Mike Cope's blog

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's stupid. But funny. Check it out. - - - - What's it like to be a single adult in church? So much of what we do is family-centered: family retreats, family encampments, family devotionals, etc. Are we doing a good job of communicating that after baptism the first family is the body of Christ? Is it the best idea to have singles classes or would it be better to integrate people so that relationships are formed? From Lauren Winner: "There is a trend in churches today to segregate people into demographic groups. Single twenties and thirties in one Sunday-school class, families with small children in another, empty-nesters in a third, sernior citizens down the hall, and so forth. Indeed, many churches have 'dealt with singleness' by starting singles' groups or singles' Bible studies, and hiring associate ministers who are charged with the task of ministering to single Christians. "I see the appeal of such groups, but I am cautious about them. Perhaps the most robust expression of Christian community comes when we connect people of all demographics, people who might not meet each other if left to their own devices--toddlers and senior citizens and married couples and single professionals and empty nesters. This may cut against the grain of the organizational flowcharts that have become de rigueur in so many churches, separating parishioners into market groups (though the intentional fostering of relationships across demographic lines does not necessarily preclude a thriving Bible study for single parishioners, or a young mothers' prayer group). I have never joined a church with a singles' group, not because I think they are horrible or suffocating, but because church has always been one of the very few places where I can meet and know people who are not superficially like myself--it is only in church that I get to know kindergartners, and elderly people, and young families. . . . "One of the best ways Christian communities can support chastity is to ensure that married people and single folks are in relationship with one another. Fostering relationships between married and single means not assuming that 'couple' is the basic unity of Christian identity. It means asking the single person not only who are you dating? but how is God calling you to be faithful now as you are? It means making sure you have an odd number of chairs at your dinner parties." I'd love to hear from single adults today: what is your experience in church? What changes could leaders make that would bless you? Also, maybe there are others who've witnessed ways in which singles and married couples can be brought together better -- along with more intergenerational experiences.

49 Comments:

  • Several years ago my middle aged unmarried non- Christian cousin worked up the nerves to attend a local church. Once there, he was greeted politely. After several questions about himself, he was ushered off into the single's class. Sadly, he never went back. I think the assumption is that if one is single, you must want to be with other singles. Although this may be the case for some, it was not the case for my cousin. He was looking for a "family." He said if he wanted to meet other singles, he would have gone to a club or a bar. I, however, thouroughly enjoyed going to a single's class. It was through a single's class that I eventually met and married my husband.

    By Blogger erinlo, at 11/17/2005 05:21:00 AM  

  • I needed that singing turkey this morning! SO fuuny! Thanks!

    My sister is 25 and single. She left our very family oriented CofC for a young hip Baptist church where there are more singles but they are less segregated from the other young people her age who are married. She has lots of friends there married and single.
    When she comes back to visit us the number one question she is asked is "Are you dating someone?" She says she really still loves our preacher and so many people there, but she doesn't visit very often.

    By Blogger SG, at 11/17/2005 05:58:00 AM  

  • I am now happily married, but was single until age 28. My experience in churches is that the purpose of a singles ministry is to eradicate itself. The underlying message always seems to be, "something is wrong with you that is making you un-marry-able (I know-- not a word), and we're here to fix it." A more noble pursuit would be to help all seekers, single and married alike, find their true identities in Christ, as it is exclusively through Him that true fulfillment can be found.

    By Blogger Phil Richardson, at 11/17/2005 06:05:00 AM  

  • I was single until age 36. Most Sunday Mornings during my late twenties and until I married were spent in a college age bible class at a large church of Christ. It was more comfortable for me to be a mentor to younger single women than to spend time with people my own age. It worked for me because the church was large enough to avoid people who made me feel uncomfortable. And the college crowd seemed to appreciate me. People my own age began to ask me to baby sit alot and that was draining. A few married people and older people really accepted me as a person. And being human, I clung to them desperately! No church is perfect, but yes, we really do need to try to treat each other as people without labels.

    By Blogger Secret Sister, at 11/17/2005 06:26:00 AM  

  • It's interesting that this is your topic for today. It's been heavy on my heart for some time. The reason I am so involved where I attend church has nothing to do with a singles group. In fact, I tend to shy away from them. I have ministered to other churches' singles groups through music, but in my church family, I got to know people because I got involved with the youth group and eventually joined a care group that was mainly married parents of teens. Now I go to a care group that has a mixture of married, married with kids and singles. Some singles tend to see themselves "differently" and being boxed in to that difference by people at church doesn't help matters. I have loved Westover because I'm not seen as "single" but as a Christian sister. I like the idea of topical classes or some way of integrating demographic groups. I think what has been heavy on my heart is that many singles who don't have that sense of community, which is so important. They come to church and maybe even teach kids classes or something, but they don't feel the sense of family that I feel. I loved the comment from Lauren Winnner about having an odd number of chairs at your dinner party. We as a body need to do a better job of seeing people as just that people-not single, divorced, widowed, etc... I would love to be involved in continued discussions on this matter.

    By Blogger songbirdintl, at 11/17/2005 06:31:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Being one of those single individuals, who also happens to be in my mid-30's, is perhaps one of the hardest things to be in any Church setting. I appreciate you mentioning this kind of topic on your BLOG (along with the thousand other issues you bring from the shadows).

    I have to be honest and say that I do often feel like a second, or even third, class citizen especially in those congregations that seem to thrive on the infamous "hook-up" amongst its members who are constantly trying to put "single" people together. There is this underlying myth that those who are single have sort of missed the boat somehow, or that they need extra help. So the thing that is often done is the congregation forms a "single's class" in which these individuals are labeled, in hopes that maybe they'll be forced to meet someone in this class.

    Ok, I realize this is a sore area for me, as I have been ushered into these classes for the past 15 years of my church experience - off and on.

    Classes and segregation, to me, are not the solution to any of the churches woes or even their triumphs. What I see lacking in both the small and large churches, that I feel would make a tremenous and radical difference in the lives of all those who attend is Godly mentoring and discipling of all those who attend. The two to three hours a week that we prescribe falls short in my estimation.

    I am a Grad Student at ACU, and I still long for a mentoring relationship from someone - almost anyone. There is a tremendous cost to discipleship, that I see many people avoiding (including myself) and that is the illustration of Jesus going out and picking 12 individuals to train. We all still seem to have this belief that if someone needs help or training they will come to us. Jesus' pattern was to discern the need in an individuals life and then bring that individual into theirs.

    Ok, that was another tangent.

    Those of us who desire more than anything, to be in a Christ centered relationship with an individual of the opposite sex, and this has not taken place for whatever reason is hard on the soul - at least it is on mine. This pain is only magnified 10 to 100 fold when those I know who are only trying to help, point out what we already know in that we are single. The church does this on many levels by pointing out our lack of relational skills at this level - as you mentioned in your BLOG - by focusing 99% of all ministry outreach and inreach towards those who are made up of at least "two" individuals.

