He Said-She Said: What Can the Church Do for Singles?
- Thursday, July 16, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please CLICK HERE to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: Why does it seem most churches focus so much on married couples? They have two or three Sunday School classes for them but not one for single adults. It even seems that the widows and young singles are left behind. Sometimes I think if you're not married, you really do not fit in. This makes me think that is why so many single people go to bars to find love. It is hard being a Christian single; you're lonely but where are the singles there … not in church because the church seems to just cater to the married couples. Why can we not make something or a class where singles, widows, and single parents could relate to each other the same way married couples do? I'm in a married couples Sunday school class. There is not a singles class available, and I feel so out of place. They're always talking or jesting with each other and sometimes you just want to say "Stop it." They do not realize I would love to have someone to share my life, too. So what can we do to fit in better? Do we just keep going on like this? Is there something in the Bible that could help with this situation? I pray the Lord will bring me someone, but evidently that is not what He wants for me yet. So how can the churches reach out to everyone, not just married couples?
HE SAID: I have attended several groups and programs for singles, visited many churches around the country, and talked to hundreds of unmarried people during my tenure as a single.
I have seen singles groups for "20s", "30s", "Careers", "30s-40s", "Single Again", "Single Parent", "Single Wanting Children", "Still Single After All of These Years", "Single and Holding Out Hope", "Mature Singles" (these are probably those who have accepted the fact they are still single), "Golden Years," and "Single and Jaded" (the honest singles), and I am sure you can add many more titles to the list. Okay, some of these may not be actual names, just feelings I've picked up from the different groups.
There are so many titles because there is such a diversity of who singles are and what we are looking for. Each of us have our own unique backgrounds, wants, desires, goals, likes, dislikes and purpose in life (baggage included).
Unlike married people, our journey is perhaps more dissimilar than similar. You are a single parent, I am an older single, there are singles in their teens and 20s, and others are widowed.
As a result, most churches have difficulty servicing the various stages and needs of singlehood. We are perceived as a segment of the population who are (hopefully) relationally transient, autonomous, and self-sufficient. For many of us, we don't answer to anybody nor are we responsible for anyone (although we should be accountable to others).
"Singles ministry" is not extremely critical in the big picture of ministry when compared to married couples, families, missions, building, children, elderly care, homeless, and community outreach.
Many churches lack the wherewithal and the personnel to handle the diversity, complexity and needs of singles (and we aren't the easiest group to commit). I have seen several churches "do away" with singles pastors even when the population numbered over 500.
It is also difficult to allocate strained resources to a program which may only reach a handful of people, while many of those attending yearn to be "ineligible" for a singles group. It is more resource-effective to mix singles into the fold rather than specifically try to meet our individual needs.
The success of any singles group seems to be measured by (and rejoices over) the reduction of the size of the group rather than a growth in membership.
So what can a church do?
- A church can encourage its membership to include (not just use) singles of every type in all of their activities.
- A church can encourage its members to lead, encourage and mentor singles—spiritually, emotionally, and relationally.
- A church can encourage and provide resources for singles to create an atmosphere where they can grow in the Word, share common desires, and meet their needs.
- A church can provide leadership and guidance that challenges singles to take part in opportunities to serve in the church and to serve others, rather than self-serving.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).
What can we (singles) do?
- We can participate in more activities in the church, not just those geared towards singles or where only singles are involved.
- We can share our struggles, triumphs, experiences and lives with others in the church (and seek counsel when needed).
- We can take responsibility to organize our own activities and create opportunities for singles to gather.
- We can utilize our time to serve and minister to others.
- We can step out of our own comfort zone.
Although we belong to a diverse and vast segment of the population that is growing rather than diminishing, it can be frustrating not finding a group of people in your church who understand you, who speak to you and who relate to you.
If you are feeling this way in your church, I am sure there are many more who share your sentiment. Ask your pastor, deacon, elder or church leaders to help create a situation to fulfill your needs. Talk to others about what they would want in such a group. Put an announcement in your church bulletin about starting up a group or asking for volunteers to lead.
When I faced this dilemma in a church where I was serving, my pastor suggested I look for opportunities at other churches (but not leave my church).
The "church" is ultimately not responsible for fulfilling all of our needs. We are the church. We each need to take responsibility for ourselves for what we want and desire. If you see a need, fill it.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
SHE SAID: You know what? You're right. It IS hard being a single. The older I get, the more I find this to be true. And the further away you get from the years when you had a ready-made group of friends at your disposal (high school, college, the 20s), then the harder it is to find a group of friends who share your same space in life.
Because what happens after these time periods have ended? Well, generally most people get married in their mid-to-late 20s or early-to-mid 30s. And so they've moved on to different demographics (married and/or with children). It's just the way it is. There are more people who are married and who have families than not on this planet. And this will probably not change, meaning there will probably always be fewer singles (never married, divorced, widowed) and more couples and families with children.
So, where does that leave you? And me? We can't change others and we can't change the way things are, but we can certainly change ourselves. We can't wish something or someone or a pattern or a system into being different all of a sudden. But you and I can be different. We can start there. It's a matter of perspective, and we can choose to make a difference.
But what kind of difference? Okay, fine. So everyone we know at church is married and has children (I say that facetiously). And the Church (universal) is geared more toward families (or so it seems). So the question may not be, "What can my church do for singles?" (because it's probably not going to change up all its programs or ministries tomorrow to meet the diverse needs of singles who are here today), but more so "what can I do for my church?"
Whoa. Hey now. Isn't my church supposed to be equipped to minister to me? Isn't that what it's there for? Well, the interesting thing is that the body of Christ has different members with different (but equal) gifts. We function individually and corporately to minister to each other. That's right. We all should be reaching out and we all should be concerned for one another. I help you. You help me. She helps him. And he helps her. And so on, and so on (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
When you change your perspective and focus more on plugging in and giving and helping others, then you will find that you are blessed, you are doing something good for someone else and God is glorified. At least that's what I've found in my experience.
In that vein, I love the way 2 Corinthians charges us to take responsibility and to sow generously (not just monetarily, but through our time, our talents and our spiritual gifts):
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. …
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:6-8; 2 Corinthians 9:11-15).
Look how much good can come out of one person who submits to God! That could be you. That could be me. This is how we can make an impact in our churches and for the Kingdom. Just think about the ways you can contribute to your church and how you can reach out. What are your talents? What are your gifts? What are your resources? And what availability do you have in your schedule? God can use you in the lives of others.
Are you catching the vision? This is good stuff!
And now let me close with this final thought: I know it is not easy to do this and to think and to act in this way. It is a conscious and sometimes dragging-your-feet type of effort. We are selfish and sinful, and we don't naturally want to get out of our comfort zones and focus on the needs of others. But if we are open and willing to sacrifice and to submit our lives to the Lord, he will work through us and change our hearts and our minds and our motivation and our attitudes.
I have experienced that. There have been many, many times when I have felt like no one was helping me or I had been given the short end of the relationship stick or that "the world was against me" or that married people just don't understand. Believe me. And then an opportunity was presented for me to reach out and do something for someone else. First, I grumbled internally and wrestled with God. And then finally, I gave up and submitted and did what God was asking of me. And every time—every time—I was richly blessed. I don't know how God does that, but he does. If we are willing. If we are obedient. If we give our lives to him in service and do whatever it is he is asking us to do for him. For others. For the Church.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com's Senior Entertainment Editor. She loves God, her family and and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on July 16, 2009.
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