Playing Favorites: Final Thoughts

Sharon Relationships 6 Comments

Well yesterday I received a fair amount of feedback on my blog. I had no idea my thoughts would be so controversial! I talked to my pastor about it some, and he felt that I was not wrong for being so honest about my thought process. He did, however, advise me to be cautious in my honesty since some people who haven’t been reading my blog long or carefully might get the wrong idea and be led astray about what is a healthy approach to singleness, versus an unhealthy approach.

So in the interest of being above reproach, I wanted to follow up yesterday’s post with some final thoughts. First and foremost, I want to reiterate that my frustrations with the church were not meant to be read as coming from the most Christ-centered part of my heart. As I mentioned before, my thoughts went through a *process,” and I had hoped that in leading you through that process, you yourself might be able to leave your frustrations behind and enter into a more profitable state of mind.

I had also hoped that by being honest about my frustrations in singleness, my honesty would prevent some of you from feeling completely isolated in your struggles. I find there to be nothing more defeating than talking with Christians who can’t relate to my struggles, and merely tell me to “buck up.” What I find far more edifying is when Christians admit, “Hey I’m right there with you! Let me share with you how I’m working through it.” That said, I’m sorry if my honesty came off as a belittling of the family or of marriage, because that was not at all my intent.

Having said that, I also feel the need to reemphasize that the family is of the utmost importance. It is one of the most fundamental building blocks of our culture, and should be treated with that degree of honor. However, I think one of the commenters said it best when she mentioned that the stark distinction between marrieds and singles is probably not a healthy one. That comment gets to the heart of what I meant to convey in the last post–

When I argued that churches need to be held accountable for their ministries to singles, I did not mean that we should have more singles events and worship services. On the contrary, singles should be enveloped into the larger life of the church. Instead of having ministries that are JUST for married people or JUST for single people, we need to be intentional about ministering to BOTH, holistically. To divide up these demographics can be practical at times, but ultimately undermines the very essence of the Church if taken to an extreme.

We should therefore keep in mind the extent of our connectedness. Single people will one day be married, so it makes no sense to focus solely on putting out fires in marriage, fires that could have been prevented had we properly nurtured single people. Likewise, solid, Christ-centered families can minister effectively to those without families if we equip them to do so.

As the Body of Christ, we are all intimately connected to one another, so any ministry should have the whole Body in mind. A ministry that focuses on one demographic alone without at least keeping the rest of the Body in mind will become inherently narcissistic. And single people are just as guilty of this as married people.

Wherever you are in life, you are going to have your own struggles. As another commenter wrote, marriage can be extremely difficult, so it’s not as if us singles are the only ones with hardship. That said, we will all need ministering to at one time or another, but what we do well to remember is that there is no “me” or “them.” There is only “us,” as we are united in Christ. That is our primary identity, which means we should help our churches minister to the whole Body as effectively as possible, no matter the stage in life. I should be just as invested in the success of my friends’ marriages as they are in helping me to maximize this season of my life.

That, I believe, should be our ultimate goal. It’s okay if you are not there yet–clearly I am not–but I pray that my brothers and sisters will show me the grace I need to get there along the way.

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Comments 6

  1. Adam Graber

    I’m in a church that has expressed its vision to build a children and family center. One recent teaching series was “The Family Circus.” I didn’t know what I was to glean from it. I was advised to tuck it away for future use.

    I’m in regular ministry to young adults (read, singles). I listen to some of them express frustration at feeling invisible. We are the equivalent of a minority group in our church. What is our place in a church focused on families?

    Maybe these frustrations and the ones you expressed are temporary, but they are no less legitimate as such. Even if single people end up married, there will be new single people to minister to.

    I heard John Piper exhort his congregation’s couples to host singles and embrace and include them. He was much more eloquent about it, and biblical too. (Still one feels like we’re the tag-along little brother.)

    Worse than being overlooked is simply not being heard and affirmed by a church body. Even acknowledgement would go a long way.

