Single and Christian, Uncategorized

Singles in the Church: Treated with Respect and Dignity?

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I’m joining Dee and Deb at The Wartburg Watch as they discuss the topic of singles in the church.  I’ve learned a lot in this year of blogging and covered at least four stories relating to being single in the church.  Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have been from reading the words of my readers as they share their stories.  My eyes have been opened.  Thank YOU!!  If you are single, I encourage you to check out the articles on Wartburg Watch.  Be sure to read the comments.  You will definitely feel the love there!

 

Singles and the Church: Perceptions In Need of Changing

Singles: Marginalization and Misunderstanding

Singles and the Church

  • Why Singles over 35 Are Saying Good-bye
  • Teaching ministries directed toward couples with children
  • Church activities and fellowships that disregard singles
  • Few opportunities for single women to develop ministry gifts
  • An unrealistic expectation that singles have more time for service
  • Few opportunities to find a Christian mate
  • Neglect of those who are divorced
  • Lack of compassion when counseling singles

—Julia Dunn, Quitting Church: Why the Faithful Are Fleeing and What to Do about It




And one of the things that was the most helpful to me in recognizing and understanding what I was dealing with was reading other people’s stories online.  

~Jeannette Altes

 

 

A couple months ago, I wrote an article More Background Info on the Movie: UnMarried and singles left some great comments.  Here is one that came in close to the time I switched blogs and probably most people did not get a chance to read it, so I wanted to give it a wider audience because I’m sure that stillfrustrated speaks for so many. 

 

stillfrustrated  December 27, 2012 11:55 AM

 

I stumbled upon this today and wow, it’s nice to know there are other single people out there in the church that feel the same way you do and have had similar experiences.

I attended a church for several years and began to notice that every time we had prayer in the services, it always specifically called attention to the marriages and families.

After listening to that for literally several years, I’ll admit I became frustrated (being a life-long single person) and approached a member of the leadership to ask why the single people in the church were not valued like the married people and families were.

I explained that it was a single person (me) who drove to the church at 4:00 a.m. on Sundays to either turn on the heat or A/C to ensure the married people and families had a comfortable environment to worship in. It was a single person that drove back to the church again before service began to set up the fellowship/reception area. It was a single person that volunteered to set up communion so the pastor didn’t have to arrive early to do that. It was a single person that was there to open up the church on Wed. nights and get things ready for the mid-week service. (And ironically enough, there were people who attended the church, married with children, who lived on the church property and never offered to walk across the parking to lot to help with any of this.)

I asked him the question, Are not single people entitled to the same respect and dignity as a human being as married people or families? I wasn’t looking for recognition for my actions, I just wanted to know that I mattered as a human being.

To his credit, he apologized for the oversight and confessed he’d never really thought about it since he had been married for so long and a parent as well. After that, everyone in the church was included in corporate prayer.

Having grown up in the church and being over 50 years old, I know how most of the churches I’ve been in view single people. You are incomplete and need to be married/fixed. They form “singles ministries” that are more often than not, attempts at match-making. That’s the church’s way of dealing with single people.

My Bible says that I am complete in Christ, He is the one who completes me, not another imperfect human being. If it were true that another person completes me, we wouldn’t have all the divorce in the church. For the record, I’m completely in agreement with marriage as the Bible defines it, but I don’t see it as an idol that is to be worshipped.

I also find it interesting to note that Jesus Himself defines the greatest example of love in John 15:13 and nowhere in that verse does it allude to spouse, children, other family members, but rather friend. It seems to suggest the 1st point, marriage is temporal, not eternal.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13





24 thoughts on “Singles in the Church: Treated with Respect and Dignity?”

  1. @stillfrustrated

    I didn’t attend your church. But, as a mom with five kids, I just want to say “Thank you” for all you did to serve the families in your church. I remember how awful it was to be single and unappreciated for all the areas I served in. I’d love to invite you out to eat with the fam, and then over to the house to watch a movie or play a game. You are a part of a family- God’s family. Being married doesn’t guarantee happiness. Caring for others is what it’s all about.

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  2. Thanks Julie Anne for caring and taking time to address this issue among the many that are entangled with the broader problem of spiritual abuse.

    I will look forward to reading those links when I have the chance. Just got back from work- contrary to the popular view in church, we who are single do not exactly have a ton of extra time on our hands, if anything, the opposite (grr– apparently I have some residual bitterness about that!).

