I talk to singles all the time.
I hear a few common things about what is hard about being single, what is missing in the singles ministries in the church and what they feel most misunderstood about.
Next time you want to tell someone who is single that it's a gift, enjoy this time being single, God's timing is perfect etc … please consider the things they respectfully aren't sharing with you.
Disadvantages of singleness:
- Paying for living expenses on one salary. Rent is expensive, and utilities are getting more expensive. Some would say, “Get a roommate.” But once you are over 40, you really don't want to live with someone else you barely know. And how do you merge your things for a temporary situation with two couches, two dining tables, etc? And if you are a single parent, you can't just live with a “roomie” when you have the kids.
- No one to help you. Sick and need medicine, repairs at the house, moving, buying groceries and eating them before they spoil, saving for retirement, someone to help talk you off the ledge when you've had a bad day … those are just a few of the situations that singles have a hard time facing alone.
- Lack of physical attention. Some singles can go a week or more without ANY physical touch. Those who haven't had children (and the number of singles over 35 without children is growing) notice this more. Loneliness can be a recurring problem they don't know how to communicate without the risk of being perceived as desperate. They also have hormones that constantly need to be suppressed. It's not easy!
What's missing in singles ministries:
- Fellowship. I've talked to singles ministries that say they aren't supposed to help singles socialize, but only to care for their spiritual growth. But I'd challenge them to consider this analogy: If you went to Africa and met a thirsty child, you wouldn't share Christ before giving them water. Many strong believers go to church on Sunday, are in a small group or serve on a weekly basis. What they really need is a place to socialize and meet people. Their friends are getting married, and that leaves fewer people to spend time with on the weekends. Building relationships takes time, and they are constantly having to make new friends. Plus they don't have a safe place to meet a spouse or just have fun!
- Leaders who are single. Most pastors overseeing a singles ministry are married or have been married since they were in their 20s. They don't understand the challenges of being single in their 20s, 30s, 40s or older. Singles love their pastors but wish more leadership included those who understand their situation. Would you want a single person to lead a marriage ministry?
- Resources. Many churches don't have a singles ministry at all. They don't have programs set up to help the newly divorced or recently widowed. Left alone, those folks struggle to stop the lies of the enemy about their value or future. What about the person who is over 40 and has never been married? They have other hurts and disappointments to overcome—especially women who are facing the facts they are no longer able to bear children.
As I pray and lead Single Matters magazine, I am constantly talking to God about what we can do to help singles.
- I feel impressed that God's heart is for those who desire to be married—to BE married. He loves marriage. When Adam was alone in the garden and fully intimate with God, God said, “It's not good for man to be alone.” Paul encourages singleness, but it doesn't trump what God said. Both are fully valid ways of life, depending on what a single feels called to. Be sure you know where the single person is coming from before offering up the platitude of “it's better to be single.” Offer to pray for them to find a spouse, and set them up if you know someone! Validating where they are in life is not only compassionate but also unifying.
- I want to create events and opportunities for singles to gather together for fellowship and fun. (Not for a Bible study, although I love studying the Word.) I'm in discussion with some other singles ministries across the nation on how to replicate what they are doing in this way. In the meantime, invite singles over for dinner or fellowship with your family. Hug them as a brother or sister in Christ, knowing you may give the only hug they get that week. Don't forget them on 4th of July or any other time you are just having the neighbors over. They'd love it—I promise.
- I've heard the phrase “single for a season or single for a reason.” I must admit I have some friends whom I can't introduce to a quality man/woman. There are a lot of broken, emotionally immature, socially awkward singles. We need more programs or courses that help singles see that they may be single for a reason. This is a harder topic to approach, but if you really love someone, help them out and have that discussion. Again, because friendships take time to develop and their single friends move on, no one may be telling them the areas they need to work on.
I limited sharing just three things that singles find difficult, three things missing in the church and three things we can do to help. I could bring up many more things that married people probably have no idea about. As a single woman, let me say—I'm glad you don't have to know this for your life! I celebrate your marriage!
Is there anything I've not mentioned in this list?
Photo courtesy of newusacontent via Flicker.
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