    I am part of a group of guys that meet together every other week. Out of the 7 of us, 6 of us are single and totally removed from our families by at least 4 hours, some of us more than 20. What we desire more than meaningful relationships in our lives is to be Blessed by Men (I'll explain this aspect soon) in our lives. We often feel, not often verbalized, that the church as a whole does not understand us and what we need as young men. The choice to serve Christ and His church was not an easy thing to do, and I can only speak for myself in this, but I never received a Blessing from my home congregation or the overwhelming support from my family that I need. I am assuming this to be the case that I see in my fellow friends who join in this small group, as we all desire to be Blessed in ministry by those who have been in ministry.

    Again, not to be mean spirited or to cause any sort of pain, but in the area of Blessing our lives and praying Blessing upon our lives and giving support the church is one tick away from failing in this task. How do I know this, just look at the demographics of your congregation. How many singles, female or male, between the ages of 24-35 make up any congregation?

    We need Mentoring and we need to know that the church wants to Bless our lives, and not try to fix our "singleness". We've all been trying to do that since we recognized the opposite sex did not have cooties. We need the church to stop pointing out the obvious things in our lives, help us know the value of self in Christ, find out how we fit in the overall Kingdom of God by using our gifts and talents, Bless our lives by giving us Mentors and not classes that try to fix our status as being single or separate us from those who are not.

    I'll stop there, as I have been able to think about this topic for nearly 17 years of my life, witness its affects upon those like me, and learn see that those who are like me fade into the background and eventually out the back door of the church.

    Thanks again Mike for realizing that this is not an issue a congregation can not fix with a class that separates those who already feel separated.

    Blessings,
    dps

    By Blogger Donald Philip Simpson, at 11/17/2005 07:11:00 AM  

  • I go to the Manhattan Church of Christ, and we recently had Lauren Winner do a sexuality seminar here. She has so many wonderful insights, many of which were not found in the book. You guys should consider asking her to come to Highland and do a seminar. Her fees are really reasonable, and you can tell she loves sharing this message. While her message does apply to teenagers, it's more geared for single adults.

    By Blogger D.J., at 11/17/2005 07:14:00 AM  

  • This is going to be tough for me to articulate. I'm already tearing up just reading the questions.

    I guess the best way to express my feelings having been a single in both large and small congregations is to repeat what a single mom said in one of our support group meetings; "I feel more alone and lonely at church than anywhere else."

    The single professional, ages 25-55, are probably the most lonely of all in our church families. Where do they "belong" in our organizational patterns?

    I might as well go all the way and get myself into really deep troubled waters by stating I really do not like, nor do I feel it's truly biblical, to separate our children from adults, our younger married women from older women, the older men from mentoring younger ones. IMO, we lose a richness in our church family dynamics when we are separated into blocks of identifiable "groups" - imo, there's only ONE group, that's the Body of Christ.

    I know kids, teens, younger singles, married couples, older singles, etc. all have unique difficulties they face, but we also all share some basic difficulties - maturing in our love and dedication to our LORD, and resisting Satan's temptations. Can we truly address the former through separated groups, thereby weakening our capability for addressing the latter need?

    But back to the singles. Maybe our small group ministries might be revamped to be certain singles are included in each of the groups. Also, may I suggest that the next time you walk out of your church building after services, take a look around. Would it be difficult to spot a single walking alone to her/his car, going to lunch alone, or just simply going home alone - would it be difficult to ask if that individual would like to join y'all for lunch? Or to call a single during the week, invite them to dinner, or maybe an after work cup of coffee just to chat, something, an extended hand that helps the single feel welcomed and sought after in our churches.

    It all goes back to being aware, of looking around us, of looking people in the eye - observing their body language. Is this a happy person? Is this one that is fully included in your life?

    Mike, forgive the length of this rant, but thank you and bless you for asking the question. Our singles, both young, older, old, never married, single-again, single parents, etc. are really crying out to be considered fully invested members of our church families. We need to integrate them, not separate them from the body. All of course, imho, ya' know. :)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 11/17/2005 07:27:00 AM  

  • Wow!!! This conversation is powerful and Spirit-filled. If any of you know me well, you know that I tend to comment when the topic is women, family or anything else connected to that but this topic has also moved me to tears. I am feeling challenged to look at singleness in a new light. One of you said that the singles class existed to eradicate singleness...how sad...what incredible feelings of inadequacy we are creating in our churches.
    Kathy, thank you for the pratical thoughts said through your deep emotion. Yes, we can look out for singles after church and invited them to lunch...what a small thing but what a huge thing.
    I thank all of you today for opening my eyes.

    By Blogger julie, at 11/17/2005 07:51:00 AM  

  • I'm a mid-30s single person who, before I moved a month ago, was one of the coordinators of a singles group in Texas for about 6 years.

    Personally I like a mix. I like times where I'm with singles, building relationships with folks who also have no "kid constraints" on their evenings so are free to go to a concert or out to eat last minute and don't need to rush home for bedtime. Our singles group itself was intergenerational! We sometimes had members in their 20s and one gal who recently turned 70! That was GREAT to me, but turned some folks "off" who wanted to be with only folks their own age. And that's OK – those folks were often mate-hunting & from the beginning our group's purpose was not to "mate up" but to get to know God and each other. If I’m seeking God’s Will for my life and listening to Him and single, that’s God’s Will for me – what’s best for me. My God is big enough to bring the right person into my life if He ever wants me to be married. He tells us to seek HIM - to get to know Him and become molded and healed by Him and to encourage one another to do the same – those are my only “jobs” until further notice:-) So I also longed to build relationships with other folks at church - kids, married folks and older married folks, etc. Our small groups at church were wonderful for this. So, I'd suggest a mix - if there's a "Singles" Sunday morning Bible class, have a mix in small groups. If there's a Singles small group, have a mix on Sunday morning Bible classes.

    I have a feeling there are a lot of married people out there longing for deeper connections, too. It’s a church-wide problem. I think it's a result of our isolationist society these days and wounds that hold us captive from reaching out for what we know we need. Before TV and the internet, sitting on the front porch talking with people was the entertainment. And we still need that, but it's gotten harder to attain. Wounds in our life can keep us from engaging in and pursuing deeply connected relationships. I found that there were folks who wanted - and needed - to come to church activities (singles or otherwise) and BELONG. But often if they weren't asked personally, they would not come. It takes effort by ALL to build these vital relationships: people watching out for and personally inviting those who need to be personally invited and also those folks stepping out on a limb sometimes and not requiring a personal invite to go out and be a part of an activity to build relationships.
    great blog, Mike - thanks! By the way, that church I was a member of for 6 years in Texas is the same one your new youth minister is from!

