If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Today concludes this 4 part series. However, we have many stories that have been shared by our readers. So, we plan to post one or two of these stories on some Tuesdays and Sundays until all of them have been posted. Also, I am planning on contacting the local Catholic bishop to get his views on the role of singles and the church. I was surprised at the number of comments we received which indicated that the Catholic church welcomes and utilizes singles in their ministry. Of course, the entire church hierarchy is single and celibate which may be the reason for their success with singles. Also, if we have forgotten a particular topic or if you would like to write your story, please let us know.
I found an interesting resource for single Christians on line and I am not talking about a dating service! It is called Table For One Ministries link and is run by PJ Dunn who has a calling to serve single adults. Here is how this site is described.
Home alone and hungry? Single adults will go as far as eating meals in their cars after picking up take-out, scouring their pantry to hope to find something edible or reach for a frozen meal that now comes in “single serving” just to avoid the table for one scenario. As a Christ follower, this should not be the case! With Christ we are never alone and never forgotten. Table for One Ministries exist to build community for single adults through discipleship. Our goal is to see single adults come to Christ, follow Him, and build communities that accept single adults. While marriage may be in the plan for some singles, the fact is that while you are single your mission should not be marriage. Your mission is to grow your relationship with God and go on mission for Him! Join Table for One Ministries as we seek to educate singles of God’s Word in context of the single life and connect singles to communities of believers that also seek to do the same.
PJ impressed me with his goals for this ministry. He calls himself a tentmaker, meaning he will not collect a salary through this organization. (What a breath of fresh air- may your tribe increase!)
According to the 2010 Census, the average age for men to marry is 29 and women 27. This has only increased in the past 20 years to record level highs. The local church wants to reach out to ”young adults” yet they don’t understand it is the single adults who make up the majority of that population now. It is no longer young marrieds or young families. And when it comes to older single adults, the church does not know how to handle messy divorces or singles who may never marry. Out of this situation came Table for One Ministries. A ministry focused on singles and awakening local churches to the need for single adult ministry awareness.
My heart for this ministry to reach singles for Christ, equip singles with Word, empower singles to be bold for Christ, and awaken churches to the need to reach singles. I have chosen to be a “tent maker” in this journey, meaning I will earn a living for me and my family outside of this ministry. That way every dollar given goes directly to singles who need to hear about God’s love.
There is an interesting page on statistics regarding singles that should capture the attention of churches.Here are a few points.
102 million: Number of unmarried people in America 18 and older in 2011. This group comprised 44.1 percent of all U.S. residents 18 and older.
53%: Percentage of unmarried U.S. residents 18 and older who were women in 2011; 47 percent were men.
55 million: Number of households maintained by unmarried men and women in 2011. These households comprised 46 percent of households nationwide.
33 million: Number of people who lived alone in 2011. They comprised 28 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 1970.
13.6 million: Number of unmarried parents living with their children in 2011. Of these, 10.0 million were unmarried mothers and 1.7 million were unmarried fathers, and 1.9 million were unmarried couples with at least one shared child.
The blog portion of the website had an intriguing post on The Discipline of a Sacred Friendship. Here is how he introduces the post.
One of the few things that Hollywood has gotten right over the past few years is tapping into the “friendship factor” among young single adults. On any given evening, you can find numerous TV programs that depict a community of young adult friends (male and female) sharing life together as a “family” in a postmodern world; these shows may have different titles, but the setup is always the same. While the lifestyle and moral choices of these characters are certainly not biblically informed, the fact remains that they represent a generation of adults who are longing for committed friendships.
In this post he discusses the relationship between David and Jonathan.
The last characteristic of a sacred friendship is the result of a relationship built on a spiritual foundation, expressed in unconditional love, and sustained openness and honesty. This is a description of covenantal commitment. Even though David and Jonathan had drawn a formal covenant (1 Sam 20:16), their friendship was a testimony to the covenant even before it was sworn. Sacred friendships persevere over time, trials, differences, and distance. Every moment in David’s life was influenced by his relationship with Jonathan, and David remained true to their covenant even after his dear friend’s death.
When I met with Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, he discussed how difficult it is for some to remain celibate beyond the sexual aspect. He said that it is hard to go home every night and be alone. There is often no one to talk to over the dinner table and no one with whom to share your day to day life. One may be invited to homes for holidays but that does not make up for the daily solitude.
Justin brought up the idea of a covenantal community which would be made up of people who are single and committed to celibacy. It would be a home for those who want some sort of committed family-like relationships. I searched the internet and was unable to find a distinctly Christian community that reflects this sort of living community although I am sure they are out there. However, there does some to be some interest growing for intentional communities in a broad spectrum of society link.
Communities come in all shapes and sizes, and share many similar challenges — such as defining membership, succeeding financially, distributing resources, making decisions, raising children, dividing work equitably, and choosing a standard of living. Many wrestle with questions about right livelihood, spiritual expression, land use, and the role of service in our lives. At the same time, there is limited awareness of what others are doing to meet these challenges — and much to gain through sharing information and experiences with others exploring similar paths. The Fellowship documents the visions and experiences of life in community, and actively promotes dialogue and cooperation among communities.
This sort of community might not be for everyone. However, it is one more possibility that churches might explore.
I want to end this post with a story of singleness by Natalie Trust. She has a wonderful blog about her life link and often comments at TWW. I promise to post all of the stories that were sent to us.
Pain. Greeters and coffee. Smiles. Pain. Handshakes and names. Pain. Sermon and communion. Pain. Get in the car and drive home. Relief.
I’m not doing this anymore. This is crazy. I think this same thought over and over. But I’m a Christian, and Christians are supposed to go to church, right?
