Discussing
Singleness in Church, Redux

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

Pastor Chad
March 23, 2009

thanks for the article and this further post. as I got married rather young (i was 18) i find it difficult to relate to young adults who are single. I hope that I treat them as normal adults, but I sense that our churches often treats them as people who are unstable. They cannot be asked to be on committees because they might move around yet, for example. The problem is that a large portion of the things people struggle with are silenced.

thanks again.

sam30
March 23, 2009

I refuse to believe that singleness is a bad thing.

Bethanykj
March 23, 2009

thanks for the comment, pastor chad. I think that generalization is probably based on experience, although most of the married twenty-somethings I know are relatively unstable too - marriage doesn't keep people from moving. So I guess it depends on how long of a stay you need from someone to consider them stable. In the past I've used my mobility as an excuse to keep from getting too involved, but now I see it as a reason to jump in hard right away so I can build trust with people before it's time to move on.

Nbierma
March 23, 2009

Check out Laura Smit's book (www.laurasmit.com) and this audio clip of a presentation she gave (http://tr.im/lsmit_singleness) in which she stresses that the New Testament vision is that the church is your primary family, trumping marital and tribal ties--in which case, she says, singleness should be seen as the norm for Christians, even though some will still be called to marry.

That's basically what the Apostle Paul said, right? It's worth continuing to point out that he and Jesus were single. WWJD? He wouldn't get married?!?

Cmf
March 23, 2009

I would be thrilled if there were more activities for singles in my church. But so often ministries revolve around children, and therefore around families.

Rick
March 23, 2009

We were very active in our church. My wife and I hosted a lot of gatherings, dinner parties, having young Pastors over. She suffered from clinically diagnosed manic depression and divorced me after 25 years. She refused counseling and moved away from the church. Suddenly no one at my church knew what to do with a single, middle aged adult. I think they hoped it wasn't catching, like a flu bug. I feel like it almost became a primal thing where married couples did not want an unattached male around, perhaps being perceived as a threat.

No one wants to be reminded of failed marriages. The dinner parties stopped. After all, couples are used to doing things with other couples. I've also heard many times the offer to set me up with a blind date, but that has never happened in the last 8 years. You almost become eventually invisible. So much of church revolves around marriage and children. Sermons are chock full of references about wives and husbands. Lots of sermons are preached about God rescuing failing marriages. But what happens when marriages fail? You can still volunteer to teach sunday school, but that doesn't change your social life after the class is over. Men, especially become invisible and somewhat lonely.

Bethanykj
March 24, 2009

thanks for sharing that Rick - I don't know as many people like you because I am younger, but I think that that disservice is far more serious, so I'm glad that you shared your experience in this conversation. If you come back, I would love to hear how you wish things were, or how people could make you feel more visible and valued.

Bryce
March 24, 2009

@ Rick-

Thanks for being vulnerable brother...I'll be praying for you and your church. Perhaps there's some way you can communicate this to your community?

@ Bethany-

I really appreciate your post and your article. As a recent college grad, the churches I've attended since becoming a walking believer have included many singles, college and post-grad ages. Also, I've also experienced a thriving 'young adult' movement in the church my parents attend which provided an opportunity to meet and spend time with 20 and 30 somethings.

One question: you mentioned at the end of your article a desire to include atypical Christians in the church, as a continued thought. You suggested gay christians as an example...what might that look like?

Thanks again for your post!

Cmf
March 24, 2009

Being single and dealing with bipolar, your story resonates with me on several levels. Thank you for sharing.

Bethanykj
March 24, 2009

Hi Bryce, what I was thinking about when I wrote that was that this family-centered-ness that I'm critiquing is even more hurtful to people who are unlikely to ever marry or have children. In our current legal system, this includes christians who are gay especially since many churches suggest that they maintain celibacy. It seems especially cruel to recommend a lifestyle that isn't affirmed by the church. That point is maybe less clear because of the examples I offered here, but I think if you realize (like Rick pointed out) that not everybody has a spouse or kids and don't base all your examples and activities around this, that would be a good start.

alvin_tsf
March 24, 2009

i believe churches need to revisit the pervading cultures and attitudes specifically on how we view the family as a unit and the church as a family that exhibits grace and love and acceptance in the name of Christ. i know this is easier said than done and it will be a tedious process. but if we prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit's enlightenment, and allow Him to transform our churches to become a safe harbor for those who, like Rick are struggling, then more people, not just the existing members, but the community at large will see the light of God's grace in all of us. and that is a powerful testimony and an effective witness that will beat any program or plan that we can come up with. let us continue to pray for each other. this has been a very illuminating reflection. many thanks!

alvin_tsf
March 24, 2009

my heart goes out to you brother. for i myself became very disenchanted with the church. and experienced how judgemental and exclusive it can be. but thanks be to our Lord Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and the Lord of the Church. He will not let you go my friend. even now, i believe, He is reaching for you and will carry you through all your trials. will continue to pray for you...