    By Blogger Amy H, at 11/17/2005 08:12:00 AM  

  • Ask Jeff Childers about this...

    He talked about this idea in Medieval Church History the other day, but my notes are on the computer at home.

    Why do we stress the need to get married? Why don't we offer celibacy/single-hood as a viable alternative, ESPECIALLY in the context of our communities of faith?

    Baffles me...

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 11/17/2005 08:29:00 AM  

  • Greg -- yes, why do we do this? Especially in a "back-to-Bible" tradition? Didn't Paul actually discourage marriage? I have a friend who, in his late 20s and still unmarried, was hired to preach at a small-town church. It wasn't long before rumors started flying around the community that since the guy still wasn't married, well, he must be gay. Then there was one of my family members who was told by a church elder that he could not be valuable to the church or society until he got married. He's nearing 40 now, still not married, not gay, and he's a wonderful person just the way he is.

    I've heard the frustrations of singles my age who feel they are the "step-children" of the church. What can we do to change this?

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 11/17/2005 08:45:00 AM  

  • "it means not only asking the single person 'who are you dating?' but 'how is God calling you to be faithful now as you are?'" That quote from Winner really stood out to me. Not because I've been asked the first question a gazillion times, but because the second question isn't asked enough, to everyone, single, married, widowed, grandparent, whoever. Thanks for encouraging me to ask the more important questions.

    It is tough being young and single in congregations today. I'm 23 and have conversations on a weekly basis with several friends my age about their experiences with the "meat markets" that have become many singles ministries. Men and women alike complain of the constant sizing up that occurs, describing it even as a pack of hungry wolves fighting over the fresh meat. They often feel targeted rather than befriended. Another issue I hear voiced is my single friends frustration with getting plugged in to the ministry of a congregation and feeling apart of the body there, not just the singles class. Not that all churches lack in these areas, but I don't believe a spouse to be a prerequisite for involvement, or that you have to flash your marriage licence at the door. I know people who feel that way and it makes me sad.

    I'm a young single youth minister, and on staff at my congegation. Now while I spend the majority of my time pouring myself into my students (whom I love), a huge part of me still longs for signifcant meaningful relationships apart from them. Conversation and experiences with people that are engaging, uplifting, and relaxing on a level that teenagers can't consistently provide me. And when there isn't a singles class at my church, those relationships and moments I long for are even more scarce. Not throwing a pity party here, but just being honest about my situation--one that probably isn't an isolated one. I just pray that all of us (myself included) will be more aware of everyone's (singles, young mothers, widowers, staff members, elders, etc) need for relationship and community.

    By Blogger codyblair, at 11/17/2005 08:53:00 AM  

  • I guess I don't understand why people have to be separated at church based on something that many are incredibly sensitive about and have not actually chosen from themselves. Singleness can be an extremely fun stage in life, but to many, they would prefer another status. And to label someone based on that status is a blow.

    Our church has marrieds and singles together in one Sunday morning class. Then you can sign up for a small group of your choice–singles, young married couples, all women, divorcees, a mix, those living on the north side of town, those living downtown, those with kids, those who like to sing, etc. It works beautifully. Those needing a singles group can have it, though I find myself drawn to a broader mix of people. It keeps life interesting and keeps me for the awkwardness of random dating proposals which often occur in the singes group...you know...having some guy ask you out, simply because you are (to some degree) normal, female and at church (though you have nothing else in common). No thanks.

    By Blogger Chelsea Thornton, at 11/17/2005 08:53:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the insight. I agree with so much that has been said. I will add that spiritual giftedness has never depended on marital status. We have to realize that we cannot allow giftedness and usefulness to be unintentionally linked to married status. This is easily done when we think that the main thing on the heart and mind of single people is to find a mate. We are overlooking the gifts. Thanks for the discussion.
    Shawn

    By Blogger Shawn, at 11/17/2005 09:09:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thanks for sparking this discussion. Last night, I sat in a neighbor's living room with a young married (5 years) couple with a 3 year old daughter, a middle-aged married (6 months)couple with a newborn, a 31 year old married mother of 2 who's husband works at night, so she was there by herself with her 5th grade and 3rd grade girls, a 28 year old single woman, a 24 year old single woman, a 59 year old woman who has been 'single again' for several years, and my wife and I, married for 8 years with a 5 year old, and in our late 20s.

    As we worshipped, searched life answers from the Bible, confessed sin, and prayed for each other, the Holy Spirit moved in mighty ways. Intergenerational small groups provide such exciting opportunties for, as you said, the 'first family' to gather in the presence, power, and purpose of the Lord, and to grow in our covenant relationships with each other.

    The evening concluded with all of his watching the children put on their own spontaneous 'Thanksgiving Musical'. Age, social status, family background, church background (or the lack there of), Bible knowledge...all of it took a back seat to belongingness (my new word) fostered by the Spirit.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11/17/2005 09:14:00 AM  

  • As a single who is rapidly approaching 30, I really appreciate you asking this question today Mike. I echo many of the sentiments expressed above. And while I will make some broad generalizations here in my comments, I know that this is not the case in every church family. (and I apologize in advance for the length of my comment!!)

    I have long been a proponent of intergenerational fellowship and relationship building. I think Sunday morning classes or small groups are a great way to do that. But, if a church insists on structures that are centered around age/stage of life, then something else must be done to help form those relationships. I think even acknowledging that it is an issue is a step in the right direction.

    I am one of those people who has made it a point to get to know my church family. To initiate circumstances where relationships can be built. A good friend and I decided that we needed to get to know our elders - since we both enjoy hosting people in our homes, we took turns and invited one elder couple at a time over to get to know them better. It allowed us to use our gifts of hospitality, and formed the foundation of some great relationships. I would not know my elders nearly as well if we hadn't done that.

    But, it still has felt like it was mostly up to me to develop those relationships within my church family. I think the awareness that was mentioned before and everyone (whether single or married or whatever) being willing to look for opportunities to serve/befriend others rather than only waiting to be served is important.

    I do get really frustrated when the singles in the church are always the go-to people for any job....because they don't have a "real life" (read: family) and responsibilities outside of the church. So, we are often continually expected to bend over backwards in acts of service to prove our worth to the church. And sometimes heaped with guilt when we say no (because what else do we have to do, anyway? We don't have kids....)

    I agree with whomever commented about the loneliness factor - I know that singles don't have the market cornered on that, but it is especially hard. One thing I really miss is a simple hug. You don't get it in most workplaces and being single you don't get it at home. And while I really like to be at home, just puttering around doing "stuff," it gets awfully quiet with only me there. It's strange to think of going most of the weekend not talking to anyone.

    Ok, I've ranted long enough. There is far more that I could say, but I'll stop for now.