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  3. Hello. I think I may have posted on your old blog before a couple of months ago about this topic, but it wasn’t until the other day I saw your posts at the old blog about the “Unmarried” movie.

    Prolonged singleness not just a Christian phenomenon. Secular woman are also remaining single longer, and not by choice. They want to get married but are having a hard time finding suitable partners too.

    Anyway, it bothers me that most Christians only notice and pay attention to the 20-somethings who are struggling with prolonged singlehood.

    There are currently a lot of Christian women age 35 and higher, such as myself, who had hoped to be married, but it did not happen, and we don’t know why. Where are articles, books, and blogs for us by these other Christians and pastors? Why is the church not trying to help us older ladies get spouses and they only care about the 20-something singles?

    Almost all the Christian radio shows, blogs, and books focus only on 20-something unmarried women. It’s happening to Christian women above the age of 30, not just those under 30 years old.

    There is definitely way too much emphasis upon marriage and parenting and having children in most American churches and Christian material (books, web sites, sermons,etc), to the point that un-married Christians are usually forgotten or ignored.

    That kind of undue emphasis is contrary to the teachings of Christ who told Christians that their spiritual family (other Christians) are supposed to take precedence over flesh-and-blood family relations (eg Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26 etc).

    Many conservative Christian groups keep complaining about how liberals and so on are attacking “family values” and “traditional marriage,” but these same Christians typically ignore the over-age-30 Christian single women who want marriage. If we admit to wanting marriage to these types of Christians, we are told by them that we are making an idol of marriage, or that we should “be content in our singleness.”

    If these groups are so supportive of marriage as they claim to be, why do they not actually do anything to help over-age-35 Christians get married? Why do they keep trying to silence us by handing out these platitudes (such as “be content,” etc)?

    They can’t be all that supportive of traditional marriage as they say they are, when they continue to act as impediments to those Christians who want marriage.

    I know that divorced people say they feel overlooked by churches, and perhaps they are, but often, many of them have children. If you are never-married, and you never had kids, and are over the age of 35 (such as myself), many Christians and churches act as though there is something wrong with you. In other words, I know you divorced folks may feel overlooked, but you are at least usually treated with less suspicion and odd glances than the never-married with no children.

    I’m a female, but the never- married males over age 35 are occasionally suspected as either being homosexuals by other Christians, or as child molesters. And of course, the never- married Christian males find these stereotypes rude or hurtful.

    (Older, never- married Christian females usually face a different set of negative assumptions than the males do, such as, we must not be married because we are ugly, fat, bitter, have too much baggage, we hate men, we are rabid feminists, etc.)

    Most churches at least have a “divorce care” program, but I’ve seen many that don’t have anything at all for singles of any kind.

    Most churches do not recognize the existence of never- married, over- age- 30: most of their singles classes (if they even have any) are for under-age 29 /still in college /or early professional –OR– for “age 40 and up divorced.”

    Most churches have no ministries or groups for “over age 30/ 40/ 50 and never married”. Most evangelical / Baptist and fundamentalist Christian minds cannot even conceive of any other Christian being over age 30 and never married with no kids – who are still celibate to boot.

    If you are a Christian over the age of 30/ 35/ 40 and are still a virgin (you are still waiting for marriage to have sex), there are no sermons for you, nor encouragement, no applause. Hardly any books or blogs. Most Christians assume you do not exist – most assume all unmarried Christians past the age of 25 are sexually active.

    Still other sources, such as Al Mohler, and some Christian authors, (if they even notice there are Christians past 30 who are celibate) actually mock or insult us.

    We are blamed for being single past 30, as though we deliberately chose to be single this long (most of us did not), and treated as weirdos or failures for being Christian virgins past age 30.

    This attitude of theirs is truly baffling, because these same Christians repeatedly lecture under- age- 25 Christians to remain virgins until marriage – yet they have no respect for Christians who actually are virgins later in life.

    About your original post, by the person who said he/she resented that churches try to “fix” singles by pairing them up. On the one hand, I know what he means and can see how he finds it insulting, but I have the opposite issue:

    Most churches do nothing to help Christian singles get married, and I would appreciate the help, as dating sites do not work for me. Instead of getting help getting paired up, many Christians/ churches tell singles that you can’t use church for that reason, as it supposedly turns church into a “meat market.”

    I think churches should help singles pair up who want the help, but they should show respect when doing so – don’t act as though an un-married person is of less value than a married person until and unless they marry.

    One reason I stopped going to church (and I have several reasons) is how older Christian celibate singles are treated. We’re either over-looked totally, or else subjected to blame, rude assumptions, and insults.

