A couple of years ago I wrote a research paper on "Adult Singles in American Christian Churches". My professor suggested I get it published, but I was already kind of persona-non-grata at my church when it came to singles issues. Then my motherboard fried and I lost the finished product - I'm going through and doing some additions and edits. 2006 might be the year.
I was widowed at age 41 after 23 years of marriage. Like most married people, I didn't have a clue about how many single people surrounded me (or not). Like most married people - the church I was at didn't have a lot of single people and I didn't waste my time asking myself why that could be.
I did have single friends - my husband didn't come to church with me for several years and in that time, married women didn't befriend me, it was the single women that gathered around. But when my husband joined the church, I kept those single friends, but didn't look for new single friends. I was part of a "couple" and that's largely how we socialized.
As of 2004, 49.8% of "Heads of Households" in the United States are single adults. That's a lot of single people.
Does your church look like the population, reflecting that fact that roughly 1/3 of adults in the United States are single? If not, why not?
I had some interesting experiences as a widow. Because of my age (only 2% of the US population consists of widows between 34 and 55), my experiences are different than most widows. In a lot of ways, I have more in common with divorced women my age than I do widows of all ages - who are mostly older)
By and large - married women treat single women as "outsiders". Face it, we're not part of the club. Some of the excuses:
THE WOMEN SAY:
We have different challenges. I would answer that when my daughter wants to go out with a young man that I don't approve of, the challenges are very much the same - only I don't have a husband to stand beside me to provide an example of what a Godly man should be like.
We're in different social circles" I would answer with a question: Why? As a woman, I love gardening, animals, reading, cross stitch, walking. I love to go out for coffee and just chat. I have teenage children. Socially, you might get along really well with me, if you can get over the fact that I'm not married.
I've read "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend. It's all about putting up good boundaries and it could be dangerous if I include a single woman in my life" I would answer that going out for coffee with a single woman is not going to endanger your marriage unless your marriage is so fragile to start with that life as a single starts looking more attractive than your own life. This would not be the fault of the single woman.
I don't want to take the risk of my husband getting to know a single woman I would answer that most single women will assure you that we promise not to jump your husband in the sound booth at church. Seriously. (Yes, I had this experience. A gentleman was teaching me to run the power point from the sound booth. His wife was in the choir loft and when she saw me talking to her husband she made a beeline for the sound booth, put her arm around her husband and didn't let go until I left.)
My family is busy. Okay, you have a home and teenagers. So do I. We're both busy. Some are busier than others. I'll make time for a woman-to-woman relationship if you will.
THE MEN (in terms of helping single parents) SAY:
My wife wouldn't like it. I would answer with a question: who rules your home? The man or the dragon? (This is a reference to Mark Driscoll, who I have heard a couple of time explain that there are two options - either the man runs the home in a Godly way, or the devil rules it in an ungodly way.)
There are a lot of things that would help single people - and single parents in particular.
- recognize that we're part of the family. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (New American Standard Version Romans 12:4-5)
- Help us out. Help can take many forms - even just a cup of coffee. Offer to include a single parent on a picnic. Better yet, a husband can include a fatherless child (and I'm including the children of some divorced moms) on a father/child outing with your church. Many single moms cannot afford a family outing to a baseball game - take an extra child.
- We're have gifts. And they don't just include being in the nursery during an even for couples. Make a real and purposeful effort to include singles in church planning (women's events, men's events, picnics, etc.)
- We hurt. Just like you do, only for different reasons. Please don't make being excluded one of those reasons.
- We don't necessarily want a "Singles Group" that is a church within a church. Many times, that just feels safer. Please help us feel safe.
We (like all people) recognize that it's not what a person says, it's what they do.
A single person can say all day long that they want to be included - but if they don't make themselves open to inclusion, all of their talk won't do any good.
Likewise, a married person can say all day long that they would include a single in their group - but if they walk by with a nod and a smile, all of their talk won't do any good.
It's not what you say, it's what you do: “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second son and said the same thing; and he answered ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of the Father?” They said, “The first.” (ESV; Matthew 21:28-310)
How do you treat people who are different than you are? This includes single, married, white, black, whatever, impaired, "normal" (if there is such a thing).
How do you show Christ to those who are different?