A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others. CS Lewis
Writing about singles and the church seemed, at first, like an easy set of posts to write. However, the issues are complex and diverse. Today has seen me banging my head against the table, finding it difficult to bring all of my thoughts together in a cohesive post. So, I have given up. Instead, I will write about a number of thoughts that I put under headers to give these thoughts some semblance of order.
Are Christians Singles The New Second Class Citizen?
Today's Christian Post link featured a post from a blog, Small Town Preacher, Big Time God. Duke Taber, the author and pastor, said he was meeting with some friends in the pastoral ministry who said,
“we would not consider someone who was not married”.
He said that there is a misunderstanding in Christian circles that only married people are "complete."
God created man in His image. He created them male and female. It does not teach that He created two half beings that when they come together they are complete, but instead it teaches that both male and female are complete creations formed in His image.
So to view a single person as somehow not able to pastor or be a leader is one that is truly non-biblical. You also cannot find any passage in scripture that would support such a position and in fact you find passages in scripture that support the opposite.
1 Corinthians 7: 32-35 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife. 34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world – how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Taber makes a strong statement about those who would discriminate against singles in ministry.
So to have a prejudicial attitude towards singles is not only non-biblical but in all honesty it is wrong!
He ends his post with the following challenge
Don’t you think it is about time that the church addresses the issue of single leaders? Isn’t it about time we stopped running our churches based on things that are not biblical? I do!
How does the church treat single people as second class citizens? Here are 10 of 40 statements that he features on the post. I found a humorous, yet convicting, post at Jon Acuff's blog titled Surviving Church as a Single link. He sets up this post as a scorecard with points if the following was ever said to you. Please read the entire post for all of his points.
- Your church has a singles ministry, but it’s the dreaded quad, combining college, single adults, divorce recovery and retired widowers who refuse to move to Florida. = +4 points
- Someone pays you the world’s most backhanded compliment: “I just don’t understand how someone as great as you isn’t married yet.” = +1 point
- When people introduce you, they feel compelled to list out your accomplishments, “This is Sally, my single friend who owns her own home, drives a luxury sedan, and has a very, very stable job.” = +3 points
- People are constantly volunteering you for things because “you’re single, you’ve got so much free time.” = +1 point
- You’ve ever given an impassioned, enraged monolog on the injustice that men who are single get to age gracefully and be considered “bachelors,” while women are instantly judged as “crazy cat ladies.” = – 3 points
- That friend was named Jon Acuff and he said, “No one in Atlanta should ever involuntarily remain single with so many awesome single people at North Point Community Church.” (I’ve said this a lot. My bad.) = + 3 points
- The person who leads the singles ministry at your church got married in 1964. = +10 points for each decade they’ve been married.
- Your best friend of 15 years gets married and then suddenly acts like a magical gap has opened up between you and decides that, until you get married too, you can’t be close again. Because you just don’t understand each other anymore. = +3 points
- To justify giving a four-week marriage sermon series to a congregation that is 60% single, the pastor throws out one blanket statement like this at the beginning of the series, “And you single people listen up to this too, this well serve you well when you get married.” = +2 points
- The only time your married friends invite you over is when they need a babysitter. = +3 points
So, why are singles groups usually led by married couples?
A number of our readers pointed out that the leaders of singles groups tend to be married couples. One reader said that it was obvious to her that the church felt there was something more mature about married couples.
The church sends a signal that being married is the only outcome for the mature Christian. Otherwise, why wouldn't they allow a single person to lead a singles group?
It is evident to me that singles should be in charge of the singles ministry and that the church should assign a pastor/elder who regularly meets with, and supports, the leaders of that group. This pastor should advocate for the singles ministry within the church programming.
Why do some churches insist that the role of singles is to babysit the children of the married couples?
I remember reading a story at a survivors blog in which a single woman reported that she was expected to babysit, without compensation, the children of the pastors. In fact, it was reported that the church set up "date nights" for the leaders in the church and had single members standing by to babysit. This woman said that there was expectation of compliance because single members had "a lot of free time" and should "serve" the leaders in that way. Not a please; not a thank you; just a do it.
