A response to ‘What Happened to Singles Ministry?’
The original CT editorial:
(Link): What Happened to Singles Ministry? Today the best thing for singles is not a singles-only ministry. by Adam Stadtmiller
I think Stadmiller makes a few decent points in his editorial, such as:
- But ministries for singles over 30 are harder to find.
The last 25 years have seen the church alter the way it relates to and reaches singles. The fervor to target singles directly is no longer front and center. On the contrary, ministry to singles is seen as a burden to many churches. What started out as a brilliant success has disintegrated into the realms of an epic fail.
Singles ministry proved to be harder than the original pioneers expected. It took too much time, too many resources, and produced too few sustainable results. We are now living in the post-singles ministry era.
Before writing this article, I contacted 16 churches about their singles ministries. Many of these churches you would know. I was looking for a thriving singles ministry.
Others have responded to this editorial. Such as:
- A recent Leadership Journal article by Adam Stadtmiller entitled, “What Happened to Singles Ministry,” suggests that traditional singles ministry is best left behind in favour of new models that integrate singles with marrieds.
… Regardless of the popular perception of singleness, the need to integrate singles in the life of today’s church is far greater now than it was in the swinging 70’s. In roughly one generation U.S. census figures show those living together as married have declined from around two-thirds of the adult population to now less half.
George Barna meanwhile has documented that while more than 50 percent of marrieds attend church regularly, less than 30 percent of the never marrieds singles do so. Likewise only 29 percent of never marrieds meet Barna’s born-again criteria compared to 47 percent of marrieds.
Churches simply cannot afford not to have a coherent strategy for reaching the growing segment of mostly non-Christian singles and drawing them into the life of the church.
… Changing the mix by adding a percentage of married couples into the ministry does not in itself integrate singles into the life of the church, rather it requires intentionality in the approach of the ministry itself.
The article asserts that singles don’t actually want to be part of a singles ministry, and “always”try to exit the group as soon as possible.
This is apparently because the well adjusted routinely “graduate” out of the group, while the more dysfunctional remain eventually turning the group into a recovery ministry for the walking wounded.
So Stadtmiller proposes balancing in enough marrieds to ensure that the group remains attractive for newcomers.
But this approach only masks the problem of recovering individuals, it does not solve the problem. A better solution is to be intentional that singles ministry is not a recovery ministry and to direct recovering singles into a recovery ministry specific to their particular issue whether it be divorce, grief or an addition.
The assertion that well adjusted singles do not want a singles ministry and are always looking for the exit as soon as possible does not square with reality. I have rarely found any single Christian who does not see value in organizing some type of community network of singles within the larger life of the church.
Never marrieds are the fastest growing segment of the population and most find far greater acceptance of their status outside the walls of the church than they do inside.
Every successful singles ministry I have been involved with has invariably had a core of well adjusted never marrieds that have had some sustained involvement in the ministry.
Successful singles ministry focuses on the positive message of the New Testament that in Christ singles are fully blessed members of the body of Christ regardless of their marital state, and challenges them to use their season of life wisely for the sake of Christ and his kingdom.
Pastoral vision and oversight is essential to maintain a positive focus for the group as a whole while also directing recovering individuals toward ministries that can more effectively assist them with their individual
Stadtmiller asserts that singles’ needs are best addressed in a mixed setting. This is doubtful on two accounts.
Does a mixed setting provide an improved forum to address topics of specific interest to either marrieds or singles? It is true that relevant topics of interest to singles may get repetitive for the pastor.
We also need to teach our five year olds things that we may find mindlessly repetitive, but are of crucial importance for their spiritual development.
One of the precise benefits of having sub-communities within the church is to provide an appropriate forum for biblically addressing concerns specific to that sub-community. Blending singles and marrieds together only diminishes this capability.
Are the social needs of singles better addressed by simply adding marrieds to the mix? Those who have been married for some time often underestimate what that marriage provides for them.
Marrieds spend a significant portion of their social energy in exclusive contact with their spouse and immediate family.
What some marrieds do not fully appreciate is that singles need significantly more social contact with other singles than marrieds need with other marrieds.
To presume that mixing marrieds and singles together is a better way to meet the social needs of singles fails to acknowledge that their distinctive state of life merits greater social engagement within the life of the church.
Stadtmiller has noticed that singles tend to want more events than marrieds and recommends, “Don’t over-program.” Yes, that approach works well for marrieds, but maybe it is also indicative that his prescription is more of a forced-fit than an effective solution for singles.
Here is another blog which comments on the Stadtmiller editorial (Link: Singles Ministries: Yea, Nay … or Somewhere in Between?)
- In general, I agree with Stadtmiller’s observations. That said, I think the key to meeting singles’ needs he identifies here is his significant qualifier regarding churches’ commitment to integrate singles into the broader life of the church.
Too often, churches just aren’t sure what to do with adult singles — a dynamic most unmarried folks in their 20s and beyond are all too familiar with — which can leave them loitering on the perimeter of church life and longing for a place to call home.
To the extent that churches invest in ministries that genuinely seek to involve singles and meet their needs, I think Stadtmiller’s right on the money.
When that doesn’t happen, however, it shouldn’t be any surprise that many singles may still clamor for a ministry of their own, despite all the potentional problems that may come with it.