Ministering to the Unmarried by Noel Cameron
I post this with a misgiving or two. At one point the author actually describes singleness as being a problem:
- God has a solution for the problem of singleness.
As the kids say today,
To characterize singleness as being a “problem” is, in a way, insulting to singles.
Now, I am a single who desires marriage, and I tire of the simplistic “rah rah, singleness is a gift” rhetoric which cheapens what I go through at times, but, I do want to be respected as I am, which is SINGLE.
I do not like being referred to as “a problem” because I am single. I would advise Christian authors to be careful in how they phrase articles for adult singles.
(Link): Ministering to the Unmarried
- by Noel Cameron
Effective ministry to single adults—widowed, divorced, or never married—is one of the most difficult challenges facing the church today.
Although church-related activities absorb youth, children, families, young couples, and other special-interest groups, single persons usually find themselves on the periphery of church life.
Many beautiful lives go unnurtured, and the body of Christ is seriously crippled.
If the minister is to meet the needs of the unmarried, he must under stand what those needs are. He must understand the pressures the single adult confronts. And he must grasp the Biblical perspective of singleness.
Consider the dilemma of the single adult. He or she feels isolated and often neglected by the church for several reasons.
First, the very fact of his singleness often creates insecurity that makes it difficult for him to point out the deep and varied needs of single people.
Moreover, the single person is keenly aware of an apparent church perspective that implies that success and fulfillment and even normalcy as a person are to be found only in marriage.
Christianity is often seen as a family affair. Thus, the single person has difficulty identifying fully with the life of the church.
Second, the church is oriented toward couples and families, especially in its social fellowship.
How often have churches innocently planned dinners, weekend activities, or socials for couples and families, without a thought for single members, who circulated on the fringes of the activity or avoided it entirely, their hearts lonely and heavy, be cause they did not really fit?
Unknowingly the church has many times shaped its life to inhibit the singles’ involvement, thus neglecting vitally important needs.
- [comments by Christian Pundit:
snip author’s critique of singles ministries as being “dating services.”
I for one would LOVE to attend a thriving “dating service” type church event or class if there are tons of good looking single men to flirt with, choose from, and pursue, thank you very much. It’s either look for a man at a church, or try “eHarmony” dating site, or the corner bar.]
Third, the church pastor usually finds ministry to the single adult very difficult. Since ministry to singles almost always focuses on social relationships and needs, the pastor feels a desire to protect himself from real or potential dangers to his ministry and reputation, and thus shies away from an involvement in personal ministry with single adults.
In public ministry, church activities tend to center around youth and families or around singles as an isolated group. Both situations substantially sever the single person from the heart of the church.
Perhaps the most critical area in ministry to singles is the attitude of the minister himself. Insensitivity in ministering to any segment of the flock is a violation of the minister’s sacred calling.
The Good Shepherd left ninety-nine sheep in the safety of the fold and went to search for one single sheep. Likewise, ministers have been given the task of ministering to all the lost sheep—regardless of marital status.
The impact of society’s disapproval (not to mention the disapproval of the church) can be devastating to the unmarried. Note the effects in four basic relationships:
1. Time relationship.
The single person finds it difficult to live vibrantly in the present.
If never married, he tends to feel incomplete. He robs the present of beauty by pushing important relationships into the future. If death has broken his marriage, he lives in the never returning land of yesterday.
The divorced person often becomes a prisoner in time, locked into a fragmented present, rejecting and regretting a bitter past, and fearing and shunning a dubious future. In all tenses life be comes drastically narrowed in perspective and diminished in value.
2. Human relationship.
The single person struggles to build meaningful human relationships. When marriage is the priority, every relationship is viewed through matrimonyscopes—marriage-tinted glasses.
Even casual acquaintances are classified as potentials or nonpotentials.
Friend ships become loaded with expectations that bleed them of their spontaneity and natural enjoyment. When all the marbles are played into the marriage bag (and one is playing for keeps), there is great pressure in the playing of every shot.
Close friendships between single persons of the same sex are avoided because of the risk of being classified as homosexual or lesbian.
Friendship with married couples is a problem for the single adult, too, for his presence may pose a silent threat. So loneliness often walks in his shoes.
I disagree slightly with the author’s conclusion, which is,
- Conversion, not diversion or matchmaking, is the desperate need of the single person. Conversion, not diversion, must be the primary focus of church ministry to singles.
It does not have to be mutually exclusive:
churches can help singles with what the author terms “conversion” but also help singles who desire marriage get a mate (ie, matchmaking).
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