The church needs to provide a place where those who are not yet married can:
- Meet someone to marry.
- Learn enough about God so that they are ready to be married or stop looking so God can finally give them a mate.
- Have somewhere to go when they don’t fit in to youth ministry or couples ministry.
If you have heard, said or believed any of these statements, then you are fully aware of the incredible PR difficulty that singles face within the church. The stereotype is that singles (especially men) are constantly on the prowl for a mate to transition them from their position of “not chosen” to the category of “chosen.” Churches need to get them married off quickly so they are no longer tempted to engage in sexual sin.
How can I put this delicately?
No. Just no.
Like so many sweeping generalizations, there is probably a grain of truth within the silo of misunderstanding.
Yes, I am probably more likely to find someone with whom I have a faith in Christ in common in a church.
Yes, while I am busy working and laughing and loving and volunteering and developing into my best “me,” I probably am more attractive- as a prospective employee, friend and yes, even spouse.
Can we just agree that it is against the true character of God and how he views us to even suggest for one minute that the obstacle blocking my finding a mate can be removed by my proclaiming to God that I don’t want one?
So let’s talk reality. If singles (PS we do not move as a unit. There is no national registry except perhaps e-Harmony.com and no one speaks for us all) don’t exclusively want speed dating opportunities, what do we need from the church?
Singles share their thoughts
Christina explained, “I grew up in a church that has never had a successful singles ministry. It’s not that they didn’t or even don’t try, but the Singles Ministry just has a negative reputation. There was a great college group where we did outreach together, heard missionaries speak and got a chance to get to know people first as believers. Then we were supposed to go to the singles ministry and it was yuck. I’d rather take a cooking class or build a Habitat House than go to another Bible study where everyone assumes I am looking for someone to date.”
According to David, “When you hear the word ‘singles’ the general thought is that this is a ministry geared to putting people together who are having a hard time finding a spouse. I have never had the desire to join any church singles group other than to serve.”
So what do singles need from church?
An end to us and them
Perhaps a great start to having a vibrant ministry to singles is to realize our marital state is not our prime defining characteristic. Grab a table full of singles and another of married couples and the common elements would transcend the presence or absence of a ring. Work, spiritual maturity, interests, stage of life, and even children are often much more natural points of contact than marriage.
To those who suggest that “working on your marriage” eclipses all other points of interest, I would ask you point blank- does marriage trump all other relationships? Really? Is it more important that I be a good spouse than that I truly understand God’s amazing love?
Here is a suggestion. Examine whether you consider singles second class citizens who just need to marry in order to experience the abundant life Christ offers.
Throughout the Bible we see the importance of diversity, but somehow when we get to the Singles Ministry, that’s no longer applicable.
Mix the 20s and 40s together in the same Bible Study? Never, because the difference is too wide for healthy dating.
Mix singles and couples? Not on your life since the one goal in every single’s mind each day is to find someone to marry.
Only after they marry will they benefit from mentoring and being mentored. Only then will they have the margin to delight in seeing God’s faithfulness in differing circumstances and life stages.
Hard to imagine that all of these are statements I have heard repeatedly from not just other Christians but from pastors, church staff and volunteers in charge of the singles ministry.
Singles are just like anyone in that we benefit from friendships with those older and younger than ourselves.
Why not provide small group Bible Studies where there is a cross section of believers so that everyone has the advantage of creating community with a variety of believers?
As a single woman, I treasure the men in my life for a different perspective, different approach to faith and help beating back used car salesmen. I need straight and to the point sometimes. They have said that they are challenged by my take on things and that in my thousands of words they have heard wisdom.
Perhaps there is a need for the church to provide opportunities for singles and marrieds, male and female to display their unique gifts and talents.
Christina said, “I’m not looking for a mate, but I’d love the chance to make more friends. In college you are surrounded with people that you can get to know. At work the opportunities to even make new friends are more limited. At the Singles Ministry, it is so awkward even to start a conversation with someone. It’s so much easier when a group is headed to Boomers to get to know someone naturally. I don’t want to meet a man; I want to meet people.”
David shared, “Single men have a hard time; they feel women are waiting for them to make a move. Some females feed the impression that they are unapproachable. The answer is for true koinonia community to be created. Then there is the chance for relationships to grow as God intended. There’s no room for a cliquish attitude in the body of Christ. If the church isn’t doing a good job of creating or strengthening true community, then we need to find it on our own.”
Take an honest look at the programs and groups within your church. Is each one, including your singles ministry, intentionally fostering genuine community?
So what do singles need from the church? What everyone needs from the church — solid teaching, great worship and the chance to develop honest and lasting relationships with other believers.