Ed Stetzer’s Series on Christianity and Adult Singles, via CT
Stetzer – who has not always done a great job in the past in discussing adult singleness and aspects related (see this link and this link) – has started a new series at Christianity Today about Christianity and adult singleness, specifically, how churches and Christians have habitually marginalized singles and idolized the family unit.
I think he’s planning on writing one or two more essays in this series; currently, he only has part 1 and part 2 up and running.
As he adds more essays in this series (if he does so, I’m unclear as if to there will be future posts), I think my preference is to edit this post to add links to those posts, rather than making separate posts on my blog about it.
Stetzer is covering issues about this I have been blogging about on this blog for the past several years.
One problem I have with one of these pieces is that Stetzer tells married couples not to shy away from be-friending single adults, because marrieds refusing to friend single adults can unfairly ostracize singles – which is fine advice – I’m all for married people friend-ing single people, yet (here is where the problematic part comes in) –
Yet, however, in 2014, Stetzer essentially told married couples in (Link): another article on Christianity Today magazine article to treat all singles like potential adulterers, to basically practice the “Billy Graham Rule,” and stay away from single adults of the opposite sex, because opposite – sex friendships will all supposedly end in an affair.
Which is not true. I’m a never-married woman, but I would not have an affair with a married man.
Singles are no more prone to committing sexual sins than married people.
There are plenty of examples of married people having extra-marital affairs with another married person. (There are plenty of husbands who have affairs with another man’s wife.)
Marriage does not make adults immune from committing (sexual) sin – note (Link): how many married Christian (and Non-Christian) men have been caught looking at porn, arrested for child molesting, hiring prostitutes, or having affairs.
Here’s the link to his first post in the series, the second is below:
(Link): Singles: A Vital Part of Our Churches, Part 1– by Ed Stetzer
Singles make up half of our churches, so we best learn to treat all people—married or single—equally
Let me just get this out there at the outset: For many, being single in the church can sometimes feel very awkward.
I have heard a number of singles tell me stories that have made me cringe—stories of how the leadership and the marrieds in the church spoke or acted in ways that were silly at best and dishonoring at worst.
Let’s all face it: Singles make up half of our churches, so we best learn to treat all people—married or single—equally.
… Changing patterns of marriage and singleness
More and more, Americans are staying single by choice. A Pew Research Center (Link): study released in 2017 found that 42% American adults are living without a spouse or a partner. That number is up 3% since ten years ago in 2007, when it was 39%.
The biggest change was adults under 35. Today, 61% of adults under 35 are single. That’s five points up compared to where it was a decade ago, at 56%. Singles make up a significant portion of our population.
Singles are not an accessory or an appendage in the life of the church.
Knowing that will shape how you engage them. Many married people tend to think of single people as incomplete married people – married people often assume singles will find somebody else, the two will be made one, and then they’ll be complete. The reality is that’s a very different view than the church has held historically and biblically.
… I had a call not long ago from a pastor friend of mine who is single. He continues to find doors closed for ministries he’d be interested in because they want a married person.
Part of the reason is because of the family-centric model of ministry, a phenomenon of the last few centuries. I’m thankful for churches that minister to families. I’m thankful for churches that care about families. But the family-centric model of ministry leaves out some people that should not be left out.
It’s time to stop looking upon single people with suspicion and instead thank God for them.
by ED STETZER
… So what do we do? Below I share three ways we can integrate singles fully into the life of our churches.First, be careful with your language.
One of the problems we have is our language. For example, when we talk about our churches, we often ask things like, “Are you a family-centered church?”
… You might even mean “families” to include singles, but almost no one is going to hear that.
Similarly, it is incorrect to describe our churches as having “singles and families.” This makes it seem like the single people are on the outside. ….
Second, include singles among your leadership.
If you are not facilitating and fostering single leaders in the life of your church, you’re sidelining a large portion of your church. Furthermore, you’re buying into more of a Western cultural value of the nuclear family than holding to biblical values. Look to the Bible, look at Paul’s words. Look at Jesus. Remember, Jesus was a single man. If Jesus wouldn’t have a place in your church, you’ve got a major problem.
Paul’s words are very clear. He points out that we have greater freedom to minister if we are single because we are not distracted. Those who are married, including myself, have other priorities that make our capacity for ministry limited.
So it becomes a good strategy as well to look for places and pathways to involve singles in our leadership. Single people are often looked on with some suspicion as we wonder why they aren’t married yet. The end result is that we’re sometimes suspicious to put them in leadership.
…We must be cautious of swinging too far the other way as well, however. I’ve heard some singles say that sometimes when people find out they’re single, they want to put everything on them because they have the time to do those things. We need to strike a balance.
Paul’s words are that there’s more freedom to do ministry.
Simultaneously, we want to recognize and honor that single people have other lives, friendships, relationships, and more that matter too.
A word of caution
Don’t fall into the trap that some do of befriending only or mainly people who are like you. For example, I’m married, so there’s a natural tendency for me to hang around married couples. Many couples generally only have friends who are couples.
Instead, I would exhort you to ask yourself, “Have I built relationships with single men and women in my church in a way that helps me understand who they are and how I can pastor them well?” I think there’s a sense for singles that we are excluding them in the life of the church in ways that are ultimately unhelpful.
I do appreciate that Stetzer is drawing much-needed attention to this long-standing issue in Christianity, but some of his current observations are not lining up with some of his past ones.
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): Preacher Mark Driscoll Basically Says No, Single Christian Males Cannot or Should Not Serve as Preachers / in Leadership Positions – Attempts to Justify Unbiblical, Anti Singleness Christian Bias