Published 1 month ago
Even though I deeply love my church—it supports the vision and values I've always desired in a congregation, plus I've never been so well–equipped spiritually—I was reminded just this week that it's still often a lonely place for me, a single man in my mid–40s. Since almost all my male contemporaries are either husbands or fathers (and, of course, often both), it's tough not to feel ignored. I always come to church alone and usually leave alone.
A couple of weeks ago, however, my cell group leader, who's also an elder in the church, asked me to teach at our twice–monthly Bible study. He even suggested I should eventually consider leading one of my own. Having had few opportunities to exercise spiritual leadership, despite being a Christian for nearly 30 years, I think I needed that affirmation—and thus wonder just how many other single men receive such.
Singles in the Pulpit?
I'm an ordained minister and have pastored churches and taught at a Bible college. But that was when I was married. Now that my wife has died and I'm single again, it seems all I'm allowed to do is lead the singles ministry—and only as a volunteer.
I get very little response when I send my resume for positions of pastor, associate pastor, or even singles pastor. Most churches seem to be looking for a married person to lead their ministries, including the singles ministry. This doesn't make sense with today's demographics. Single adults constitute at least 52 percent of the adult population. When the church doesn't recognize this and make adjustments to their paradigm, they're missing more than half the potential people who might come to church.
Church leaders need to see single people as a benefit to the kingdom, and then build a church paradigm that reflects inclusion.
A Loving Family
I've never had any problems being single in my church. Of course it helps that it's a small church, and in many ways we're like a family. Even though most of the members are married or widowed and I've always been single, I've never felt left out. I sometimes feel I'm almost expected to do more in terms of service and leadership because I don't have a family to devote my time to. Currently I'm the senior lay–reader in my church and have the respect and trust of the leadership.
We do have more female members than males, even though we've had both male and female ministers. I know it's sometimes more difficult to get men to attend church, but I don't really know how to change that. Personally, I consider church the most important part of my life. I just can't see how anyone, male or female, can be happy not knowing our loving God.
I'm a single guy and I attend church regularly. However, recently I've become someone my pastor refers to as "an elevator person," meaning I come in, try not to make eye contact with anyone, and bolt for daylight as soon as the doors open. Over the years I've had some great experiences in leadership positions and as a member of several churches, but overall, as a single man, I'm really turned off by church. I attend every week because I believe God wants me to. But after 25 years of dealing with various churches, I've had enough bad experiences that I'm having trouble making myself take the plunge and really get involved again.
I believe the church is too feminized and that it doesn't challenge men to be what God meant us to be. I've led several singles groups over the years, and I often find myself surrounded by women. I often wind up being relegated to moving tables, setting up chairs, and doing the manual labor. The group priorities seem to be making sure everyone is liked and that everyone feels good. There's no talk about sin or spiritual growth. These groups often feel like watered–down fellowships that differ from secular gatherings only by the lack of drinking and swearing.
As far as challenge, I believe the church is supposed to be an army for Christ, not just a warehouse for Christians. The New Testament often talks about training and discipline. Instead of being a body that's striving to be the best and accomplish a mission, the church is a nice, comfortable place for Christians to hang out and be accepted no matter what they do or don't do. Men and women who do show promise and vision are quickly overwhelmed by busyness, programs, and the sheer number of people who want everything while giving little in return. Working in a secular job, I deal with non–believers all the time. I find they respect me for believing in something and standing up for it even if they don't agree with me. I'm often embarrassed when they see the "cheap grace" that waters down the church so much these days.
As a church member, when I look back over a year, I'd like to see some accomplishment both corporately and personally. Instead, I find most people are content to just survive another year. I'd like someone to come alongside me and tell me where I'm messing up instead of just offering blanket acceptance. It says in Proverbs, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I'd like to go somewhere where I'm sharpened and used for my intended purpose, but in the church I usually feel dull and used up.
Just Another Dysfunctional Family
I've attended a Baptist church for the past five years. I attend church regularly, and I love it. It's my refreshment in the middle of the week and the highlight of my weekend. I've served in various leadership roles in the church, especially in leading short–term missions teams. I find it sexist that I wasn't permitted to be alone in a room with children when I served in the children's ministry—but a single woman is. I understand why this is the policy, but it still makes me bristle.
I'm blessed to have mentors at church, seasoned Christian men in their 60s and 70s who give me career, academic, and spiritual advice. I'm quickly learning that at 42 I need to be mentoring. It isn't all take and no give.
I'm sometimes excluded in church social circles because of my singleness. Couples naturally tend to gravitate to couples. I don't blame them. Some of my male friends get married, and I never spend time with them again.