Hug and Daisy said :I’m a Christian who grew up in a church and Christian culture that assumes everyone gets (or will get) married by 25 and have a kid. If you do not fit that life story (married with kid by age 25 – 35), it does not register. Tons of sermons are aimed at parents and married people. There are social functions by churches and ministries that do nothing but meet the needs of married people with kids. There are no equivalents for never-married past the age of 35.
Don’t forget that Marrieds do NOT associate with Singles. We’ll give them cooties or something. Every single time I was told that the nursery or children’s ministry was desperately in need of volunteers and that it was crucial for singles to fill those positions so that the parents could attend services. The singles ministry had its events and Bible studies during the week. So apparently all singles are good for is changing diapers and keeping kids from burning down the building. Singles are a free labor pool to do all the church scutwork so the marrieds can Focus on Their Families, nothing more. And the only way out of it is to Get Married and be allowed to sit at the grownups’ table with the other grownups. He was asked to resign his non-paying youth pastor’s job when when a new minister was hired by the church because ” He wasn’t married, how could he give advice on the courtship phase of life.” Anyone considered he might be able to give an outsider’s perspective on the situation?
Churches need to see each single as an individual. Some may enjoy babysitting but others may not. Just like married couples need to be perceived as individuals with different giftings, each single person has a gift to use in the service of the church. Do not presume to make it "babysitting" in order to make things easier on the church. If you want a single person to babysit, offer to pay them or to trade services. For example, if a couple needed a babysitter, they could offer to change the oil in the car of the single person in exchange for a free babysit.
Pastors need to be married in order to "understand" the needs of the congregation.
Obviously Paul did fine without a wife and was able to intervene in weird family situations like the guy sleeping with his mother in law. One reader, KD offered this story.
I have a friend who was dating a young lady when they were both graduate students at Texas Tech a number of years ago. They even had planned to elope and get married in their pastor’s office. Unfortunately, she lost her life in an auto accident. He never really dated anyone else and has never married. He moved back to East Texas after he got his master’s at Tech and got a job in the Houston area, even serving for a time as a youth pastor at his church. He was asked to resign his non-paying youth pastor’s job when when a new minister was hired by the church because ” He wasn’t married, how could he give advice on the courtship phase of life.” Later, he moved to another church and after turning down attempts by members of the congregation to ” set him up” with a widow at the church, he had a person accuse him of being a homosexual. He has not been to a church since…. Any preacher or speaker who considers the state of singleness to be sinful comes dangerously close, IMHO, to calling Jesus Christ a sinner.
Churches should make a point of hiring a single staff member and I am not talking about secretarial help. In ignoring this population, the church may be missing out on some modern day Pauls.
Do not encourage people to marry solely to have sex.
Of course Paul said that it was better to marry than to burn with lust. But it seems evident to me that Paul was talking about the long haul, not the short term. Paul had been discussing lifelong celibacy. He understood that many were not cut out for his commitment. However, he did provide an example of celibacy that should encourage those who are not single by choice. I think this is a very difficult area for many and my heart goes out to them.
Once again we turn to the most perceptive HUG.
Some get married for the sole purpose of having sex. I think Mark Driscoll plays off this desire with his sex obsession. And I think this is why the divorce rate for Christians is high. People realize there is more to a marriage then just sex. Basically you can say that marriages in this case are for masturbation purposes. The formal name for this is “Marriage of Continence”, a marriage entered into only to legalize the sex. Married is Christianese for getting laid. And you see the same craziness.
There seems to be some indication that the Catholic church may have a better track record in dealing with singles.
This was a real eye opener to me and I want to thank our readers for bringing this to light. In fact, I think that this may be an area for the evangelical church to explore. I wonder if this might be due to the requirement for celibate priests and nuns? The Catholic church has always been run by single people! I am planning to contact a large Catholic church in my area to see if I might be able to interview a priest on this matter. If it pans out, I shall devote a post to the matter. Here is what singleman/Ann had to say.
