Reaching single adults in a married world
- By Dennis Franck
While navigating church foyers across the country, singles encounter a traditional attitude towards marrying and doing so early in life. “Why isn’t a nice young man like you married yet?” “I don’t understand how a beautiful girl such as you, with a good job, isn’t dating.”
Well-meaning individuals are usually unaware of the pressure and discomfort their questions cause.
When coupled with seemingly spiritual advice — “God has someone for you” or “Wait for the right person” — such remarks lay guilt on a young adult who may not feel the need or desire to marry yet, or may already struggle with personal doubts.
Marital patterns are changing, and these changes have created a new single adult subculture with new thoughts, attitudes, myths and sometimes misunderstandings about singleness.
For the postmodern person (born 1965-1982), for example, issues like finishing college or grad school, getting a good start on a successful career or taking time to improve their skills might take precedence over the desire for a permanent relationship.
The postmodern person may not see a need for marriage at all, believing that the benefits of marriage (sex, children, companionship, etc.) are available without the legal process and formal marriage commitment.
Where is the balance between the traditionalist’s pressure to marry and the moral libertarian’s disregard for marriage?
Historical attitudes concerning singleness
Over the course of history marriage was expected of most adults. During the 20th century, attitudes toward singleness changed, slowly.
From 1900 to the 1920s, single women were labeled “old maids.” During the ’30s and ’40s single women graduated to the title of “spinsters.”
Carolyn Koons, in her chapter entitled, “Today’s Single Adult Phenomenon: The Realities, Myths, and Identity” from the Baker Handbook of Single Adult Ministry states:
Society tried to attack the “problem” of female singleness (seldom were single men focused on) by writing major articles addressing the issue, such as: “Does It Hurt to Be an Old Maid?” “Alarming Increase of Old Maids and Bachelors in New England,” “Family Parasites: The Economic Value of the Unmarried Sister,” “The Sorrowful Maiden and the Jovial Bachelor,” and “There Is No Place in Heaven for Old Maids.”
During the 1950s and 1960s divorce increased in the United States.
This was the beginning of the institution of no-fault divorce, a legally convenient way to end a marriage without a biblical reason.
During the 1970s, single adults were labeled as “swinging singles” thanks to the “new morality” that emerged.
During the 1980s, it appeared that singleness was here to stay. Single adults came to be seen as hard workers, healthy, physically active and affluent. Singles were a dramatically growing segment of society.
Ministering to single adults
God created human beings to be multifaceted creatures comprised of at least six dimensions: spiritual, social, mental, physical, relational and emotional.
Each of these areas of life represents certain needs that can be met by fellowship with the Lord and with people in and through the ministries of the church.
If the church does not address and meet these needs, single adults may look in other places for their fulfillment — places that are not always spiritually, emotionally and relationally healthy.
Each area can be targeted and developed in the lives of single adults by planning ministries that address specific needs to be met and skills to be learned. Consider the following lists.
– Sunday School classes
– Conferences, retreats, seminars and workshops
– Discussion groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings
– Community service/outreach projects
– Support groups for divorce recovery, addictions or other personal needs
-Structured and casual activities promoting fun and
laughter (banquets, parties, dinners, game nights)
– Experiencing new activities (ball games, rodeos, stock car races)
– Developing existing social skills, learning new social skills, learning to feel comfortable around the opposite sex
… The programs and activities in a single adult ministry need to be varied and diverse. Single adults who will attend can range from teens to seniors.
Events need to factor in the five types of single adults who potentially attend, each with unique and similar needs — never-married, divorced, widowed, single parent, separated.
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Related this blog
(Link): How American Christians Were Influenced by 1950s American Secular Propaganda to Idolize Marriage and Children and Against Singles and the Childless -and how over-emphasis on “family” and lack of respect for singleness started a backlash against both – [both = marriage, having kids] (excerpts from ‘Pornland’ book)