Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Church & Single Adults

I have a friend who recently was "ranting" on the sorry way that the Church reaches out to singles particularly single parents. This is my response:

I hear you… the Church as a whole is quite poor in how they minister to singles in general, single parents in particular. The difficulty arises in that they elevate the two parent family beyond what is intended in the New Testament church. Marriage is preferred to singleness (although Paul states that singleness is the preferred condition for those serving the Lord) and couples are "pushed" into marriages before either partner is ready because they don't want to be labelled "old maids". Once the couple gets married, the church busybodies want to know when they are going to have children- childless couples are looked down upon in the same manner as singles as "an aberration" in the Church family. Unfortunately, our society as a whole has created hyper-sexualized "adults" who are emotionally still adolescents at age 25, who in turn get married (in the Church, the only biblically acceptable outlet for sexuality) and have kids. No wonder, the divorce rate for evangelical Christians mirrors the rate for the unchurched. Regardless of the number of single parents actually in the church, the numbers in our community are exploding.

That being said, because the Church has this over-idealized vision of family, anyone not conforming to this ideal is forced to fend for themselves. Divorced persons, particularly women, tend to lose not only the financial stability of marriage, but also the support network of friendships and Church relationships (small groups, Sunday School classes, fellowship groups which might be geared for couples). Related to that is near certainty that the economic loss related to the divorce settlement forces one or both parties to relocate out of their church community area to a more affordable one. This causes the Church to view divorcees as transients in the church community.

Ministry to single parents must by necessity be intentional and incorporational into the larger body. The trends of the last thirty years has been to carve out specialized ministries to singles as an answer to perceived "felt" needs; this has led to a "ghettoization" of singles/single parents away from the church body as a whole. My feeling is that while it is good to offer additional assistance (parenting helps, support groups, divorce recovery, financial training), segregating singles away from marrieds is neither healthy nor good for the Body of Christ. Ideally, loving brothers and sisters would come alongside the newly single and their family -men acting as "big brothers" to fatherless sons and daughters. I am also of a mind that those who lead ministries must have a particular passion for the group they are ministering to/with rather than filling a "slot".

I commend you for wanting to do something about it (when you have time) but realize that very few outside your own circumstances will even see the need as you do because of the reasons I've mentioned -that may include your education director. I would recommend that you begin praying to find some like-minded folks with whom you could start to build a ministry at your church. Don't just look for other single parents, but also perhaps some married people that have a heart for reaching out in this way. After you have established a core group of quality potential leaders (5-8), begin networking within the congregation to find those who would like to be a part of it. Advertise in your bulletin or newsletter. Above all, fight the notion that divorced people need to have their "own" exclusive ministry, separate from the rest of the body -it should be a subset, not an appendage to the congregation. Churches that reach out with the goal of making everyone a part of their community in this way are the ones that are healthy and growing.


  • At Sun Nov 20, 12:32:00 PM PST , Blogger Susan said...

    One of the biggest hindrances to the enfolding ministry single women need has been the church's general acceptance of the cultural veiw that single women are all potential seductress' I posted on this a while back quoting some illuminating words from Eugene Peterson in an interview he did for Cutting Edge magazine.

  • At Sun Nov 20, 08:16:00 PM PST , Blogger Ann said...

    I read your post and the comments. It truly is sad that Christian marrieds view singles of either gender as either a temptation or a threat.
    I do think we need to be people of great integrity but I think that comes with accountability and openness. I have had lunch alone with different pastors and associates at my church but we eat at very public places. If we meet in their offices, I prefer the door cracked a bit if we meet for any great length of time -I'm guarding my reputation as well. I've known their wives and they know me, knowing that I would never make a move on their husbands; I trust that these men are men of integrity as well.

    What I have seen in singles ministry is predatory single men and women hopping from church to church looking to "score" -there is nothing Christian about these folks at all. One mega-church ministry here in SoCal was notorious for having these "recently separated" men preying on vulnerable, needy single women. I think that's were healthy singles and marrieds come in "safe" ministries - they watch over their flock and protect the weaker ones from the wolves.


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