Single–Still or Again


According to some recent studies, singles are on  the rise and beginning to outnumber marrieds. The church, however, doesn’t reflect those numbers. “Your church should be filling up at least half of your pews with single people,” writes Joyce Chiu. “So what will get them there?”

What emerges is a portrait of an church that is still firmly family-centered even while the demographics within it have shifted. Single people make up more and more of the church body, which means forward-looking local churches benefit from understanding singles and incorporating them meaningfully into community life. Although single and married believers are in the same boat together, we’re all at church to worship and serve God, singles can be overlooked. They want to be visible–they want to belong. They have unique contributions to make in advancing Christ’s kingdom.

So how can your local church create a welcoming space for singles?

Recognize that single people’s needs may look different from yours.

When a single person talks about feeling lonely, it’s common for a married person to counter that he or she often feels lonely, too. However, studies show that singles are more likely than married people to feel lonely. And singles often experience a different kind of loneliness that includes physical as well as emotional isolation. The church needs to acknowledge singles, take them seriously, and  listen.

If have you capacity, draw them into your family life, too. “Single people can feel invisible in the place they most need to be seen,” Micha Boyett writes. “You can invite single people to hang out with you at home, participate in family activities, and enjoy the occasional meal. Everyone, single and married alike, can learn something from putting aside preconceptions and simply being in community with one another.

Recognize their disadvantages.

Those who are single often find themselves “outside the system” of family-focused churches and face the awkward silence that ensues when they say they don’t have spouses or kids or grandchildren. They often end up sitting alone in the service week after week. They sometimes get overlooked when people are getting together socially. And they are often treated like misfits– herded off because no one knows what else to do with them.

It’s time to start rethinking how you look at fellow worshipers. A church isn’t made up of family units and spare parts—it’s made up of people, all of them made in God’s image and worthy of fellowship. As one single woman shared, “I wish there was greater understanding that we are not ‘strange.’” Or as Lisa Anderson put it, “Single isn’t synonymous with alien.

Serve singles, and recognize that singles often serve without reciprocation.

The book of James encourages Christians to “look after orphans and widows” (James 1:27). Although contemporary single women (divorcees, never-marrieds, and widows) don’t face the same challenges as first-century widows,  many experience significant financial instability, vocational disruption, and other notable challenges. In that sense, the church needs to come alongside.

Even small things matter. One woman told me that she didn’t mind caring for children in the church nursery, but sometimes she wished some of those parents would reciprocate by helping her with household repairs or offering other assistance. Think of  the time and money spent on weddings and baby showers, yet no  one spends such celebration, such time, such money on singles.

Of course, singles are called to serve the church simply because it honors God and others.  But taking time to serve singles, recognizing, and celebrating their accomplishments is encouraging and kind.

As Paul writes, “If one member [of the body] suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26, NKJV). In other words, your calling as a member of the body is to recognize those who suffer, empathize with them, and make sured Singlee they have what they need to be fully functioning members. Similarly, their calling is to do the same for you. In doing so, we honor not just those around us—we also honor Christ, to whom we all belong.

(Enjoy more about the single expereince in Mary Haight’s blog post, “Singleness is My Only Companion.” Her blog, Thoughts From A Seasoned Single is linked under “Just A Taste” on the SALT’ homepage.)

Advertisements

Emerge

This spring, my favorite word is EMERGE. It means to become known or visible–from Latin “to come to light.”

In winter the ground is hardened and brown. Trees lose their leaves and stand bare. We long for color in our landscapes. And when the calendar declares it is spring, we do not always have any proof.

Except, beneath the frozen earth, things are stirring. Roots reach and stretch out stiffness, rhizomes multiply, buds swell until, in startling moments,  green emerges. We blink—is the tinge an illusion?

Then comes the tender green of spring. Leaves uncurl. Blossoms burst. Pollen flies. The earth is not dead, but alive. Not entombed, but arisen.

Notice, that emerge comes from what was planted. Most of what emerges is not new. It comes from depth and that which lives through winters. The world is not dead in winter. Spring brings to light what already formed.

We live in a society that equates emergence with youth…emerging talent, emerging scholar, emerging poet. But life emerges from maturity. Do you see? Life emerges from you!

3 Things Wrong With Family Values–No, 4 Things

 

  1. The Definition. There is no real definition of Family Values. Articles, blog posts, and entire books have been devoted to the topic. There may be some core, central values, but they are amended by each individual, rendering a definition useless and discussion heated. The old, “Well, everyone knows what it means,” does not apply. Before entering into a sermon or dialog with others it is wise to find common principles and understanding.
  2. The Politics. When a particular political party lays claim to family values, they are eroding the entire basis for respect. If something is a Value, Moral, or Truth, it is universal in nature applying to the whole of a society, all political parties, all religions, all genders. To claim to be the exclusive followers of Family Values just plain stinks of self-righteousness. “Standing on the street corners to be seen by others,” or wearing a lapel pin do not equal Family Values.
  3. The exclusion. Family Values, as practiced by many, is an attempt to exclude others–those who are in some way different. It is much easier to spend time with those who have similar views–indeed, similar appearances. We can make our inside jokes, poke fun at others, and not allow them into our circle. It is easier to close ourselves in after 6:00 for “family time.” And what happens to the world outside that closed door? It is in darkness, and that darkness may come knocking. Aren’t we called to be light not hidden under a basket–or behind a door?
  4. The Community. Those who practice the exclusivity mentioned above actually undermine nuclear families because engagement in the community is both the groundwork for families and its support. Without community, the family is fragile and easily broken. Except for the knuckleheads who claim to have “built the cabin they were born in,” we recognize the need for community support. The librarian who remembers your favorite mystery series, the pastor who knows your heart and gifts, small study groups, football fans, a neighborhood, our schools are all part of the community.

Why is this important to us now? We have raised our families.

Well, first of all, because women often bear the brunt of expectations and criticism for family values. If we speak out, we are not being “submissive,” If we have a career, we are accused of neglecting family. If we a stay at home, we are seen as being unsupportive. It’s not too late to demonstrate what a true family is–the Family of God. It is not too late to open that door to others who may be different. And seriously, we outlive men most of the time–have you ever seen rows of widowed men in the churches? No, it is row upon row of women. Women who are often lonely, afraid.  Women who somehow lost a spouse–whose children live across a continent–women who are not married. Women who are invited to Thanksgiving but not Christmas “because that is for family.” We are called to be salt–let’s get out of the shaker.