    By Blogger Jenni, at 11/17/2005 09:16:00 AM  

  • Wow! I think you have really touched on something today that the entire church needs to take a look at. I have been encouraging a single friend this week to find out the answer to a question she asked herself "out loud" to me. It was something like: [Being single] How can I do anything for God's Kingdom? I have encouraged her to answer that question. Discover her purpose and so on. I attend a church that I love very much - but the classes are very frustrating because they are nearly always segregated by age and I long for intergenerational connections. The connections that I have with others outside of my age group are such a blessing.

    I remember the times in which I was single. I felt like I was in a meat market in one single's group I attended. In another, when I went to visit - for some reason, the group was not where it was supposed to be that Sunday night. So, when I went and asked for help, a nice lady at the church didn't know how to help me. I wanted to go to a class or a Sunday night worship that night. Because I was single and she didn't know where that class went, she was at a total loss as to how to help me. So, why couldn't she just point me to a different class or group that was worshipping? I never went back.

    Satan wants us to be consumed with labels - martial status, parenting status, age, occupations, income, and so forth. I told my friend this week that even after I got married - being without children put me in a situation where we did not fit in. And it's magnified when you struggle with infertility and miscarriages and so much loss and continually have to be asked the question: Do you have kids? or When will you have kids? Well, I finally was blessed with our miracle - and now it's like we are still not validated as a "family" because we only have one! (And he's a great baby!) I have actually been told that I'm not a real mom because I don't have more than one! And as much as I'd like for it to stop, I am sure that if we should have a second baby, then I am sure that people will come up with something else.. probably criticize us for waiting so late to start a family!

    We have to realize that Christians really don't mean to be this way - at least, most of them don't. We are all fumbling around trying to make conversation to make connections with other people - no matter what our "class" is.

    By Blogger Melanie Morales, at 11/17/2005 10:58:00 AM  

  • One more thing...I think it is easy for singles to use their status as an excuse for not getting involved in a church. I know that when I feel overlooked, I can easily get a chip on my shoulder, cross my arms, and remain on the church fridge. Also, I know many single people who have the attitude of "I will become active when I have a family." As a single person, I feel called to say that we cannot expect the church to include or embrace single members until we include ourselves and become active members, without chips on our shoulders.

    By Blogger Chelsea Thornton, at 11/17/2005 11:06:00 AM  

  • Ct, I understand where you're coming from when you say that we cannot expect the church to include or embrace single members until we include ourselves and become active members, without chips on our shoulders. However, it often is the one with the chip on the shoulder that is hurting and really needs ministering to.

    A different situation is one that deliberately says they'll wait until later to become active in church, but how do we discern who has the chip and who doesn't? So respectfully I'll disagree to the point that we are still on the hook - we still need to minister to those that in some cases, are terrified, to let the church members know they have even the slightest negative feeling about the congregation.

    This brings to mind a gal we tried to minister to in San Diego, but was very difficult, negative, truly sick of mind. Many gave up, just couldn't handle all the twists and turns necessary to minister to her. We were reminded that when Jesus talked about giving a cup of cool water in His name, he didn't tell us to do so only to those that we liked or were easy to minister to. {hate that sentence but no time to rewrite it. sorry! lol] So yes, singles need to do their part, but I really believe it is the congregation members that need to make the first move, over and over. [is that possible? A first move over and over? LOL]

    Obviously time constraints are erasing any sensible thoughts being posted by me, so I'll quit. LOL

    Again - Mike, bless you for bringing this subject to your blog, for bringing up subjects we usually keep under wraps, affording us a safe haven to speak openly about our concerns and battles. Thank You, dear brother!!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 11/17/2005 11:49:00 AM  

  • Singles' are looking for a home--they're looking for community. I'm all for Singles' minstries, but I think their primary purpose should be to assist singles in getting plugged into ministries and community (where their spiritual formation can be nurtured, of course). It's great to have activities for singles--service projects, gatherings on holidays and special occassions. It's not so great to have all of the above, AND a Sunday School class, AND Small Groups, AND ministries that are open to ONLY singles. We don't have a disease. Please incorporate us with the rest of the church family.

    In my personal experience, one of the most painful things has been a lack of Sunday lunch plans. (I'm not writing this for a pity party, I'm trying to express how I feel.) My upbringing ingrained in me that Sunday is a time for family. Leaving a worship assembly (particularly after leading it) is really painful when you know that you're headed home for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich alone. When you know church is the ideal place for community, and when you're doing everything you can to be plugged in, it's devastating to still find yourself alone at the end of the morning. I have already decided that if I should have a family one day, we will be committed to keeping our eyes open and including people who are by themselves in our Sunday afternoon plans. Not only will it be meaningful to the people we invite, but I want my children to experience and participate in this welcoming for those who feel alone.

    Thanks for spending time on this topic today, Mike.

    By Blogger RPorche, at 11/17/2005 12:06:00 PM  

  • I want to echo what so many other people have said about intergenerational relationships. The single most formative spiritual experience of my adult life has been serving as the minister's wife at the Maryneal Church of Christ, where we attended until recently. We were the youngest adults at church by at least 10 years, though more like 15-20 years or more for most of the members. We were closer in age to the high school kids than most of our other members!

    As young marrieds, without kids, from the city in this rural church we often felt different and "other." Within the small congregation are people in different life situations--divorcees, widows, children, married couples with kids, married couples without kids. But this tiny church knows what it means to be the Body. We ate together, prayed together, told stories, shared experiences, fed babies, played with kids, visited the sick, sang songs, and hugged each other week in and week out.

    I have learned that I can be close to people who are different from me. I would not have learned that without those precious people. I think they're really onto something--they are intentional about living out their lives in deep relationship with people, young or old, married or unmarried, with kids or without kids. I think we should be like that in our churches: loving and accepting without social expectations.

    I didn't mean this to be off-topic. I really appreciate hearing what so many people have shared about their experiences in church. It's a reminder to me to be less selfish in my relationships and to look for ways to serve people who are different than me..

    By Blogger jocelyn, at 11/17/2005 12:41:00 PM  

  • WOW! Where was this conversation a few years ago? I was single until age 39. I tried the singles group thing, but HATED it! It always seemed like the people were college age or had kids my age, there was rarely anyone in between. I went to a small cofC for several years and loved it because it was a 20's and 30's group, mixed. Then I went to a large cofC that had a singles group. Like I said, I tried it and hated it. So I just decided not to be a part of it. Church is about family. When I tried to be in the singles group, I felt ostracized. And I totally lost why I was at church in the first place! I was too busy wondering if I was going to find someone in the singles group and lost my focus of worship. For me, being integrated into the whole family was the best!