And as a Catholic, I have found that single people are much more accepted in the life of the church. As a single childless woman over 30, I was not welcome to work with children’s ministries anymore in Evangelical church. This summer, I was welcomed as a VBS teacher with open arms and no questions about my motives.
Mass is not a time for marital PDA as I often noticed in the evangelical churches I attended (I remember a single friend of mine talking once about how she longed for the day when she had a husband to hold hands with in church…and her fantasy is not outside reality at any evangelical church I’ve been to). Natalie and Anne I had to laugh, but only because what you are saying is SO true! I had forgotten the marital PDA in many Protestant churches. I have never seen that take place during Mass. Granted, I haven’t been a Catholic for long, and maybe you see more of that in other parishes.
My husband converted to Catholicism several years ago. I still have not joined the Catholic Church (I’m still on the fence over a variety of issues – we attend a mainline protestant church with our kids right now – my children and I may occasionally go to mass with him). I admire the Catholic Church’s attitude/respect toward people despite their marital status, gender or sexual orientation.
I am not thoroughly knowledgeable regarding the Catholic Church, but several things stand out to me. A number of single women seem to hold a great amount of respect. Mother Angelica founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and is greatly admired, especially among the more conservative Catholics. There are a large number of women saints. Of the approximately 35 Doctors of the Church since its beginning – four or five are women. Also, women like Flannery O’Connor (author), Dorothy Day (social activist) and Edith Stein (philosopher, nun and martyr) are well known and respected. There are probably many others, but those are some of the ones I’ve heard mentioned.
Numo (and HUG ,I think) have this to say:
One thing I want to add (partly gained from my time living with the nuns, back in the 70s) is that celibacy and the religious life (being a priest, monk or nun) was *heavily* idealized prior to Vatican II; also that it was presented as the highest form of service to God. Just like Missionary to Darkest Africa or Kickin’ Praise & Worship Singer is among Evangelicals.
What is the deal with homosexuality and singleness?
I find this particular topic extremely distasteful but not for the reasons one might assume. Evangelicals, in particular, have developed a reputation for making homosexuality the "worst sin of the decade." In fact, they seem far more concerned about this "sin" than they do about churches and pastors hiding child sexual abuse (Day 110 of shameful silence).
For our readers outside of the United States, it is important to understand that for many, in today's churches, the word "homosexual" is an epithet which often makes me ashamed to say that I am a Christian. I admire and care for those who struggle valiantly in this area. I find it despicable that anyone would think to even bring this up as an issue to a single person. If someone asks a single person if they are homosexual, I think it would be quite apropos for the single person to turn the question back to the inquirer and say, "Are you asking because of your orientation?" I promise I won't tell." I would also talk to your pastor and ask him if he would be willing to do a sermon on how to be kind to those who have same sex orientation as well as how to speak intelligently to singles in the church.
Martos and Josh said
“Because, not talking whether you act on it or not, what’s the problem on being homosexual and being in church? I guess that, for some, simply having those tendencies is a horrible sin.” There are a number of people in the United States who believe that the mere orientation is a sin. We did a series on homosexuality and Christianity in which we discussed some of these issues. This attitude is deeply disturbing to us. The series was great! To start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)… http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/08/13/homosexuality-towards-compassion-we-need-your-questions/
@Martos, sadly, we still have people in the good ol’ U S and A who think that LGBT folks should be rounded up and imprisoned, or even worse!
These are just a few thoughts. I will continue to look at this subject on Wednesday. Let me leave you with this humorous comeback in a comment on Jon Acuff's post.
I used to get mad every time some grandmother type came up to me at a wedding and pinched my arm and said 'you're next!' They stopped doing that when I returned the favor to them at funerals.
Lydias Corner: Joshua 5:1-7:15 Luke 15:1-32 Psalm 81:1-16 Proverbs 13:1