During my time in seminary, I found myself growing frustrated at something the church is pretty good at failing at: ministering to those who are single.
I think most people view a ministry to single people means creating a program where singles can gather together. Okay, that’s fine I guess. I’ve never much cared for these kinds of”programs” and while in St. Louis I avoided my church’s “singles ministry” like the plague. And then after a while I noticed how many different sermons I’d hear on marriage (this was after about a year and a half at this church). Most of these sermons were structured to talk about the difficulties of marriage and the blessings, too. That’s something I simply can’t relate to. While it may be interesting information, it’s not relevant to me. And after I realized I’d heard 5 sermons in the last year and a half on marriage, I asked myself, “Have I heard any on being single?” No, I hadn’t.
I understand it might not be that easy for a married pastor to do a sermon on being single, but I would like to know why this subject is being avoided so much.
Another thing I’ve noticed, especially once I passed the age of 30, is that most of the people my age – and the one I connected with – were married. Some with kids, some without. This also became frustrating at family events, where everyone my age spent the entire day talking about their kids. It’s really hard for a single person to join in the conversation about the hardships of their kids teething, or getting teased at school, or about how they are developing in school subjects. Family members I once could talk to for hours and hours about things became family members with which I no longer had anything in common. It made me sad, but it also kind of made me angry, truthfully. Why did the conversation always have to be about them and nothing else?
So, back to the sermon thing. As I noticed that I’d never heard a sermon about the perils and blessings of being single (though I heard many about the perils and blessing of marriage) I looked at the people who I considered to be good friends – and almost all were married. There were a blessed handful who invited to do thing with them and their friends – whether it was dinner, art in the park, a concert, etc. But it took a long time for us to get to that point, and even then it was rare for such an invitation to happen, truthfully. It’s very common to come to church on Sunday and hear some of your friends talk about what they did on the 4th of July or the dinner they had together the night before. And I don’t want to come across of lamenting about “not getting invited” but I do wonder if there isn’t some sense of 1.) She’s single and I don’t know what to do with her. or 2.) I think she will feel uncomfortable around a bunch of couples. And maybe the second is true for some single people, it just doesn’t happen to be the case with me. I’m probably far more comfortable with my married couple friends than I ever am in a room full of single church members who’ve gathered together for Super Bowl Sunday. (The second makes me a little nauseous, actually.)
So it seems that sermons about being single could help, don’t you? If married couples aren’t sure what to do with us, perhaps a pastor could remind them they they are just people looking to connect – with anyone, regardless of relationships status. And by labeling us single in the first place, it’s kind of like putting a large scarlet letter “A” on our chest, so that everyone knows there must be something wrong with us. There are married couples out there that remember what singlehood is like (And thankfully one of them goes to my church now and they always ask me to do things). But I would love to see this kind of attitude come from the leadership in the church – I would love to hear a sermon that reminds congregation members that being single is hard, and that single people need all the support that we can get (from married people in particular!) just to make it through this life.