    By Blogger Danna, at 11/17/2005 01:24:00 PM  

  • I would definitely agree with what alot of people here have said. Sometimes I look at what Paul said about having the gift of singleness and it makes me smile a little. I love not being tied down at this point in my life. But I hate the fact that churches will not even take a double look at me because I am single, even though I have a youth ministry degree from a great university. I also would agree that churches think that they can put singles in their own group and things are fine. I have never been involved in a singles group because most churches I have been to dont have one. I dont know how to do it but we as a church need to start plugging singles into the church better so that they view themselves just as important to the body as everyone else and are not givin the attitude that they are not important until they get a ring on their finger. I'll get off my soapbox now.

    By Blogger Chris, at 11/17/2005 01:55:00 PM  

  • This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and thanks, Mike, for bringing it up today. I see the singles group issue from both sides. Our singles group is made up mostly of people similar to myself (mostly "young professionals"). They have been a huge blessing to me in the few months since I've moved to town, partially because we are going through similar things. It was great for me to have a ready-made place to find that.

    On the other hand, it does take a lot more effort to forge relationships with other church members when you have that ready-made group. I agree with CT - the singles do need to take some initiative, myself included. We have our own Sunday school class and our own small group - I'm not sure if that was the singles' decision or not, but it does limit the "automatic" opportunities we have to get to know others. So if we want to stay that connected to the singles yet also be connected with the congregation as a whole, we have to take some initiative and find other ways to get involved. I don't think that's a bad thing. I do think many of us are intimidated by the idea of going into a completely new small group or ministry alone, especially when we already have a comfort zone. While there are many singles who are ready and willing to be involved in other areas of the church, some of us may need a little push into it. (And that could go for any member of a congregation. But for whatever reason, it seems like it's easier for us to fall through the cracks.)

    So my thoughts sum up to this: It's important for singles to take initiative, to involve ourselves in the church and to become a vital part of it. We can't complain about not feeling a part of the community if we've done nothing to facilitate that. But it would be a great help to many of us if others made a concerted effort to involve us - whether that entails a dinner invitation, a request to help out in some ministry, or a mentoring relationship. We're not looking for pity. We just want to really get to know the rest of you and be involved.

    By Blogger Jennifer Thompson, at 11/17/2005 02:28:00 PM  

  • So many thoughts - that all center around our human need to feel connected to others -- and not just others who have the same marital status! This brings back all kinds of memories. I, too, did not marry until my mid thirties. I TRIED to play along and go to the Singles class ... hating it all the time. That feeling of being herded off to the Singles class, feeling alone ... I gave up on attending the Singles class - and went to an Adult/topical type class. I got involved with the youth group. I volunteered in outreach ministries - and the relationships that I developed because of it were such a huge blessing. Had I stayed away just because I was Single, I would have missed out. I so appreciate the people who were married/in different situation and still wanted to connect with me. God doesn't want any of us to feel invisible. ('I see SINGLE people' - movie reference). May we always be looking out for each other and to meet each others' needs. Thanks for nailing yet another room-for-improvement topic.

    By Blogger Lisa_In_AL, at 11/17/2005 02:32:00 PM  

  • Along with everything said above (particularly inclusivity), I think it's helpful when the church and church leaders - as you are here - express interest in both our personal and spiritual lives. It doesn't help to be told that we're somehow less than adults or that our struggles aren't real (e.g. comparing our problems to the problems of "people who don't have pets" as has happened to me in the past). Also, socially speaking, its a lot harder to walk into a room full of strangers when you're alone than when you have a spouse on your arm to lean on.

    And someone else mentioned the same about people who are unable to have children. The church could do much better in being sensitive to them as well. I can't imagine the pain they must feel when they're segregated out of "family" classes.

    Thanks for asking.

    By Blogger Little Light, at 11/17/2005 03:12:00 PM  

  • Thanks for asking the question, Mike. I was a young deacon's wife and mother of three small children when my marriage fell apart in 1983. I will forever be thankful for my wonderful church in OKC who was truly my extended family in every sense of the word. Although I cultivated friendships with many singles, I maintained my relationships with my married friends. This proved to be very helpful not only to me, but to my children. They were able to witness moms and dads interact, show love and affection to one another, discipline their children, etc. As my children grew older, we often had discussions regarding the characteristics of godly, healthy families. We also witnessed the difficulties of some couples who were struggling but working hard to resolve issues in their homes. Now, 21+ years later, I believe that my young adult children have a much healthier and balanced perspective of family/marriage relationships because of their exposure to so many families with both parents still in the home. Even after my children left for college, my small group at Oakcrest was comprised of married couples, a young family with small children, a widow in her late sixties, and some "empty nesters." We all loved one another and grew spiritually because of our association and common bond.

    I now live in the Dallas area, but I continue to seek out both single and married friends. I am blessed to have a small group in Allen that is also diverse. I DETEST being pigeon-holed as "an older single woman." Now WHAT could insinuate less worth in a church than OLD, SINGLE, and WOMAN??? Well, that's a topic for another blog! LOL!!

    Sorry for such a long comment, but I am thankful for the opportunity to express my feelings on this very emotional topic.

    By Blogger Debbie, at 11/17/2005 05:03:00 PM  

  • What a couple of nerves to hit … first, the hilarious ‘I will survive’ turkey, and then the singles dilemma.

    There were several decades as a single when I felt much like that turkey, especially when it came to being a single Christian female. I’ve played and prayed in the ‘meat market’ of some of the best Singles church programmes, and it was absolutely humiliating. I have also been a leader in singles ministries. Personally, I had a healthier relationship with other ‘populations’ within church communities when there was a diverse mix of believers to be involved with. When I was a younger single, I learned so much and grew from knowing older women in the church – some married, some divorced, some widowed, and some who never, ever married. As I grew older, the experiences painfully changed.

    Many times, I felt that had I been reared a Catholic – the anti-thesis of the C of C -- I would have made a great nun and been spectacularly successful – probably a Dominican, once I investigated that order. But there was some boo-hissing from the C of C corner. The problem was, that the C of C was deceptively good at boo-hissing the single female. There were a lot of Biblical disconnects to contend with, and many questions that no one could, or would, try to answer. It is so brave of you, Mike, to attempt that with your post today.

    Some decades saw me trying to be successful in the dating arena. Was I supposed to date a Christian or a non-Christian? I learned, much to my discomfort, that Christian men have the same lustful desires and non-Christian men. I was never, physically, described ever as ‘a babe’. So as my clock ticked close to age 30, and then passed that marker, the message I got from the single Christian men was that they were really looking for a Mother Teresa in Cindy Crawford’s body. As I toppled over age 35 in the church, Christian men my age were eyeing sweet young thangs at least 10-years younger, because they were writing women my age off as beyond child-bearing.