After the dissolution of my marriage, I began to panic about Sunday morning around 3:30pm every Saturday afternoon. I also stressed over the whole church situation throughout the week at sporadic times, and especially during that awkward exchange that happened every now and then, and went something like, “So, Natalie, where do you go to church?”
“Oh, I’ve been going to Imago Dei.” My response wasn’t quite a lie because I had been going…I had been going at one point in the not-too-distant past. “It is a really great church. Where are you going to church?” I quickly tried to deflect the question and place the burden of an answer on the other person. This process would repeat itself, and I would always get out of explaining the truth.
The truth was that going to church, as a once married, now newly single person was incredibly painful. I didn’t feel comfortable going to worship in the same place that I had gone week after week with a man who had led a double life. I couldn’t take communion because it triggered me; I had an immediate flashback. I didn’t want to see other young couples in front of me during the service, and I didn’t want to pass by them as they strolled hand in hand through the parking lot. I was simply trying to survive every day, and if I was going to make it then I needed to stop reopening wounds when it wasn’t necessary. I needed to walk away.
If I couldn’t go to the actual church service, maybe I could still find support from the church body at Imago Dei, at least that’s what I hoped when I went to try out a group called, “Women’s Healing Journey”. I had heard that the group helped to support women who were involved with someone that had an addiction to pornography or who had been abused or had experienced a myriad of other issues. It just so happened to be my 23rd birthday when I attended this group for the first time. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the church, but I certainly didn’t expect to leave feeling more alone than before.
For starters there was no welcoming. It was awkward even attending a meeting such as this, but then to just silently sit in a pew wondering what the hell you’re even doing there, the anger boiling within you toward the person who caused you to seek out a meeting like this in the first place; it just didn’t get off to a good start for me. So, I’m sitting there feeling horribly alone and embarrassed, and a woman starts passing out programs with worship song lyrics.
Seriously? Great. My discomfort grew, as I held the piece of paper in my hands. Another woman went up on the stage with a guitar and started singing. I really wish there had been something said to acknowledge why we were all there, but nothing was said. Half-hearted voices filled the air. My voice was absent. It hurt too much to sing.
Once the singing was over, a woman (who ended up being the leader of the group) got up to share her story. The short of it was this: Her husband had been in church leadership (not at Imago Dei), and had affairs with several women in the church. Apparently leading with integrity and God’s heart wasn’t working out so well for him; he decided to give the role of God over to his penis. I continued listening to this terrible story, and she shared from her heart about how difficult it was to be betrayed. Yet, in the end, their marriage was able to be restored and she was encouraging the rest of us that God can do miracles in our lives.
I agreed with her, in that I believed that God was capable of miracles, but her words also made me feel alone. I felt alone because I wondered, “What about people like me? What happens when there is no repentance? What happens when there is not a ‘miracle’ in the broken marriage?”
Thank heaven we didn’t break into small groups after that to discuss her story, but she did open up for questions or comments. I listened as other women spoke. Each woman that said something made me feel ill, some more than others. Not ill because I felt they were stupid or because I was envious that my own marriage had no hope for repair, but ill because all I heard was codependency and doubt of their own moral compass.
One woman, she must have been in her late fifties, early sixties said, “Well, you know, I have known for years and years that my husband has been involved with pornography, strip clubs, adultery, you name it. And I’ve come to realize that all I can really do is pray.” I wanted to leap over the pew and rip the wedding ring off of her finger. I wanted her to get a reality check. I wanted this woman to know that her marriage ended when her husband chose lust, other women, and addiction over her and over God repeatedly without repentance of any kind. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to continue living like this.
The leader of the group responded to this woman’s statement with a knowing nod, and this incensed me even more. Why wasn’t anyone speaking up? Why didn’t someone take a stand and say, “No, prayer isn’t always enough in certain situations. It might sound like the Christian thing to say, but you need to examine why you are allowing him to disrespect you, repeatedly, in such an intimate way.”
When the meeting was finally over, I caught the group leader’s attention to let her know I wouldn’t be filling out any of their forms or returning to the group; it just wasn’t the right fit for me. The leader was polite, but didn’t engage me in conversation about why I wouldn’t be returning. She never offered another way that the Imago Dei community could support me. That was that.
Now I do know that the “Women’s Healing Journey” group is still in existence, and perhaps it is far more welcoming and beneficial to women who really need the church to rally around them. Hurting women need to be loved and supported exactly where they are at. They need the church to walk with them through their journey…whether there is a miracle in the end or not.
What were my other options in that church community? Well, sure I was college age, but that didn’t sound like a fit; most twenty-three year olds hadn’t been through a failed marriage. I wasn’t a mother so I couldn’t be in a moms group. I wasn’t grieving the death of a loved one so one of those groups wouldn’t work either. Where was I to go?
Someone who is single, and dealing with intense emotional trouble has nowhere to go in the Evangelical church. Nowhere to go. At least, this was my experience. I’m not exactly sure what the church can do to address this issue but here are a few of my suggestions:
A) Don’t assume every single person desires to be a part of a singles
group-no matter their age!
B) When a single person, whether they have been through something as
painful and life changing as I had or not, comes to you and gives feedback about a group, don’t just tuck the feedback in the back of your mind. Please ask them to coffee or lunch or something to hear more of THEIR story. We need to be heard in the church.
C) Don’t point us to a home community before knowing more of our story first, without knowing it; you may be pushing us into another awkward and painful experience, putting a spotlight on our single situation in front of more strangers.
My absence from the church lasted for several years until one day I found my way home. But that’s another story.
Lydia's Corner: Joshua 7:16-9:2 Luke 16:1-18 Psalm 82:1-8 Proverbs 13:2-3