The importance of a healthy relationship between married and single NT Christians

OK - just a gentle Pastoral reminder - Christian single people are people too! Those of us who are married need to really work at reaching out in friendship with those who are single. They are just like you and I except without the support of a spouse. Some of them are divorced and carry scars that are deep. Some of them are widowed and carry a different set of hurts. Many deal with the task of being a single parent (wowzers!). Some have never married out of a sense that they should be single (actually God and Paul would commend them in 1 Cor 7). Some are single because the right partner hasn't come around yet. In any case the last thing single people need is the judgmental look from we who are married. Really - they don't have leprosy! One more point - and I will hit this one ever so softly - just because a single gal talks with a married guy does not mean that she is trying to steal the guy from his wife. Also....just because a single guy talks to a married gal doesn't mean he's trying to steal her from her husband. The paranoia here with too many of God's children is sad. The expectation of the NT especially is that we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. Frankly we do need to be careful when sharing Christian love that we are appropriate. The way I say that here at SVBC is “if you kiss make sure it is a holy kiss!” The last point - Christians who are married and Christians who are single need each other and actually help each other in their faith - but only if both groups see the other group as equal in importance and calling. With the growing number of singles in North America, this issue is important and will only grow in importance. This issue is no doubt close to the heart of God.

Straight Ahead!

jt

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

First, we have to deprogram from the high school dynamic, where cliques reign supreme. :/ It would help, IMO, if church programs themselves weren't so segregated. When a church has separate classes and activities for every dynamic, as if youth, singles, marrieds, and seniors are all from different planets, no wonder people tend to stay in their own little corners. They've gotten the message loud and clear to keep with their own kind, because only their own kind can understand them.

Second, it's OK that many of our relationships are with others who have the same interests and lifestyles, but we should purposefully try to create and  nurture relationships outside of our vocations, hobbies, family dynamics, and experiences. It's a great opportunity to learn more about how the Word applies to all of us in doctrine and in principle, and communicate with others from different walks and seasons of life.

Michelle Shuman's picture

I was not married until I was in my 40s and I was and am still frustrated by the "rejection" I've experienced even from people I graduated from college with.  I've taught many of their children in Sunday School and I was "good enough" to teach their children, but not to be their friend.  Even as a couple married too late in life to have children, we still experience the same kind of things.  There is no Sunday School class for us and no real fellowship.  We're "odd."  Most of our friends are in their 60's and 70's or are singles.  We know people our age, but most aren't interested in being real friends.  I know of 2 couples that are currently not in church and I've wondered if there was a class/fellowship that focused on their needs as a childless couple (both because of medical conditions) then maybe they would be back in church. 

Michelle Shuman

Darren Mc's picture

My wife and I met and got married in our early 30s (we met on Christian Mingle). Being a single man in Baptist churches is tough. People want to play match maker or they are concerned that you may be secretly homosexual. Very few (next to none) people really tried to make friends with me for who I was, and with one exception they were all late 40s and up. And that was very difficult because I moved three times as a single man to churches where I knew, in one case, no one when I moved there and in the other cases one or two people. Being married certainly breaks down social barriers (something I truly did not understand before I got married) but why do so many the church need to erect or maintain those barriers? I understand it is much easier to complain than to do something about the problem, but to correct a blind spot first you have to realize there is someone there.

No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD. Proverbs 21:30

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

My wife and I have made it a priority over the years to make friends with singles, have them over, etc., etc.  And to some extent, we have been quite successful.  Although many of them are now married, we are still great friends with them and with a single lady about our age, and we have known her for over 20 years.

And yet, because of the difference in family situations, there is a certain distance between us and singles that doesn't exist between us and married couples.  Since the last nearly 25 years of our lives has been spent with each other, just the dynamic between us, the things that we find important and share, doesn't exist for the singles we are friends with, and to an extent, no matter what we do, they are "on the outside."

I certainly agree that churches do not need to erect and maintain any such barriers, but to some extent, some barriers will exist of themselves.  That doesn't mean that good fellowship and friendship shouldn't be a priority.

Dave Barnhart

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree, Bro. Dave. It is very natural to spend time with people who are 'doing' the same things we are. I don't run many single people at Once Upon A Child or our local homeschool support group.

I think one aspect of the problem with making meaningful connections with others is in being able to care about and 'enter' into the experiences of another person, even when we don't share that much common ground. My dh and I have many young and single friends, older single friends, young married/no kids friends, and older/retired/widowed friends... and we get together and gab like chatterboxes about everything from the weather to the meaning of life. We don't consider our differences a barrier to bonding, because our bond is love, not shared experiences, KWIM? And we rejoice in our differences, because that's what makes life interesting. 

