Earlier when I posted about Patriarchal Movement in churches, I received an e-mail from Jennifer who shared her personal story with me. I have learned so much from my readers. When Jennifer shared her story with me, I was saddened and shocked that we, the church, have failed Jennifer and women like her.
What can we do to make single women feel needed and wanted in church? Are singles valued as much as married women? Does God value single women less than married women? Of course not. Yet it seems some churches don’t quite know what to do with them.
A while back, I read about the plight of single women who attend SGM churches. At the SGMsurvivor.com site, I read of single women being told they should be serving families within the church in their spare time – as if their time wasn’t their own. Some singles were taken advantage of because they didn’t have “family obligations”. They were guilted into babysitting (without pay) church leaders’ children, for helping new moms when they brought their baby home. Is this reciprocated when single are sick or need help in any way?
I asked Jennifer if I could share her story here and she agreed. Jennifer is not alone, I am certain of that. Reading Jennifer’s story has made me much more sensitive to the plight of single women in the church. I hope it does for you, too.
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Hi, I have subscribed to your blog via email for a couple of months now. I originally subscribed because I wanted to be sure I found out the outcome of your trial, but I have continued reading because I think this is a huge issue in the church and am encouraged to see how you and your commenters handle the issue.
I wanted to leave this as a comment on your blog, but I don’t know that it goes as far as abuse. The Patriarchal Movement affects single women as much as it does married. I have experienced this first hand and rather than divert the topic of your blog, I thought I would just email you my story and maybe you could address it later, if you think it is fitting.
I am a single, 38-year-old woman. I no longer attend church regularly because I have found I have no place there. Due to health issues, I realized long ago that I would not be able to have children. Without my biological clock ticking in the background, I found I did not have the urgency that most of my friends did to get married.
In my church, both young men and young women of college age were encouraged to build their spiritual gifts. We were trained in leadership and served in leadership roles in our “college and career” group. A number of my friends got married over the course of a year or two. They were told they had to leave our group and start attending the young marrieds group. It was quite the change. All of the women found they no longer had a place to serve in the church as their role was to serve in their families. Luckily most made the transition well. My closest friends’, who had decided they would not be having children, did not do so well. For them, the change in attitude was more apparent. They also no longer attend church regularly.
It is jarring to live in a world where we as women are required to have careers to support ourselves and our families and go to churches that expect us to be good, little women. We have to cultivate our skills, intellect and leadership roles in the real world and then pretend to be spineless and ignorant in church. I am not saying the Bible is antiquated, but I am saying the church’s view of women is. I am the head of my household. The church doesn’t really know how to reconcile that. Because I don’t really have a desire to just be married, I must be living apart from God. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to find a guy, fall in love and get married. But I am not going to say “I do” for the rest of my life to whatever guy comes along. I am attractive and fun to be around; I am also sick of hearing people ask me, “Why have you never been married?” I am pretty sure what they mean is, “What makes you so defective, that no man has wanted you.” No one ever considers the fact that men have wanted me, but I didn’t want to settle. I was taught to have discernment, but am now being punished for that discernment by being ostracized by the church.
I can go to church, but I am forced into bible studies for singles. Because if I am not married, I need to be looking for a marriage or else be treated as a possible home-wrecker. You can dress up those bible studies any way you want to but it doesn’t really matter. Looking for a marriage comes first, seeking the truth of the word comes second, if at all. But until I am married, I will not be allowed to attend a real bible study. Until I get married, I will never fully be accepted into the flock.
Even worse, if I am accepted as a whole person unto myself, I risk losing that identity as soon as I do get married. There are some churches that do accept me for who I am. Those places are even scarier, because I simply have to look at how the married women are treated. I can have respect and acceptance, but only if I remain single.
This is a really long email and I am not sure if I am even making myself clear. I guess the crux of it is this: the role of women in the church is messed up. As long as churches treat married women and single women differently, then there is a problem. And it seems to me that whenever I show up in church, I become a magnifier for that problem. The best thing for me is to be ignored. The worst is to be treated as a project because then people look at me like I need to be fixed or married off. I would just like to find a church that loves me for where God has led me. I don’t really think that is too much to ask, and in theory everyone agrees. But in practice…
I hope that makes sense. I am not the only one. There is a huge population of women that are pretty much ignored by the church. I am not against homeschooling, but I do know that I become very wary the minute I realize that I am in a church where the majority of people attending are homeschooling families. It is like a huge, flashing danger sign to me. I need to retreat immediately because I do not belong there. And I think that it is kind of sad for any Christian to feel like they don’t belong in church.
Thank you for your blog. I realize that my issues are not the ones you and your commenters are dealing with, but it is a safe place for me and I appreciate that.
photo credit: fensterbme via photo pin cc