    Something like 80% of people get married, but where does that leave the other 20%? It seems that some churches see spending money on that minority as poor stewardship of resources. Yet, being on the margins, we might recall, is the place where Jesus tended to show up. And, of course, Jesus would have been relegated to the singles ministry too. 🙂

  2. MikeMcD

    Wow, you really stirred up a hornets’ nest. Thanks for your honesty. It’s unfortunate that some of the things you’ve said were misinterpreted. I can definitely relate to some of your sentiments. I would say that the church fails on this issue IF it portrays singles as abnormal or incomplete, as if they’re only 50% people searching for their other half. That being said, I’m sure that you would agree that our church clearly comes down against such a view (and no, JD didn’t pay me to say that).

    Here’s another perspective that I find helpful. This isn’t directed at you…just throwing it out there. We live in a society where marriage and family are increasingly misunderstood or even devalued. Sometimes we forget this when the opposite is so true within our churches. But there is the point…If the church doesn’t preach and teach about healthy marriage (and take practical steps to encourage it), then where else are people going to get it?

  3. Lauren

    Just a thought…
    When a sermon is preached that doesn’t directly apply to you (a marriage sermon when you are single, a parenting sermon when you don’t have kids), you can do much more than just tuck it away as future advice. You can use the wisdom you learn to help encourage those who are married or parents. Same goes for married people who hear a sermon about singleness. We shouldn’t sit back and tune out because we are past that stage in life. We should listen intently and take notes and learn so that we may offer biblical encouragement to our single friends.

    But if you are single and only hang out with single people (and consequently think “I don’t even know a married person that I can encourage”), or a parent who only hangs out with other parents, you are really limiting yourself. There is so much that can be learned from spending time with people who aren’t in your same life stage.

    And another thought…
    So many single people get offended when it is implied or stated by other people that they should be married (ie “Why aren’t you married yet??”)
    It is true that in Christ we are complete and need nothing else. There is nothing wrong with being single.
    That being said, when I was single, I wanted to be married. I don’t think that’s something you need to bury or be ashamed of. I don’t think I ever actually did this, but when someone asks why you aren’t married, instead of defending yourself and being insulted, it’s ok to say “You know, I do want to be married and that’s something I am praying for and you can support me in prayer also”
    Again I’ll say that there’s nothing wrong with being single, but if you have a deep desire like I did to be married, in a sense you feel like there is something wrong with being single.
    I hope this makes sense. Explaining things on a blog is much harder than explaining things face to face.

  4. Scott Gottreu

    I agree that many churches segregate their congregations but this extends to generational boundaries as well. We squander the God-given resource of mentors for the younger generations. Possibly some of these segmentations are an outgrowth of mega-churches.

    I have been a member of several small rural churches. Several times I have been the only single and so I had no choice but to interact and serve with marrieds, seniors and children. I guess having churches with large segments of each demographic makes it easier to stick with your demographic.

    So the question remains, “How do we go about being more intentional in integrating our congregations?”

  5. Lauren

    Scott-
    One way our church tries to integrate our church is we no longer form bible studies for married people, single people, etc. Instead, we form bible studies based on geographic location. Basically our groups are formed by who lives near each other, and hopefully this will allow the group to be filled with a variety of ages, races, and life statuses. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s what we’re aiming for.

    Another way I am able to interact with people at my church who aren’t in my same life stage is I serve in a church ministry. In our children’s ministry, I am able to work with highschoolers and grandparents and everyone in between.

    But perhaps the way I’ve best developed relationships with people who aren’t like me is through my short-term mission trips. You get to travel, eat, and spend time with these people for 2 weeks, and I come back knowing everyone so much better than before and we will always have the common bond of the trip

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you for your post…I am 27 and single and I too had some of the same thoughts about the date night thing. Mine even led down the road of how much money I have spent on bridesmaid dresses and wedding and baby shower gifts and bachelorette parties and how I am still living with my hand-me-down furniture and pots and pans and no one to split the bills with, but yet the money I give to the church was also going to be rewarded to all the married people who have so much more than me. I mean I haven’t had a party for me with presents since my 12th birthday! I get to celebrate and support all my friends in their journey through life and they get to feel sorry for me for not having found someone like they have. I then felt extremely guilty for being so selfish and jealous and was left wondering why my love and faith in Christ weren’t fulfilling me like they were supposed to. It’s helpful to see that I’m not alone in some of my thoughts and struggles.

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