead. The difference today is too often, unfortunately, the living husband, proverbial husband and father is saying to the mother and the child, “You’re dead to me.”

The cultural orphans and widows of today are actually single mothers and their children and every church – every Christian has a call to religion that is pure and faultless in God’s sight. So, if you’re listening and you are connected to a church, you should be thinking about helping single mothers in the context of James 1:27. These are the modern-day orphans and widows that we have in the church. We call them single mothers and kids.

JM: As we see everything that’s going on in the culture right now there is no way you can get around talking about the fatherlessness in our nation. I’m just grateful for the work that you guys do at Care Net. I’m grateful to partner with you and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve those at the conference this year.

RW: Great, Jennifer, thank you so much. Blessings to you and the amazing work you do. We’re delighted that you were here with us. Listeners, you can visit The Life of a Single Mom for more details on this great ministry.

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