SmoreSM
March 25, 2009

Until recently I was on staff of a medium sized church. As a single woman in charge of Adult ministries I was very visible and a constant reminder that single people exist. One of our strategies was not to have a singles group per se but to encourage single people to join with others in small groups which were a mixture of young, old, married and single. Plus, when the pastor used family illustrations, single people were always included. I've been told that our church is one of the most welcoming to singles. But I agree that this is not always the case.

alvin_tsf
March 25, 2009

this is great. thanks for sharing. this is a great example of what the church as family should be. and an example we should try to encourage in our local churches. thanks again!

Sharon
March 25, 2009

Well now Rick, are you going to just set there and share or are you going to do something about it? I suggest you start a new ministry in your church~ Single Adult Ministry~ or support another church member with the passion to do so. Start discussing the subject and see where it falls.

There is nothing negative about a singles ministry when governed properly. It is a way for those "not getting out much" to share, celebrate and learn that "there are others out there", in a church centered group. In fact it opens up doors for other non churched singles to enter.

If it is your passion to start this ministry, there is much online about how to get started and many available people listed for you to contact. I am not an expert but if I can assist you in any way please let me know. [email protected]

Bethanykj
March 26, 2009

Sharon, I think you misunderstand the problem. Having a singles ministry doesn't encourage the married people in a congregation to build relationships with singles and take them seriously, it just encourages them to assume they are taken care of. I also think it's a bit presumptuous of you to suggest that Rick isn't doing anything just because he is sharing about this problem.
What I would like to see is a community that includes everyone: families, kids, seniors, singles as valued parts of the church family, and doesn't send them off to different ministries to keep them away from the regular people. We need to be Christ to each other, too, not just to people outside of the church.

Rick
March 26, 2009

Sharon:

I thought that was the answer at first. I help create an adult singles group yet ultimately stopped attended. It may be hard for you to understand and this is horrible of me to say it, but it just seemed so pathetic to see a room full of desperate single adults (me included). Plus I could never get into the adult youth group vibe, all riding a bus to a picnic or staging a car show. No worries though. I love worshipping the Lord and attend church weekly. I have been more active in men's prayer ministries. I go to a lot more conferences than when I was married. I work out several times a week at a gym now and I put my easel up in the family room and have returned to painting. Yet the house is quiet when I come home and I miss having a social life. I launched a business last September so that keeps me running. I think the awkwardness of being an adult single, a failed-marriage person would have been less of a problem in the first century church when the custom was to meet from house to house. Plus, the early version of the Lord's Supper was literally a pot luck...they ate meals frequently together. Thanks for your concern though. I do appreciate people's prayers...that's the neat thing about being a Christian, we share one another's burdens. Thanks.

Nbierma
March 30, 2009

So let's cut to the chase: is it fair to say that the North American church puts the nuclear family on a pedestal to a problematic extent? Or even more direct: do we idolize our culture's model of nuclear family? Do we plug our ears to Jesus' and Paul's teachings that the global body of Christ is one's true family, and marital status is secondary?

I think so.

Razzlegtd
August 31, 2009

I think one of the reasons singleness is avoided in regular Christian gatherings is the issue becomes how are singles dealing with their sexual desires.
There are those that transfer personal ideas that it is not possible to live celebate, so to raise the issue of lust or sexual feelings would be to open a pandora's box.
I recently started a discussion group and all the attendees where men. the question open for discussion was, "What is the greatest barrier to your daily walk with God?" Along with other issues, all present listed lust or sexual desire, and their ability to cope with it as paramount in their lives. The lack of Biblical principles on what is acceptable or proper was a concern for all.
We had a very frank discussion on all issues of daily temptations and what a real response should be.
An open and frank discussion on what is and what should be without any coulda, woulda, shoulda, is need so that the single in a Cristian community are not the abnorm, but the norm.
Many people want straight answers they can live by and hope for, that is practical for their current state of life.

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