Dear Fellow Singles,
A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to churches addressing some awkward and uncomfortable experiences we have had within their doors. Some of us know all too well how it feels to walk into a church and feel completely alone in a sea of people. Some of us have felt like we were not fully embraced in light of our single status. Overall, I received a very positive response from those who read that letter. I think some churches are really trying to move toward us!
Now I wish to address us. You see, there may be some things we are doing which make it difficult for churches to reach out to us. There may be ways in which we accidentally sabotage our own church experiences. I am not saying that each of us are committing all four of the following offenses, but most of us are probably committing at least one or two.
1- “Doing Our Own Thing”
While talking to an older gentleman recently about some of the struggles singles have in churches, he responded, “Well, Elizabeth, sometimes it is hard to include or involve singles. You could invite them to things or plan things for them, but they may or may not come, because they are doing their own thing.” I felt defensive at first, but then I realized that he had a solid point.
We, as singles, are used to doing our own thing. We are not operating according to other people’s schedules most of the time. We don’t have a spouse and kids along for the ride. Therefore, sometimes we may be more prone to feel like it doesn’t matter if we are half-an-hour late, or if we don’t RSVP, or if we don’t show up at all. In our minds, we are just one person, and no one will notice our lateness or absence anyway. It is not like our presence really affects the food count or something! But when so many of us think and act this way, it does create a stereotype, one that we need to defeat. So, let’s build credibility with our churches by being on time, reliable, committed, and fully present.
2- Playing the Field
While you may be dying to meet someone, and church can be a great place to meet other singles, we have got to stop treating our churches like mere dating venues! They are places of worship, not speed-dating facilities. At the very least, it is distracting. At the very most, it is hurtful. If you are going to date people in your churches, I ask that you would be especially careful, cautious, respectful, intentional, and considerate. If things do not work out because you were toying with people’s emotions, leading others on, playing the field, or failing to communicate expectations, then the individuals involved will probably feel uncomfortable and anxious when they have to see you again. And that place where they will feel uncomfortable and anxious when they have to see you again is church. CHURCH, where they are supposed to be focused on things far more important than this pettiness- things like worship, the Gospel, their relationships with God, and their eternal purpose in life.
Of course it is not wrong to date in churches, but at the same time, we need to take it seriously and not be inconsiderate knuckle heads. 1) We don’t want to hurt anyone and cause people to associate church with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. 2) We don’t want to lose credibility with our churches by making it appear like we are not there for the right reasons.
3- The Personal Preferences Problem
As singles, we often get to do the things we want to do most of the time. Unlike people with spouses and kids, we are more often able to do things if we want to, if we feel like it. We tend to be more loyal to our personal preferences because we usually get to live according to our personal preferences. Sometimes this can carry over and affect our level of involvement or willingness to participate in outside entities or activities. Our churches may try to plan things for us, include us, or involve us. Typically, if it coincides with our preferences, we have no trouble diving right in. If it contrasts with our personal preferences, we will often shy away and sometimes even insult those efforts.
Here is what I ask: If your churches are trying to include you or reach out to you in some way, give it a chance. Try to get in line with whatever efforts your churches are making to move closer toward you. Build credibility, and then voice your opinions. Help your churches to reach other singles like yourself. Don’t shy away simply because their efforts are not always perfectly in line with your personal preferences.
If you have been involved in a church for any extended period of time, then you have probably been hurt by someone or some people in the church. The church is made up of imperfect people who do not always get it right. I know many singles who, like myself, have felt invisible in churches, partly because we had no family, friends, or connections there. Many of us have felt like there was no place for us, like we were on the outside looking in- at happy couples and family-geared ministries. On behalf of churches, I am sorry to each of you who may be carrying a wound stemming from such situations.
Here is what I know: We will never be able to embrace church and to feel embraced at church if we are holding grudges against the church. We need to forgive. We need to move forward. We need to step into the opportunities and divine appointments God may be trying to extend to us by way of the church. The church is one body with many expressions. Try not to discredit the entire body just because one expression royally messed up. The fact is, all expressions will mess up a little here and there.
May we not seek to criticize, critique, and find fault in our churches. Rather, may we seek to make peace, to love, and to help build and strengthen our churches. For therein lies an eternal, everlasting, fulfilling reward.
With Truth and Love,