Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Single in a Couples World

Dear Sisters,

Events in my life over the past couple months have been interesting.  Some bad things happened, some difficult things happened.  God's grace has carried me through and I am thankful.  Through all of this I observed that many churches don't know how to deal with single people who haven't fulfilled the American church model of coupling up in high school or college and being married soon after. 

Families / couples in churches have a rhythm in their lives.  It's a rhythm that can be similar from one family / couple to another.  That's why you see families hanging out together because maybe their kids are of similar age or are in similar after-school activities.  Or you see couples that hang out together because they have things like activities, jobs, or backgrounds in common.  These are good things.  It's good for people to fellowship with others.  

The issue that I've observed is that many families / couples in churches don't know how to incorporate single people into their rhythm.  Single people seem to disrupt the flow and ruin the harmony.  This is not how it should be.  True, Single Adult J will not fit in with every family at church but there should be at least 1 family that they harmonize with beautifully.  The single person may alter the rhythm a little but maybe a family could use a little jazz in their lives. 

Yea for musical inspiration!  Single people can only make a family's or couple's rhythm better.  They may have the unique sound the family band has been waiting for to make it even better than before.  I have friends outside of church where we make great music together.  I fit right in and that is one of the best things for me as I live in an area far from my family.  For me the hard part has been trying to find a family / couple band to join in the church.  It has not been an easy task and it is incomplete.  I work during the day so I can pay my bills which means that doing things with other ladies in the church during the day time when many are available is nearly impossible for me.  It's awkward trying to schedule things on a weekend with families because for many people that is family time and I feel like I'm intruding into the family's rhythm instead of providing a delightful musical accent.  It's a work in progress and I'm doing my best not to give up.

Sisters, maybe you are part of a couple and have been thinking about similar things lately.  Maybe you're a single person who struggles with this as much as I do.  As I've thought through this topic over the past few weeks I've come up with a few tips and thoughts that might be of some use.  The order given does not indicate any preference or rank to the tip.

Tips for families / couples:
1. Find ways to include a single person into your family.  Invite them over for game night, to go out with you on a fun shopping trip that involves a shared hobby or interest, to join you for lunch.  Make them feel welcome and not like they are intruding.
2. When traditional family holidays come around (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) consider inviting them over to join your family.  The single person may be far from family and being with a different family can help lessen the loneliness. I am extremely thankful for the people that invited me to join them during their family's gatherings. 
3. A single person could become an additional "aunt" or "uncle" to your children.  Be careful though about  taking advantage of them by turning them into free babysitters and errand runners for you.  They may be willing and glad to help out but take care that you don't ruin the relationship you've developed by using them too much.  But if the single friend volunteers to watch the kids so you can have a date night, do take them up on their offer.  This is their way of saying thank you and that they care for you and your family.  Turning down that act of love isn't a good idea.
4. Don't play matchmaker for the single people in your life.  Just because you're married doesn't mean everyone else is supposed to be.  If you think you've found the "perfect" person for your single friend, take it to the Lord in prayer to be sure and WAIT on His answer.   Setting up the person could really backfire and cause the loss of the friendship you have with the single person.

Tips for churches:
1. Don't try to set up your single people with other single people in the church.  When the relationship goes bad one of those singles if not both will leave your church.  Trying to get both of them to stay after the break up will only increase the size of the wound created by the break up in the first place.
2. Single people are gifted by the Spirit as well so find ways to encourage your single people to use those gifts in the church.  Don't ignore your single women and don't assume they are only useful in children's ministries.  Many women are gifted in areas that do not involve children.    
3. Cultivate a culture in your church where everyone feels comfortable and confident in following God's will for their life even if that means being single.  Put a simpler way: stop making single people feel bad for being single.  God doesn't intend for everyone to be married. 
4. A singles ministry can be a good thing but it could also isolate the singles in your church depending on the focus and activities of that ministry.  Don't use the ministry to create couplings.  Help your singles to become a part of the church family so aim for all-inclusive church activities.

Thoughts for singles:
1. Be willing to invite yourself into a family activity.  This one is hard for me because growing up I was taught NOT to invite myself to someone's home. If you have a schedule that is very flexible as to when you can hang out, let that family know that you'd really like to hang out and that your schedule is flexible as to when that can happen.  Yes, you may feel awkward but you can do it.
2. Figure out what your spiritual gift is and find away to use it in your church. 
3. Join in with some of the group activities at church.  This could be the way that you find other people in church who have common outside-church interests.  If there are no group activities, consider organizing a game night at church.  Ask people to bring board games; set up a Wii machine with a projector; make it a potluck meal.  Interacting with people in this way can be a good thing.
4. Be careful about isolating yourself from others.  Be thankful that people are reaching out to you.  Step outside your comfort zone and say "yes" to some invites.  You never know how God will use your time with those other people. 

The above lists are what I was able to think of - I was surprised that I could come up with 4 ideas for each section  - and are by no means the authority on how singles and non-singles are to relate to one another.  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts because I'm sure I missed somethings.  Please share them in the comments.

Sister Jane
Psalm 18:30

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