I believe the church is too feminized. Jesus has been made out to be a Swedish wuss lisping at fishermen to follow him. Women sing to him as if he were their lover—not a husband, a lover. It makes me cringe. Jesus Christ is a king. He woos the church, his bride, but this other stuff is nearly repulsive to the men I know. Half the worship songs we sing in church follow this same theme of "Jesus, I am so in love with you." Do women really believe men think like that? Sure, I love Jesus, but I don't fawn over him. I serve him. I admire, adore, and worship him. Given our collective vocabulary about God and faith, it's no wonder Christianity doesn't appeal to adult single men.
I feel church will always be a source of inspiration and frustration, if we let it. Half of that equation is our attitude. A church is a family of believers and seekers. No one is perfect, especially me. Therefore, there will be problems, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and all the other issues dysfunctional families experience. We just have someone bigger than ourselves to focus on: Jesus Christ. God's Word gives us the insight into how to work through the frustrations.
Singles Group Dropout
One of my greatest disappointments with church is that I felt like a single guy in a married congregation. Church leaders seem to imply that if you're single, you need a ministry to cope with it. I feel our singles ministry would be more aptly named "Singles Anonymous." I find this insulting. And it makes no sense to me how anyone can think a 50–year–old divorcée and a 21–year–old unmarried college student can be served by the same ministry.
When I was involved in this group, I wasn't seeking aid and comfort for being single. I was looking for direction and ministry for being in that 20something and 30something place in life, trying to figure it all out and how I fit into the big picture. These questions don't end when a person gets married. And sure, I want to meet Christian women, but in a setting that doesn't feel like an audition for potential marriage partners. Interestingly enough, some of the coolest and most interesting Christian women I've met have been outside of church, where we're just two people who happen to be both Christian and single.
We're the Problem
I arrived at my current church a little less than three years ago as a result of an interstate move. Because of my outgoing personality, I immediately volunteered as an usher/greeter. This allowed me to meet a lot of people rather quickly, and within six months I started serving in leadership roles of ever–increasing responsibility.
I could've dragged myself into church at the last minute, sat around for a while, and dragged myself out as soon as it was over. I likely would have a negative attitude about the church community had I taken this approach. The great paradox in the relationship between men and the church is that each desperately needs the other, but neither knows how to get together. The church needs strong leadership, while men need to practice being strong leaders.
Singles often complain that they feel left out by the church. I believe this stems from the lack of single men willing to step into leadership positions. We are the church. This means we're collectively leaving ourselves out by our inaction. I'd advise any single man who thinks the church has nothing to offer to get involved.
A Man Without a Country
I'm a 42–year–old single, childless Christian man and a member of a fairly large church. Most of the time I go to church simply for the worship services. On occasion I've participated in the men's ministry as well as the singles ministry. I've noticed two things regarding single men, and not just at my church. First, a mature single man who has no children really has no carved out place within the church. And the majority of the messages and ministries in church are geared towards married couples or single women.
For example, when I attend our once–a–month men's fellowship breakfast, it's interesting that most of the messages the pastor delivers speak to married men and fathers. I hear very little directed at single men who aren't fathers—and some of us do exist. As for the singles ministry, it is predominantly female. Many of those Bible study classes wind up with the single women complaining about the lack of single men in attendance, all the while ignoring the single men who are present. I eventually opted out of most of those ministries and am looking to serve elsewhere in the church, maybe the prison ministry or mentoring.
A Marital—not Male—Issue
I became a Christian when I was separated from my second wife. A couple months later, I found the church I now attend. When I went through my subsequent divorce and bankruptcy, this congregation encouraged, mentored, and ministered to me. I got involved in various ministries both in and outside the church. For the most part, my relationship with this body of believers has been great.
However, I do feel my church focuses only on married couples and families. So my problem doesn't stem from being a single man as much as from simply being single. Every year at the holidays, when divorced people often struggle with grief and awkward family gatherings, the church makes us feel inferior. At the church Christmas gathering, the pastor has everyone gather as families. He tells the single people to find a family to sit with, which implies that we're of less value than families. I've spoken to some of the church leaders about this, but they seem to think this is my problem and that I need to deal with my issues. As a divorced single man, I can't serve as an elder in my church. But if I were to marry for the third time, I would be rushed into a leadership position so fast it would make your head spin.
As we all can attest, we aren't perfect, so we can't expect the church to be perfect. I can still minister and be ministered to, and that's what counts. When I walk into church and the greeter asks me, "How are you?" I can honestly answer, "I'm blessed!"
Published 1 month agoRead more