Friday, April 18, 2008

Singles and the Church

If marriage is at a record low, the logical conclusion is that we are now left with a large singles population in our churches. Chelsea commented that it would be helpful to talk about how to encourage singles in our churches. Often we are left with singles that strongly (and rightly) desire marriage, yet feel disillusioned about their usefulness due to their marital status. Depending on where you go to church, there may be only one single person in your congregation, or you may go to a church with many singles. Regardless of the amount, there is still a place for singles of all ages and stages of life to serve the body. Since I am a single, I hope to offer examples from my own experience in church.

So, how can the local church serve their singles?

  1. You can start by teaching them about the gift of their singleness. God has not made a mistake with them. And the same God who saves and keeps them knows the end of their singleness. His purposes have not failed with singles. For many, singleness is a season, not a lifetime. Yet this season is not to be seen as a “filler-period” while you pine away for Mr. or Miss Right. We must encourage our singles to see this period as a gift, and not a curse. It can be extremely painful at times, and we should not take that lightly. Rather we should point them to the truth that God is not in error in causing them to be single, rather he is lavishing his grace upon them by giving them this gift and either preserving them for the one he has for them, or preserving them for a life of unhindered service to him alone. Often this is a hard thing to wrestle through, and older, mature Christians have an opportunity to encourage and shepherd their singles by walking through this period with them. There have been times in my singleness where I have felt intense loneliness as I watched close friends and siblings get married. But it is here that I have also experienced the most joy in knowing that God has allowed me to serve in far greater capacities than I would have been able to had I been married. I have grown tremendously in this time because godly Christian people have encouraged me not to waste this gift.
  2. Once we see that this season is a gift, we must be exhorted to use our gifts for the glory of God. Singleness is not a license for selfishness, though I have found that it has been a great temptation for me to claim “my time” rather than give of my time. The single life should be filled with radical Christian service to the local church. One of the ways that local churches can serve singles is by pointing them to areas in the church where they can pour out their lives. Maybe your church needs help in the nursery, encourage a single woman to serve on a Sunday morning. Maybe you need help in your youth department, encourage a single man to join your mentorship team. There are many areas in the local church that singles can serve based on their God-given gifts, and we should encourage them towards this end.
  3. Because many of our singles desire to be married, it is extremely important that you teach us what a godly marriage is supposed to look like. We are bombarded with conflicting worldviews regarding marriage and biblical manhood and womanhood, and it is in the church through the preaching of God’s word that we are to be set straight. We should not learn marriage once we say “I do.” The local church should model it, teach it, and encourage it among their singles, because it is here that we will see the Gospel begin to change the tide regarding marriage.
  4. Teach your church to adopt singles in their church. One of the greatest blessings in my life was the amount of families that were in my life at Bethlehem. I learned so much about how godly families operate and was able to be underneath the loving protection of godly people who cared about the well-being of my soul. They were the first people who encouraged me to go to seminary, and the first people I go see when I go back to Minneapolis. There are so many ways that families and married couples can make singles feel wanted and appreciated in the local body, and sometimes it begins with a simple phone call or invite to lunch.

Singles are not an “in limbo” category of the church, rather they can be a tremendous blessing and service to the local body simply because God has allowed them to be free to do so in this season of life. We should encourage singles towards an unwasted singleness that is counter-cultural and God-centered. The church is a family, and I really learned that at my previous church. God used them to encourage me to not waste my singleness and use my gifts for the glory of God.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Hi Courtney,
Excellent post. What happened to the Singles Conference that was scheduled at SBTS for February 2008? It was on the calendar and then disappeared!
Blessings, Sarah

Chelsea Bass said...

This is great, Courtney! I love what you said about singles not being "in limbo." I think the tendency of the church and the culture is to treat them as such.

Also it seems that if Christians come out of college without getting married or engaged, they are immediately viewed as spinsters or something. My dear dear friends, who are well under the average age for marriage in this nation, think they have no hope of ever getting married just because they're already out of college. As if godly men cease to exist outside of collegiate ministries!

I also think that some married couples tend to stop spending time with single friends after marriage. Why is that? I've thought over it. I think that in a desire to not make the single friends feel uncomfortable or like a "third wheel," they only are invited if there are other singles there. Perhaps this is viewed as appropriate, but I think it's a shame.

Anyway, great thoughts!

cdt said...

Sarah,

I don't know what happened to the conference, though I think it would be good. My church back in Minneapolis did a conference for single women with Carolyn McCulley in February. I heard it was great! I saw on your blog that you are going to NA. Me too! And I am 25, so there will be at least a few of us "over 22 year old's there"!

Chelsea,
Thank you for your comment. I know a lot of girls who feel like they will never get married, and I know that I have felt that way before, too. But I can assure them that godly men do exist outside of collegiate ministries! I wouldn't trade my post-college years for anything. The Lord knew how much I needed to grow!

I appreciate your comment on married couples moving away from their single friends. I definetely have seen that happen. My closest friend here in Lousiville, though, is a married woman. She and her husband have had me over on numerous occasions for dinner and fellowship and they have been the greatest blessing to me! Now that I am dating someone we all hang out together, but they are such an example of married people reaching out to singles. It is such an opportunity for singles to learn from godly married people.

Thank you for your comments!

-Courtney