    I had poured my life into working with children. By the time I was 35, I had been teaching for a good 14 years. I had by this time had worked with thousands of students. Surely there was a place for me in children’s ministry? But the years I had attended a Christian university had been before the time women were allowed to be ministry students. So, through another Christian denomination who had been a bit kinder to women in ministry, I was appointed to graduate work in a Seminary. Even with post-grad training and in other evangelical denominations, it was tough to be vetted as a full-fledged, spiritually developing sister in Christ. Many parents did or would not trust me or other single sisters completely with their children, and dissed our professional experience and expertise because we had never had children of our own. How could we who remained barren completely understand children and parenting? This was a litmus test churches felt justified in using.

    If that litmus test was not voiced, then I and other sisters like myself were humiliated further: Three times, in interviews with church search committees for ministerial positions in Christian education, I was asked point blank why I was still single. Right there at the tables, I was asked if I was a lesbian. If not, then there must be some psychological issues or hang-ups to purge before I should ever be allowed to take up a ministry post. I guess you might say I crashed when I was asked this the third time. I looked everyone at the table directly in the eyes, and said, ‘No, I am not a lesbian. But if I were, this would certainly be the last community I would ever want to be a part of. I am so ashamed I even took the time to meet with you today. You are not a church I could ever want to serve.’ Sadly, I did not know how God wanted me to pray for them. I left that room so angry, broken, and bruised. I was aged 37. So God pointed me to so many fabulous examples of singles – barren or otherwise – in His great book. That helped me get through the storm, and is still a great source of encouragement.

    You see, all my life I had been taught, encouraged, and nurtured to love the Lord and to serve Him in my best capacity, to always love others. But once I reached a certain age, it seemed like I was put out to pasture, and not allowed to love too much. As a Christian woman, the journey I was on never seemed to be adequate enough. Although single women are considered a threat in a lot of church circles I have, however, been blessed with many ‘couple friends’. When I attended Highland in the early 1990’s, as I approached aged 40, it was a healing place, to some degree. I was still a duck out of water, because as a professional musician, my talents could not be used for sacred music in the C of C. A group at Highland tried to help integrate me into that, but it met with a lot of opposition. There were fights over which row I was allowed to stand in. It had to be a row near the back, and I had to stand so ‘the choir’ could see me direct. The fact that I would direct men and women, take up a row that belonged to regular church goers, and have my butt elevated higher than most heads were all issues of stress for many. So it was very uncomfortable. I have been delightedly shocked on recent visits in this century to see that you now allow young female vocalists mix with young male vocalists UP AT THE FRONT, with their very own mics. Wow … mixed music leading! (Is it a criterion that the music team has to be under age 28?)

    Single, never married, female, no children, professional musician, educator … Christian.

    God made me a classical musician from the time I was a toddler, and He called me to have a relationship with Him and His church about the same time. I tried so hard to please Him, but I had to also please and obey others. It took me several decades to figure things out, all the while as a single. I was not a success by American church standards. Even when my folks would come to town, they would never visit me, but instead would visit my brothers, who were all married, and had kids. Sometimes I would never know they had been to town. If I had only been married with kids of my own, maybe they would have dropped by.

    All the church people will tell the single male/female: ‘Oh, God has the right one just for you … you just have to have faith and be patient.’ Well, what if God IS THE right one? And by the time your clock ticks beyond age 45, patience has truly become a virtue. If you hear one more kind, married soul advise you on hangin’ in there for the right one to come along, it’s time to move on. Stop spinning on rabbit trails along the journey and road God -- not church people -- has placed you on.

    There are events and holidays that are sometimes difficult for some singles to be a part of. Ever wonder why a single member of your family has trouble getting to your house on time for Christmas Day or Thanksgiving? For some reason it’s really tough to make oneself get up and get out the door. Especially if the only time they get an invite is on one of those days, and not just regular days of the year. Family functions for a single can feel awkwardly irrelevant, especially when traditional family values are being earnestly affected at an event. Singles, who are single because they are widowed, divorced, gay, or just plain single somehow don’t fit the church’s ‘traditional family values’ picture. We no longer live in the 1950’s! And as a single sibling grows older, the other siblings (and the elderly parents!) become increasingly nervous, worried about how they might be burdened some day if they get saddled with the elder care of that single sibling/child.

    Apologies for the length of this, Mike. If you can get your church people to just celebrate your single members, and God’s individual gifting in them seriously, and find ways to integrate them into meaningful family life – biological or extended – on a regular, weekly basis, then blessings will abound. Just don’t make them into yet another church mission project. Their gifts are God’s calling and He’s already given them their mission.

    Thanks!

    By Blogger Deb, at 11/17/2005 08:05:00 PM  

  • It's funny you should mention this. I was just thinking about this issue the other day. As a church, I believe that we should appreciate each others' differences in fulfilling our respective roles in the body of Christ but not to the extent where ministering to someone is based solely on those differences. If a singles' class is the best way to reach out and nurture the faith of that group of people, then perhaps a singles' class is the best approach. However, it shouldn't be assumed that all singles will have a closer relationship with Christ and with their church family by focusing on thier "singleness." At the church I attend now, we have a College and Young Professionals class which is a wonderful mix of single and married undergraduate, professional, and working young adults. I think we learn a lot from each other because of our different positions in life.
    Some of the older adults are also involved which creates an intergenerational environment and helps us understand what it means to be a Christian "family." I think the important thing is to not necessarily focus on someone's marital status as the defining characteristic of their role in the body of Christ. Rather, we should all be observant of each others' talents and needs and minister to those so that the body of Christ may be built up in love.

    By Blogger michele MD, at 11/17/2005 08:30:00 PM  

  • THe Church needs to refocus and raise single to be the church leaders (except for the roles that biblically call for a married person)! Why? Simply because Paul says singles are undivided!!! The church continues to empower and rise uo the divided and i do not understand why!!! Let's raise up the "UNDIVIDED" more to help lead God's Church. I'm like to be a Singles Minister with this as the platform. This Singles Ministry would be called, appropriately, "THE UNDIVIDED" to remind the singles and the church that the singles have important and needed roles in God's Church!

    By Blogger Todd Lollar, at 11/17/2005 08:30:00 PM  

  • As a single person I can honestly say that the toughest part of my week is getting up and going to church alone on Sunday mornings. It's amazing how lonely you can feel while sitting in a room of 1000 people.

    By Blogger Sue, at 11/17/2005 09:23:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the link to the Poultry Diva. Just what I needed to cheer me up after a long night of insomnia.

    By Blogger Jana, at 11/18/2005 02:51:00 AM  

  • Many of these testimonies make me want to cry..."our own" getting lost in the fray at church, of all places.

    These statements ought to be huge red flags for the church in North America: "what I see missing is godly mentoring and discipling", "I feel more alone and lonely at church than anywhere else," and this particularly striking statement: "As a single person I can honestly say that the toughest part of my week is getting up and going to church alone on Sunday mornings. It's amazing how lonely you can feel while sitting in a room of 1000 people."