    I am sorry to go on for so long about this, but it is a subject that really bothers me, and most Christians hardly ever notice it or publicize it if they do notice.

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  4. “I’m a female, but the never- married males over age 35 are occasionally suspected as either being homosexuals by other Christians, or as child molesters. And of course, the never- married Christian males find these stereotypes rude or hurtful.”

    Tell me about it. As a never-married Christian man over 50, I’ve heard these stereotypes and worse. Also, I’ve found that older single Christians who stumble and fall sexually can be judged harshly even when they repent and seek to walk in the truth of Scripture. Between that and the tactics of Joshua Harris, Debbie Maken, Albert Mohler, Doug Wilson and company, it’s no wonder so many older Christian singles are leaving the church.

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  5. singleman, christianpundit, RP – – I am so glad to understand the struggles you face, but am angry about it. You will continue to have a place here to sound off. If you ever want to vent, send me an e-mail or post in the comments – – it might result in a post which can help others who are going through the same thing. I want you to have a voice.

    This attitude and treatment of singles is wrong. You should not be treated any differently than me or anyone else in church. I simply do not get this kind of discrimination among Christians. Why is it that I see more “Christian” fruit being shown to singles by atheists than Christians? Something is wrong here!

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  6. Julie Anne,

    I have much to say about singleness (as I was a single Christian for six years after my conversion before I married). But just want to mention one thing here. My church small group is doing the “Financial Peace University” video series by Dave Ramsey. Part of the material is to have an accountability partner in developing a budget. Something he said was very interesting. He said that singles are usually very busy, as they “have to do it all,” such as shopping, laundry, chores, meals, etc., and often have less time left over for other things such as budget making, and they can’t use a spouse as their accountability partner.

    I was stunned because I never heard a Christian authority figure/celebrity make such a statement. It usually has refected the list above that singles are expected to have more time on their hands than they usually do. FWIW.

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  7. @beentheredonethat, thanks for your comment and thoughtfulness. Perhaps there’s a single person in your circle of friends now that you could extend that invitiation to.

    @singleman, I feel your pain and can relate. To make the assumption that a single, never-married man is a homosexual makes about as much sense as assuming that because a man is married and/or a father, he is a heterosexual.

    How many married ministers and music artists have been exposed for engaging in homosexual activity in just the last few years? Interestingly enough, the “church” doesn’t want to talk about that, and it gets really quiet if you bring it up.

    Maybe I’m just simple-minded, but it seems that if we as professing believers would seek to honor Christ with our lives in the way we treat each other by following his example, (the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve) we wouldn’t need relationship counseling, the marriage teaching seminars, etc.

    No matter whether it’s a spouse, a child, a parent or a friend, how about we lay down our lives for each other? After all, Jesus said the one sign that the world would know we are his disciples is by the love we show for one another.

    On a lighter note, I think it was Mark Lowry I heard one time say something like, “For those of you who have a problem with single people, remember when you pray to Jesus, you’re praying to a single man.”

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  8. This is a subject that is very difficult for me to deal with. I am in the process of leaving my Church because of some similar problems. I am 46 and never married, and it’s been one strange learning experience after another. I think hardest part for me is just plain being over looked. I am not the only single person over 35 in my Church and I have suggested dinners, Bible studies etc. but those suggestions fall on deaf ears because we single folk are supposed to just meld in with the family groups etc. and we don’t have anyone to bond with really.

    Not once in this Church have I been invited to someone’s home for a meal, movie or anything like that. There is one sweet elderly couple, God bless them who make sure to invite the single folks out for lunch and I cherish those folks but I always feel like somehow less than the rest of the body of Christ and it’s really awful. I am currently searching for a Church to attend but my hopes in this situation are not too high. I am sort of at the point of giving up on Church.

    I think the hardest thing for me is being very sick the past two years I have had very little concern or contact from people in my Church and it’s hard. No children, little family and no Church family facing major illness really forced me to look at why I attended Church in the first place and I wanted to serve God. It took me about two years to realize there is nothing wrong with wanting fellowship or discipleship and support, I had to get beyond the guilt that I was being selfish in needing more than a sermon three times a week and the fun of warming up a Church pew. Anyway thank you for the place to comment. I see that sadly I am not alone in this.

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  9. Hi Teresa: Thank you for sharing your story. My heart really goes out to you. I’m ashamed of how people have treated our singles. No, I’m more than ashamed, I’m upset. It is wrong. I hope that all who read these stories will make a concerted effort to make sure singles are treated respectfully just like everyone else.

