I love my church AND I love THE church. But I hate singles ministry. Maybe hate is too strong a word since I admit that in my many years of being labeled a ‘single adult’, I have spent very few years involved in a singles ministry. So I’m no expert but it’s my blog and I can vent if I want to!
I’ve intentionally avoided singles ministries for years because after some attempts to connect with groups in both small and large churches, I found very little difference between them and bars or clubs or any other place where people hope to find someone. Obviously the music, fashion and language were different but at it’s core it felt like the purpose was the same. I’m here to meet someone.
There’s no great mystery why it’s that way. The vast majority of singles are trying to become permanently or temporarily un-single. We want to say about one special person . . . ‘we are together’ whether that person is Mr/Ms Right or turns out to be Mr/Ms In-the-Meantime. It’s just a natural by-product of a significant number of unattached people spending time in the same place. It is not necessarily a wrong or bad thing in and of itself.
One of my biggest issues with most singles ministries is that for many people, you are inadvertently separated from the rest of the church population. Maybe it is not an intentional quarantine as if we could spread our illness but still segregated from the rest of church in many ways.
The vast number of singles do eventually become permanently part of a couple and they get promoted to big people church . . . Couples Sunday School classes! But for those of us ‘left behind’ as a perennial single (the ultimate Christian version of not being picked for a team), there is this sense that we are viewed as not yet adults and not quite a part of the bigger community of adult believers and consequently many singles live down to the expectation and don’t spiritually mature because that logical next step of marriage is still in the future.
Historically, the church thought being single was a temporary transitional season (that’s what I thought,too) so the church approached it that way. It was to help you grow from being a kid to being a full fledged responsible member of the church or it was a recovery ministry for those who have gone through the painful season of divorce. In many churches, I imagine that feels a bit like being demoted back to remedial adult Christian classes but that is a rant for someone else’s blog. At any rate, that approach to ministering to singles might have made sense 25 years ago but it just feels a bit irrelevant to me now.
Today there seems to be a significantly larger number (at least in my anecdotal observation) of never married and divorced Christians than in previous generations. Consequently, one of the unfortunate byproducts of that kind of segregated ministry is that some singles learn to think of church as a social club and nothing more. It becomes too much about what the church does to entertain me. They don’t benefit from a connectedness to the church beyond those other people labeled ‘single’. They don’t sit alongside healthy and happy families or older men and women who have so much wisdom to offer, etc. And sadly, the church doesn’t benefit from knowing many people who are very gifted, talented and have things to give to the broader church but just happen to also be single!
My biggest problem however is that a church ministry for singles should be about something more significant than just fixing the singleness problem! It should be about making people more fully developed followers of Jesus – regardless of their family situation! The Bible Study, missions projects and service projects shouldn’t just be additional social activities where people could potentially meet someone. If they are strategies intended to bring about a result, it should be the result of knowing God and making Him known.
Lastly, maybe I’m alone in this but I doubt it, I don’t just think of myself as a single person. Or better said, I don’t only think of myself as a single person. There’s a lot more than the lack of family that makes up who I am and my needs and interests. It’s not how I label myself and it kinda offends me that the church would reduce me to a label. It’s ridiculous (and sometimes patronizing) to think that single people only have anything in common with other single people.
Thankfully, I have always been interested in music and working with students so in serving in those areas of church, I found a great way of meeting and connecting with people beyond my singleness. I have been beyond blessed to be surrounded by an eclectic group of people: married, single, older, younger, all kinds! My life is better for having known them and I fear I may have missed out on knowing them had I only been looking for a church to increase my chances of getting married.
I realize many of you are thinking, you’re still single, maybe this whole avoiding singles ministry didn’t work out so well for you. And for that, I have no response. Maybe I’m wrong on this and am dooming myself to eternal aloneness but I doubt it. I suspect God is bigger even than that. So, until there’s a better model for singles ministry, I’ll stick to the plan of doing church without a label.
What are your thoughts on singles ministry? Is there a model of singles ministry that isn’t quite so seperated? Have you been in a transformational ministry for singles yourself? Thoughts on age or family status defined church ministries? I imagine there are lots of others who are strongly in favor and I’m open to hearing about it!