I have ridden the contentment roller coaster in my years as a single woman. I have felt enfolded and I have felt like an outsider. I often asked myself (and others) that famous question, “What’s wrong with me?,” buying into the world’s perspective on value. Recently, I have been part of a few conversations on singles in the church. When asked what the church can do to encourage and welcome singles, I’ve found that answers are as varied as those who answer them. Part of my personal response comes from an observation years ago at a women’s Christmas event. I heard one lady say to my friend “I don’t get to talk with people on Sunday mornings because I’m chasing my kids around.” Light bulb moment! “I’m not the only one who feels it is hard to connect on a Sunday morning.” Have you experienced the “everyone else has a friend, spouse or someone to talk to except me” feeling?
This sense of identification with another woman—in a totally different stage of life—helped me to not feel so different. Relationally, I’m much more of a small group person anyway. (Confession – I have avoided those large group women’s events and retreats at times out of fear of feeling left out.) So, I decided I could remain disappointed or I could do something about it. I started to invite small groups of ladies to my house for brunch. Those times are enjoyable for me because it is an opportunity to use my God-given gift for hospitality and get to know others at the same time. To my surprise, it also seems to bless other women! Sitting around a table sharing our stories, we are not moms of little kids or singles or stay-at-home moms or working moms or empty-nesters. We are individual women getting to know one another. (And don’t get me wrong. While I do enjoy having people over, there are still moments when I long for someone to extend an invitation my way.)
One of my favorite people living with autism is an amazing musician. Recently, she mentioned in her blog about someone coming up to her after a concert saying “I can’t believe there is anything wrong with you.” I often wonder how many people think of singles in a similar way: “I wonder what is wrong with her or him.” I’ve heard that very few internationals and refugees have been invited into an American home. I wonder if the statistics for singles are similar. In disability ministry, we encourage people to look at the abilities in a person rather than their disabilities. The body of Christ is made up of many parts, different parts. As Christians, and members of this body, I believe we have a responsibility to welcome others into our circles, our churches, our homes— whether we perceive that there is something “wrong with them” or not. After all, what IS “normal?”
Practically speaking what does it mean to enfold a single person into your life? Sometimes that means families extending a welcome to singles. If you aren’t sure, ask someone on your church staff for suggestions as to whom you might invite to join your family at home or at an event. Are you afraid of conversation being nonexistent? Invite at least one other person you know who converses easily with people. When I host people at my home, I first try to line up a single or couple who can function as host/greeter while I am finishing food prep. I realize you may be thinking ‘you don’t know my family—I don’t have time (or energy) for one more thing’. Sometimes it simply means being aware of the person sitting or standing by themselves at church. What? You didn’t notice? Pray for God to give you eyes to notice. You might be amazed at what a simple smile and hello can do as you pass in the hallways. You could even invite them to sit with you in church. This is a great opportunity for families to model care and compassion for their children, instilling the 1st Corinthians 12 “body of Christ” image in them at a young age.
What a blessing we can be to one another as singles and families mingle together, share life together! Celebrating the joys together and bearing one another’s burdens together. (Galatians 6:2)
There is no “one size fits all” answer to how to minister to, encourage, come alongside singles. What might work for me won’t work for the next single person. I do think “being” is an important part of “doing”, not just doing something nice but being the light of Christ to others. I do have some ideas to get you started…
- Pray!!! Pray for God to open your eyes to see those in your congregation and community who you could encourage. Pray for discernment regarding how to encourage. I expect you might be encouraged in return.
- Be yourself! Your house doesn’t have to be perfectly organized and clean. (Sometimes I vacuum after I have people over.) Your kids don’t need to be perfect either. If we invite people into our homes as we are, they will be more likely to feel comfortable as they are. Not once did someone come back to me and say “your house was so orderly/disorderly when we came over”. People did come back to me and say “That time you invited us over, that was such a nice time.”
- Listen! Ask others to tell you their story. Have a few questions in mind or an activity or game in mind to fall back on in case your guests are quiet. (If you know ahead of time that they are quiet, consider inviting another single or couple to enhance conversation.) One of my favorite questions to ask any woman who is not single is “what do you think you’d be doing with your time if you were not a wife and mother?”
- Invite your single friends to join your family for social events outside your home (hike, picnic, bowling, lunch, concert, sporting event). This allows for conversation but doesn’t require it.
Heaven includes all types of people regardless of our marital status, economic level, abilities, race, etc. As the body of Christ, I believe we get a little taste of Heaven when our relationships here on earth reflect this diversity.
Cheryl has been in a ministry support role for the past 20 years, both overseas and in the U.S. Currently she serves with Engaging Disability, one of MNA’s missional partnerships. She enjoys coming alongside others, whether it be in ministry, encouraging through hospitality, or serving where there is a need. Three years ago she moved back home to Lancaster, PA where she is a member of Wheatland Presbyterian Church. Her hobbies are an odd assortment that include baking, cooking, jewelry-making, watching sports.