I got connected to a blog for young single adults called Boundless Webzine several years ago (thanks Sara!) and while I am really too old for their demographic, I am continually amazed at how much I still relate to some of the material. An article came up this week that has made me start to think about how I view church and what is important to me as a single Christian.
The article called “Quarantining a Generation” (http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001151.cfm#share) talks about the separation of younger people from older people that is happening increasingly as churches try to keep young people (particularly those under 30) from leaving the church. Progressive, and sometimes experimental, measures are being taken to try a “new kind of church” that speaks to a new generation. And the author of the article states that basically this misses the point of church the Bible has established. And while I can see her point, I am not sure I totally agree.
I have been a single in the church since I was 25. My church caters to families. And for all intents and purposes holds very little for someone like me – never married, no kids. I found my home at the church originally in the music department and then in the women’s ministry. I have been in groups of singles and I have been in groups where I was the lone single. And so I have been involved in intergenerational ministry and I have been “quarantined” as the author puts it. And the truth is neither is perfect. And no one way is the answer for any church.
For all the ups and downs that singles ministry can bring, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. It can be disheartening on so many levels – the ministry is transient, once someone has moved from it to a married ministry it is hard to keep connections, and yes, there is a lack of commitment amongst some young adults to actually even attend on a regular basis. There is also the struggle of singles in different phases of life – which could leave you feeling left out even if you are all single. But I can’t tell you how much I have learned about me and my faith from the friends I have made over the years in singles ministry. And while I can’t say that those connections have stayed in place in most cases, it was a time in my life that was made different and special by them. Knowing that there are people like you, people who for a time or forever, are a part of your walk, is important wherever you are in your journey.
On the flip side, most of my ministry work has been in intergenerational ministries. Many times I was the lone single person in a world of marrieds…or at least the lone single with no kids. And it has been hard at times. I have felt left out, singled out (no pun intended), and at times even pushed out…due to a lack of similarities I had with the others in the group. But, by the same token, I have had some amazing friendships (like Penny) come out of a relationship where on the surface we had not much in common. And again, I have learned more about my faith and about me.
I think churches need both. I think singles – or any minority group in the church – need a place where they feel like everyone else. But I also think that everyone needs to be around people different than them in order to round out your walk…we need the different perspectives and ideas that God has given to us all to make the Body of Christ complete.
One more thing and then I will get off my soapbox…
The author of the article talks about how she was able to enjoy familial type relationships with families in the church…they opened their home to her, invited her to dinner, made her feel part of the larger family. In my ten years at First Baptist, that has only happened once. While churches are trying hard to keep young people from leaving, and to entice single adults to come to church, we as a church can not forget that we play a part in that. It is not solely up to the younger adult to find a place to belong…we as a church need to make sure that we make them feel welcome and loved.