Myth # 3: Young Christian singles today have an over-abundance of free time on their hands. In fact, their favorite past time is sitting at home doing nothing. (When I say “home” I mean their parent’s home because they probably moved back in after college.) Part B of the myth- It is thus the church’s task to help them mature by filling up all of their abundance of perceived free time. God forbid these young singles should spend time cultivating relationships and pursuing their passions and hobbies. They certainly should not partake in Sabbath and rest.
Contrary to popular opinion, young singles are not just a bunch of bums. In fact, young adults today probably have more things going on than previous generations. They are highly connected and involved with friends, work, hobbies, service. Many of them are working more than one job to make ends meet. I have numerous friends who are working full-time, taking college classes, and are involved in numerous social groups. In fact, as I look at my friends, the problem that I hear emerging time and time again in conversation is not boredom. It is just the opposite. The problem is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to pursue everything they would like to. The problem is honing down and focusing their energies and time.
The struggle is learning which of the million voices calling out for attention we should we listen to and which ones we should disregard. Today young singles especially are being pulled in all sorts of different directions as they try to live up to the standards they hear pounded into them daily by the media. Be attractive, be successful at work, have lots of friends, be famous… The list goes on. Look at the faces in the commercials and on billboards and the underlying message is that if you don’t start now, you will never achieve these things and then your life will be a failure. So they try desperately to achieve these impossible goals as they over-caffeinate themselves with extra large coffee and eat fast food on the go because there’s no time to cook in between events.
It seems to me that the church feeds this unhealthy addiction to doing by perpetuating the myth that young singles have too much time on their hands. The church is out of touch. Instead of trying to cram more events and responsibilities on these young singles, the church needs to be a voice speaking out against the never-ending whirlwind of activity and connectivity. The church needs to uplift a different vision for their lives.
So how does the church do this? Well, it has to start by being a place of peace and rest. I’m not encouraging dull sermons here that lull people to sleep. I’m talking about deep spiritual rest. Our souls find rest in God. Is the focus of our churches on getting through everything written in the bulletin or are we more interested in people experiencing God? Are we trying to cultivate worship in such a way that people can enter into the divine rather than just being consumers? Are we teaching serious spiritual practices that people can graft into their own lives that will begin to inform their lives outside of one hour a week on Sunday. Are we equipping them to listen to the Holy Spirit calling them into healthy cycles of work and rest or are we sending them out into the world without ears to hear?
Do we subtly make them feel as if the ways they spend their time are inadequate because they are not bouncing babies and juggling soccer practice with ballet lessons? If the church community downplays and shows little interest in the things which make these young singles come alive then they will feel devalued. Instead of encouraging them and listening for the ways that God is moving in those non-church realms of their lives, the church assigns guilt and anxiety by articulating through both spoken and unspoken word that they should be spending their time doing activities that better fit into the church’s assumed hierarchy of Godly activities.
In a nutshell, the young singles in your church are incredibly busy. Please respect this fact. Ask them about their lives. Listen to the things they are doing and don’t judge them because they are not doing everything you think they should be. Don’t scoff at their pursuits even if they’re unusual. Look for Jesus at work. Instead of encouraging them to add a few more events on their color coordinated Google calendar, encourage them to do less. Share about the spiritual practices in your own life that have been formative for you. If you don’t have any of these to share, consider this a wake up call. If you begin to look at young singles as adults whose time is just as valuable as your own, then you will be on your way to having a healthy friendship rather than an imbalanced paternalistic relationship.