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  10. Thank you for sharing this lovely post, it has been an insight and an encouragement to me, a young single.
    @stillfrustrated; I know it must be hard and you feel neglected/unappreciated, but we singles must also be very wary and careful to not let bitterness take hold of our hearts whilst we are serving the Church. The Church is God’s gathering of sinners whom He has redeemed, but we still have sinful natures and we are broken people- no Church is perfect and people/the congregation will always fall short, we must learn to show the same forgiveness Christ first showed us even though we were sinners. 🙂

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  11. As a Christian single man, I was treated as trash in church, complete utter trash. I’m happily married now but I have a real heart for Christian singles. I wouldn’t trade my years of being single since it made me who I am today and God provided the perfect one for me in time.

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  12. I am late to this party by almost a year. Perhaps that’s because I turned 50 in May of 2013. I have been involved (often heavily) in the church for 30 +/- years but am just now facing my singleness AND my age as it pertains to the body of Christ. Tonight I find myself in deep grief but I’m not exactly sure what I’m grieving about. For the most part I’ve enjoyed my church life even though, at times, I’ve felt like an outsider because my life’s experience doesn’t mirror that of most people (my age). I suppose I am a bit unusual in that I’ve never really wanted to be married and have never seen my singleness as a bad thing. I’ve managed to graciously correct most people who incorrectly assume that I want to be married but it just never “happened”. Now I’m watching people my age enjoying their first grandchildren – something I will never do – and at the same time seeing the preference for youth in the church. I am just not sure what to do with these feelings as I really don’t have people in my life who can identify with these things.

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  13. I ended up in a singles group at a church i just started going to. They asked me to fill out a form which included to my age. After two weeks of “we’re so glad you are here” I was told “We feel it would be more beneficial (beneficial to whom?) that you visit our thirty somethings group. I didn’t know about this. Even though the person ousting me told me that statistically there are less single women after 30, I still had no choice but to leave. I told him “I have no problem going to a bar to meet women if the church will not help” They also stated that having men my age made the younger 20 something girls uncomfortable. Apparently a male over 30 is worth less than a girl of 22 or so,

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  14. Joshua, at 31, I met an almost 23 yo in a singles SS class, who intrigued me not just because she was a Christian and cute, but because during the discussion she contradicted something I said about the passage we were studying, and convinced me that she was right — it was the better exegesis of the passage. It got us out together after lunch, and 20 days later we went together in costume to a class party, and six days after that, she proposed. We have been married 35 years and have two adult children, one grandchild, and two more grandchildren on the way later this spring and summer.

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  15. As a divorce Christian woman I would like to meet a single Christian man. The problem is churches only offer single groups for under 40 and over 65. Every church I’ve been to has specifically forgotten singles in their 50s

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  16. I also am single, served in my church and in a women’s Bible study for years. I don’t mind doing my share of serving but I do resent the fact that others think I have ‘extra time’ to serve and that simply is not true. Since there is no one else to help me at home or help pay for bills I have no choice but to work full time and take care of the house, car, and everything myself as best as I can. I did so much obliging and serving that I neglected my own needs for years. The state of my own home reflects this. I became completely worn out and embittered by that. I finally took some steps down because I was so worn and was too easily angered. I still serve and help out in various ways just not to the extent as before. And as for getting help to meet a christian mate, I would really like that but for some reasons churches are reluctant to do this. Anybody have any ideas why that is? We come to church to grow in faith and for spiritual insight in regards to drawing closer to God, looking forward to our heavenly future, but also to find hope for our earthly future which for many would include marriage. And that brings up another point, have you also noticed that in many churches today there are all these women only Bible studies and men only Bible studies? I feel like they are keeping us separated so that we can’t mingle and get to know a potential christian mate. And that really hurts.

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  17. Very interesting article. I am not single, but I can see everything that you are talking about. I am having a real crisis of conscience lately about going to formal church for various reasons, but one is the at times hypocritical nature of the people. I understand that as long as human beings make up the church there will never be a perfect church. No one is perfect. But, it is really aggravating.

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  18. Hmm judging from what I am seeing on this post the church should be ashamed I mean treating it’s singles particularly the over 35 single male all I can say is this when they leave the church it’s pastor and it’s congregation has no right to bitch or complain.

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  19. P.S. Sorry for the b word but when I see my fellow 35+ singles being treated with contempt it makes me see red.

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