Jesus was pretty happy and he was single…
What do we do with all those young single folks in the church? Well first off in good Presbyterian fashion I need to define “young.” Contrary to current trends I will not form a committee decide the definition! Now I know I might offend some people here, but for the sake of our discussion young does not include those in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m talking about college student and young adults who are done with school and just getting their lives and careers started.
As soon as people in this demographic walk into the church without a ring on their finger or a significant other by their side, the church starts salivating. I mean lick your chops and start calling your great cousins who were in the Christmas pageant as kids, because come hell or high water the church is going to fix this problem. Start up the rumor mill and the gossip column because now everybody has a new project. It’s matchmaker time!
So back to our original question- what do we do with these singles? Well we giggle if we see them standing near someone of the opposite gender who is remotely their age and of the opposite gender. We comment constantly on their singleness and ask if they are seeing anyone. We do just about whatever we can to make them feel uncomfortable in their current state while pretending that being married is always perfect and blissful. Last but not least we try to set them up at the local Christian singles group. We don’t send them to go be a part of a group of believers so they can grow in their devotion to Jesus Christ because that’s clearly not as pressing a need as them finding a spouse. I can attest to this from personal experience.
Shortly after college I found myself in a new city with no friends. I went to numerous young adult groups and was amazed at the lack of interest in Spiritual growth and the intense relationship feeding frenzy that dominated the group dynamics. Bible study and worship had merely become excuses to meet new potential partners. After a while I just sort of gave up hope of finding young people my age who were more serious about loving Jesus and wrestling with what that meant than trying to find their perfect soul mate.
It’s sad, but unfortunately it’s incredibly true. The church in its push for family values has overlooked its long history of celibacy and has made singleness out to be an illness that needs to be cured. To be single is to be less than whole. (Because God knows that everyone who is single is lonely and miserable and everyone who is married is neither of those.) Singleness gets a bad rap. When was the last time you were in a service that celebrated young adults who were choosing to be single for the sake of God’s Kingdom? I don’t know about you, but I have never heard one in all of my church going days.
We have to stop. Now. We wonder why all the young people are disappearing, and yet when a few show up at our door we belittle them and force our agenda onto them. We parade them in front of the church and make them feel like they are lesser Christians and try to be sneaky in setting them up. Seriously! What are we thinking? They are single. They are not stupid.
We need to encourage them in their singleness. Challenge them to pursue God with passion and devotion in this season of their life in ways that they might not be able to do if they someday get married. Mentor them and teach them. Support them if they feel God is calling them to a life of singleness. Help them to wrestle with what that call means and why God would be leading them down such a path. Don’t sabotage them and think you know what’s best for them. Please don’t try and live vicariously through them because the romance in your own marriage has faded away. Please don’t belittle them because you equate singleness with youth and immaturity. That is unfair and untrue. This is the church not a season of the Bachelor! Put down your Christian romance novels and see that God is calling them into a divine romance with himself. He is their Bridegroom filled with unconditional life-giving love for them. He is enough!
So what do we do with all the young singles? Don’t define them by their singleness. Don’t try to fix them. Don’t pity them. Love them and help them be transformed more and more into the image of Christ and allow them to do the same for you. Help them fall in love with Jesus and find fullness in him. Empower them to live out God’s vision for their life. Honor their courage.