    What is wrong with this picture?

    I am reminded of Ephesians 4, which tells us that the church will grow to maturity ONLY AS "each part does its work." This issue is much bigger than just the single-married discussion -- it is an issue of whether or not each part can do its work in our churches, as they stand today.

    I pray that churches literally go back to the drawing boards to find God's will for their existence, and I pray that our will and structures may be sacrificed so that God's will may reside.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 11/18/2005 07:23:00 AM  

  • The turkey with the fro and the chest hair and the gold medallion is really creeping me out...

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 11/18/2005 10:47:00 AM  

  • Emergent has embedded within it a high value on friendship. At first this seemed to me a light weight thing to be so integral into their framework. But the more I thought about it the more I realized how important friendship is in the Christian life. It was lightweight to me because I ahve never been without it.

    Friendship should be as much a metaphor as family, but in most churches we idolize the family.

    Many larger cities like Denver have over half of their adult population being single. Yes, all of these singles come from families, but they are more likely to be influenced by friends.

    The church is friends walking together in the same direction.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 11/18/2005 12:50:00 PM  

  • Wow, Mike, so many thoughts on this issue, eh? I felt isolated and alone when I was a single (many, many years ago...)The issue is much bigger than to have single classes or not, it is about having more interaction between all ages. I feel a new isolation now. In my comfortable Sunday class, I never cross paths with anyone five or ten years younger or older. I just spoke to an elder about this the other night. He suggested that every other quarter we have classes that are topical and all incompassing instead of age divided. We all need to see each other. No one should be invisible.
    (When I first met my future husband, I asked him if he had attended the single's class. He said, yes, and that it looked like the bar scene from Star Wars. Tsk tsk....)

    By Blogger kim, at 11/18/2005 01:38:00 PM  

  • I love Cody Blair and Ryan Porche and Steve Holt. :) And I know Steve and I have talked about this before.

    I attend a worship community of twentysomethings called Pierced and recently emailed my pastor about this, as I'm trying to get involved in the larger church setting:

    Subject: Church experiences in the Springs

    J.R.,
    Those questions about church and what it is and should be have been weighing on my mind since about April. I've come up with a lot of good answers and it seems so simple, but I just can't find a church that really reconciles what I think about church with what church is.

    I love Pierced and in many ways it's my family, but even that community can't fit my idea of church. We're too much the same, you know? All about the same age and skin color and background ... I miss the 5-year-olds who asked to sit in my lap during service, and the junior high girls who caught me in the hall and begged for a sleepover, and the family [the Riches] who invited me to lunch and invited me to live with them one summer, the two elderly couples who had adopted me and asked me to help decorate for Christmas and gave me a quiet place to study during finals.

    And therein lies my struggle. I feel more connected at Pierced than anywhere, but it doesn't have (and probably shouldn't have) those dynamics, so I don't think Pierced could ever just be my church. But I went to "the big church" for four months, and I don't think they needed me. I tried to volunteer to help babysit during one of the Easter services, but they were already full of volunteers. I met people every Sunday who were very friendly, but didn't know how to make it go beyond that. I stopped going sometime after the Easter service, but no one really noticed. I work with junior high girls in a mentoring program down at Pikes Peak Christian Church, and went there for five months, but there were so many services I never actually saw any of my girls there either, and was never able to go beyond "hi, how are you?" with anyone there either.

    So a friend and I decided to look around. I've been to New Life and the Mill (scary and huge and too much smoke), Rocky Mountain Calvary a few times, Eastside Church of Christ a few times, Sunnyside Christian Church, Discovery Christian Church, and a few others I can't remember. A friend from ACU suggested I try a house church, which was an awkward and slightly odd experience.

    All that to say I feel the hole in my life where I want church to be, but have no idea what to do about it. It kills me. I'm not the type to leave church or give up on church (I've been going since I was three days old, and never missed a Sunday, even in college), but I'm on the verge of giving up. The answer (a diverse group of people where I feel like I belong) seems so simple, and yet unreachable. Relevant's done a few articles about twentysomethings leaving the church; I'm afraid I might be one of them. I'm not leaving God or community or a relationship with Christ, just the structure of church. Is that wrong? Maybe not, but something tells me I can't; I shouldn't.

    By Blogger Melanie Knox, at 11/18/2005 02:32:00 PM  

  • Wow-such great insights and thoughts on this subject. I can relate with so many people that have posted-more than I thought until I read them. I am 26 and have honestly never really been to a singles class. I have been to college classes-but as someone who has been involved in some aspect of ministry in the church in the last few years-if you find me in class-you will either find me with teenagers or college students. I've never really had the desire to go to a singles class-I suppose for many of the reasons you all have been mentioning. But part of it is also the fact that I like to be involved somehow and not just another seat in a chair...

    I appreciate those who have talked about inviting people to lunch-that is by far one of the hardest parts about going to church-even if you are very involved somewhere-you arrive alone, and then you leave alone-to go home to your PB&J or your leftovers from the night before. It is incredibly disheartening-as I watch all of the families travel off to eat together-I oftentimes am jealous of that. Sometimes it is even hard to get up and go to church-because you know you are going to sit alone, unless you can find someone else to sit with in the masses.

    It seems to be a common theme throughout C of C's (and this could be the case in other churches as well) and especially Christian universities that we push people into marriage as soon as possible. Yes, of course I long for a family-I will easily admit that...but I am certainly not going to wait around for it to happen. I have gotten to do a lot of amazing things and God has used me to go places and participate in things that would have been hard if I were not single. He uses us all in different ways and at different points in our lives. I know this would be even harder for me if I didn't just jump in and get involved-I can't imagine how much harder it would be if I was not...honestly I most likely would not go to any class and would just show up and leave church each week.

    I am very happily single-I feel like that is all in God's timing-but it is true that often singles get looked over and formed into their little group...and what happens when all of those people get married? Back to square one...

    Solution: We truly do need to be the body of Christ to each other. I am most definitely speaking to myself when I say this, but it is crucial that we take care of each other, branch out of our comfort zones and build an authentic community that is mixed, but shares the same goal: serving God.

    Thanks so much, Mike, for bringing up these hard topics to the table. Now what do we (including me) do?

    By Blogger Katherine, at 11/18/2005 04:40:00 PM  

  • I turn 30 in one week. I work at a church where the campus ministry brings in around 200+ students to our church so singles abound. However, about 98% of the leave after they graduate. I happened to stay here and have worked as the Office Manager at the church for 5 years. The transition was rough because you don't belong to any group. Even if you have single's classes you still don't belong because the resources are put into more "seen" ministries. Around one year after being out of school, a mid-aged couple started a ministry called Homebuilders. I first started getting involved mainly because they needed help with tech stuff but they welcomed me in with open arms and taught that I too was building a home.