IMO public education has contributed to the segregationist mindset, and it is difficult to break into a 'group' that refuses to acknowledge or respect differences. Which IMO is totally Snoozeville. If I want to talk to myself, I don't have to get in a car and go to Starbucks to do it. In addition, if a person just spends time with others who tend to agree with them and commiserate about everything, then they will never be challenged in any way. Also very boring, but appealing to the intellectually and emotionally lazy. 

Joel Tetreau's picture

So a quick thought or two.

Larger churches often have groups dedicated to reaching out to adult singles. I get that and on one level don't have a problem. On the other hand - if we're not careful all that will do is to continue to separate those who are single from those who are married. A great place to see the blending of the young and old, new in faith and mature in faith, married and single is the small group ministry. In our small group we have all of these different kinds of believers and there is fantastic unity as the group grows together and closer. With most of our churches being smaller than 150 and many of our churches under 80 - a small church can actually have a "natural" unity because of the size of the congregation. At any rate - individuals and church leaders need to be aware of the dynamic that exists between these various "sub-groups."

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Michelle Shuman's picture

I think part of the reason for this "separation" is because so many have the idea that you're supposed to go to college, find your life's mate, and live happily ever after and if you don't then there is something wrong with you.  I'll never forget back in the early 2000's I heard a man preaching and used an illustration of not finding your life's mate in college and therefor life not going as you planned.  His illustration drew laughter from the mostly married congregation.  I was raised in a home where any and all were accepted.  My parents regularly had singles and marrieds of all ages with and without children, divorced, widowed and widowers, etc in our home.    They've had a real ministry to so many. 

Another part of the problem may be that so many families are busy being involved in everything known to mankind and therefore don't have time or don't take time to build relationships with people outside of those that the fellowship with at these "events."   

 

Michelle Shuman

Anne Sokol's picture

I dont have the answer yet, but

i would like to try this idea sometime: 

Can i look at people in our church more primarily as their spiritual gift? I dont' mean to disregard them as a person/personality, but after them as a person, can I see their giftedness and value to our body that light rather than putting marital status at the forefront? 

I really wish churches would try to operate on this level more. What Paul wrote ought to be true for us, that the unmarried can be more devoted to the things of God and how to please Him. It's kind of turned on its head--the married state being held up as the best, more desireable way to get more involved in church. (And yes, being married is the norm, but in the church's overall service, singles ought to be able to be more single-minded to the Lord, in the real everyday life of the church.)

It is hard for churches in the sense that they think they need to emphasize strong families making a strong church, esp with the divorce rate among Christians in the U.S. as high as it is. But it displaces/devalues singles.

And if you think about that, there are probably great ways to make strong families without catering to families, you know? just working towards making strong Christians. 

One example, one Bible study group for women in our church has both married and unmarried women attending, and they just study books of the Bible and have  friendships among themselves. 

pvawter's picture

I'm not convinced that segregation in church activities/programs is really the issue. I've been involved in churches that tried to artificially blend groups from all different demographics to encourage intergenerational fellowship, but any sort of artificial anti-segregation just doesn't seem to work. It goes against the flow. 

Not that anyone has denied this, but there is a reason that singles tend to naturally gravitate toward each other, and young marrieds w/o kids tend to hang together, and older folks tend to fellowship with older folks. We have a natural tendency to draw closer to those with whom we share the most similarity. Beyond that, it is often easier to fellowship with those whose life situation is similar to ours, making our schedules easier to align (parents with school-age children must be mindful of the timing of events on a weeknight, while singles or couples w/o children don't necessarily have the same consideration).

That being said, I think that church leadership must teach and model the kind of cross-demographic fellowship that treats all the members of the body of Christ as equal. I will admit that it is sometimes very difficult for my family to fellowship with some of the people in the church whose life situation is vastly different from our own (we've got 4 kids 5 and under), and not everyone is interested in the same kinds of fellowship and ministry opportunities. As a result, we are constantly looking for new opportunities to encourage fellowship in the body. We also recognize that no one program or activity will meet the needs or appeal to all of the people in our church, so we try to lead by example in diversifying our ministry and fellowship efforts to be able to build relationships will all people regardless of their station in life.

I can't say that I've figured it all out or anything, but we're doing our best in this little portion of WI to connect believers of all ages and stages in the fellowship of the body of Christ.

Rob Fall's picture

maybe in some churches the families are generationally flatter.  In other words, there may not be the multi-generational membership in a church.  I have experienced a flat (each member unit is not related to others by blood or marriage) demographic at Hamilton Square.  But, I experience a multi-generational (three to four generations deep) demographic in the emigre Evangelical Christian-Baptist church I attend in Sacramento.  The singles in the EC-B church tend to be the unmarried sons, daughters, aunts and uncles of the other members.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..