    What changes could leaders make that would bless you?

    1. Acknowledge that singles exsist at church and that we are a part of the church family and just as important than the deacon with his wife and 2.5 children.

    2. Accept us as single. It is amazing to me as so many others have said that the one question people ask is "are you dating?"

    3. Encourage us to remain on the journey toward Christ. Provide ways for us to enter into ministry with others.

    4. Pray for us just as much as you pray for marriages and families.

    Thanks Mike. Single is not always fun but it does have its blessings.

    By Blogger David Duer, at 11/18/2005 08:17:00 PM  

  • Yes, prayers should be a no brainer, but I'm amazed at the arguments I've gotten regarding that issue.

    By Blogger Little Light, at 11/18/2005 08:57:00 PM  

  • After almost five years without a singles minister, my home church is beginning the search for one. Our singles group has shrunk from a steady Sunday class of 90 (20 years ago) to about 10-20. Many of our current deacons were in that singles group long ago; it's an incubator for our church growth and leadership.

    When Angi and I taught a class for single again folks at Highland (and at Pleasant Valley before that), we tried to address each lesson in the adult curricula to the unique needs of this group. But we also tried to encourage members to grow and look after the needs of each other and others beyond their group - which they did in many ways that surprised and blessed us. Some hurt so deeply that they needed to remain a part of those classes for a long time. Others became "naturalized citizens" (in a sense) of those larger church families; they became active participants in the life of the church.

    Without anticipating it, we learned how healing and therapeutic it can be to turn one's focus outward and relate to others. It's no wonder God wants us to experience it.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 11/19/2005 09:13:00 AM  

  • Dear Friends - These are some of the most heart-felt responses I've ever gotten in history of this blog. It would be helpful in churches if we had places to actually say these things and then to actually hear them. Most people just are unaware of what it's like. Thanks, thanks for being so honest. So many I want to respond to, but for now -- Melanie, you are an amazing young woman full of the life of Christ who blessed my church. Don't give up . . . your place is out there.

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/19/2005 09:14:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    Thanks again for allowing your wisdom and discernment to promote praxis on both individual and community levels. I am humbled by your willingness to be open to issues that are often left in the shadows and by also providing a safe place for, at times, uncomfortable and dangerous topics of discussion. Continued blessings to you, your family and ministry.

    dps

    By Blogger Donald Philip Simpson, at 11/19/2005 10:08:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 11/19/2005 11:57:00 AM  

  • First of all, I've rarely felt like church has put an extravagant amount of pressure on getting married. It's a social norm, we tend to expect the norm. True, I don't have as strong of a feeling of community with the couples in my Bible class as I would like... but... that's no more their fault, or the church's fault, than it is mine. That is, as much as I feel unwelcomed into community with the married majority, i'm sure they feel unwelcomed by me. It's just insecurity. In a place like abilene, the plight of singledom is sort of a cause celebre. There are plenty of groups in the church to feel sorry for. At least we get a name and a mention in sevice occasionally. Nobody ever says the church should make a conscious effort to include those who are unnatractive, or those with more money than friends, or those with IQs lower than 85. What would we call them, 85ers? Those are groups who deviate from the norm, just like singles. We at least have the ability, and eventually liability, of being able to recognize each other and build relationships. No matter who should be watching out for my ecclesial well-being, it is simply not my right to sit and comlain about the church not including me, when i don't include the church. I'm not a fan of singles classes. But, I'm not really a fan of college classes, young adult classes, youth classes or intergenerational classes which turn into intellectual meetings that 85ers don't stand a chance in (like mine). You don't treat melanoma by drawing attention to the mole, but by searching the body for more malignancy, and more importantly, the source. My assumption is that the language of the church expects, even plans, for groups to form and our nature is to feel that those other groups want nothing to do with us, when we're all really just scared of each other. But I'm only 24, I've got plenty of years to develop some bitterness.

    By Blogger adam, at 11/20/2005 11:35:00 AM  

  • I am 47 years old, never been married, and most of my life attended a church that didn't have a singles group at all. When I wasn't teaching a children's class on Sunday morning or Wednesday night, I went to the "young married" class because my only other choice was the older (over 65) adult class. When I came to Highland, it never occured to me to go to the singles class. The Lord sent me to Faithseekers and I fit right in. One of my friends asked me not too long ago why I didn't go to a singles class and I told them I wouldn't feel comfortable there. I think the comments about singles classes existing to "fix" us by getting us married off and them being a meat market hits it on the head as to why I don't want to be in a singles group. I don't want that kind of pressure. Those of us who are in our 40s and have never been married (and we are a rare breed) really don't have that much in common with "single again" singles nor do we fit in with 20s singles (we could be their parents). I am glad there are classes for singles who want that but I'm also glad that there are classes that are a mix. I feel like I am learning a lot about what it takes to make a marriage work by being in a class with married people. If the Lord brings me to a place in my life where I do get married, I am thankful for the examples of people I have been in class with through the years. I have never felt out of place because it is my reality.

    By Blogger LBC, at 11/21/2005 05:16:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    The subject of this blog and the comments that followed encapsulate many feelings, emotions and experiences that as a single middle-aged man apply directly to my life. Many of the experiences of trying to live a life of faith in a community of ‘like’ believers is not something easy to describe without dealing with the loneliness and painfulness of this journey. However there is also blessing and joy, the challenge is to recoginize and accept these gifts. I know that the many people do not understand or are not comfortable with a middle-aged single man, wanting to live and serve in a faith community, however God has placed the right people in my life to serve with and to experience life with. And for those who may be challenged, I believe it is God’s intent to challenge and perhaps grow them as he is challenging and growing myself.

    I have become to believe that being outside of our comfort zone is sometimes a good thing, and that God will take all of our experiences and use them for His purposes. As I grow older I find being single presents new challenges and new blessings. I hope the Church will also look at people is this place and not just want to ‘single’ them out in to a specific group, but rather invite them into the different groups, like one would expect from a family. I believe there is much we can share with each other and much we can learn from each other.

    By Blogger Joe Hatcher, at 11/22/2005 08:42:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I'm so glad you brought this up.

    My own experience is that married childless people are also an alienated, or at least lonely, group within many churches. My journey has made me want to know more about how "church" comes across to "singles."

    A friend of mine has said she feel some churches have made the biological family an idol. If not that, they have at least for practical purposes emphasized it to the extent that the church as family has little meaning left.

    It was so different in parts of Europe where I lived, and people were often cut off from their blood families when they joined the church. It added new meaning to having a spiritual family.

    Anyway, thanks for giving people this place to open up.

    God bless you.

    By Blogger Sheila, at 11/23/2005 03:31:00 PM  

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