My rant on singles groups

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Xingyi Warrior, Apr 10, 2004.

  1. Xingyi Warrior

    Xingyi Warrior
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    O.K. Ive got to blow off some steam. I am at the point where I think that all church singles groups are worthless. I am recently divorced and I thought that it would be good if I tried to establish some contact with some people my own age who were experiencing the same things. Boy was I wrong. After the 5th singles group Ive called it quits. I have never seen such a group of ragtag, baggage laden, emotionally crippled, inneffective christian gripers and complainers as I have in the singles groups. I can't stand going anymore. Here are some problems that I've observed:

    1. Singles pastor? Def.- oxymoron.
    I have never met a Single singles pastor who has ever been single in the manner of most of the people in his charge. Most every one met their wives in bible college their freshman year and as a result can never really connect with the people in the groups in a way that allows them to act effectively in ministering to their needs. And a divorced singles pastor? Forget it, although in my opinion it should be a prerequisite for the job as by that point you have run the gamut of experiences that most under your charge have endured.

    2. Groups are too inclusive. The singles group is usually the most diverse group within any church. You have old singles/young singles, single and never married/single and divorced/single and widowed, single and happy(rare)/single and bitter(common), short singles/tall singles....I could go on forever. But they are usually herded into one big group and treated the same application of ministerial licence.

    3. Most people in the groups are not happy. Some may go on for a while and be ok at least in an overt sense, but eventually the pains of lonliness and social exlusion(due to the fact that most churches that I've ever been in are exclusively family friendly)drive them over the edge and they get rebellious and defeated. They're mad cause they're not having sex, spend long hours by themselves, usually have no directional bearing on where their lives are going and, and when all's said and done at the end of the day they come home to an empty nest. I'm NOT judging these people because I understand everything they're going through, but I'm tired of contributing to a church ministry thats apparently not fostering an environment that is beneficial to these people. In fact from what I have observed their whole way of ministering to the group is rooted in repression. The church admin does not want to deal with them so they encourage the members to repress thier feelings or give them a guilt trip by telling them that if they aren't happy "they're not living for God".

    4. Honestly, the Churches I have been in will state up front that the singles group is "not a dating service" but thats what they're hoping for - that people will go in and get something going and move on, thus lowering the population of the churches most pain-in-the-rear population. But its not happening. People get sand-trapped there and give up hope. You've got basically two distinct groups:
    a. The single and happy-waiting on the Lord crowd. This bunch is usually demographically younger and female. But most of the ones that I've had the opportuinity to know think that God has one person in the whole world thats waiting for them and as a result of this divine concoction - he/she is perfect. And furthermore they wont open the door for any possible opportunity unless lightening strikes from the East to the West and the Heavens roll back and God thunders
    This is your beloved mate in whom I am well pleased! Does he do that with jobs? Name me one thing that he's done that with other than Christ himself.
    b. The broken hearts club. These are the most predominant people in the singles population. They carry their cross begrudgingly day after day waiting for that special someone that they believe that God has for them until the burden gets too heavy to bear and secretly harbor resewntment that things are the way they are.

    I'm just tired of it. The missmanagement, thewhole concept is bad as far as I'm concerned.
     
  2. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    So what's your solution??

    And while you are replying answer me this. You say, in my opinion it should be a prerequisite for the job as by that point you have run the gamut of experiences that most under your charge have endured. Adultery? Drug addiction? Where do we draw the line? Why does one have to be involved in sin to ministers to sinners?? I am not sure that is a good approach. Most singles pastors are married for a very good reason. When you are dealing with both sexes, you need people who can deal with them effectively. A singles pastor who is 35 cannot effectively help a single woman who is the same age. There is too much potential for trouble.

    But beyond all that, you offer some complaints. I agree that singles groups can be problemmatic. What are your solutions to the problem?
     
  3. Xingyi Warrior

    Xingyi Warrior
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    Pastor Larry, I don't suggest that having delved into extreme sin be the prerequisite for being a singles pastor. If the person is a pastor(saved) then they are saved and washed clean by the blood of the lamb and what they did before their conversion is a moot point. The point is that when you have gone through a divorce you have experienced extreme rejection and feelings of worthlessness and lonliness that are greater in magnitude then say the average run of the mill person who has not. Oftentimes there is a predominent popultion of these very types of people in a singles group. Most, oh heck ALL of the singles pastors that I know have never been divorced because in many denominations that will bar you from being a pastor. As a result they really seem to have trouble ministering to people in their groups that go through the emotional swings and hardships that result from their situations. The point I made about churches being family friendly doesn't help. I hate to say it but their still seems to be a whole lot of contention over the statement that Paul made about being single as better for the ministry. I think that to take a literal interpretation of it without considering the cultural/historical context is in err for any Christian. In the 1st century when Paul wrote those words, being a Christian had a differrent meaning than it does to most of us today. Back then it could cost you your life, as it can in many parts of the world today, but not here in the United States...yet. If you were a Christian you could be brought up on trial and face a Grisly death for the cause of Christ - a much less traumatic prospect for a single person not having a family to worry about, or a traveling missionary who might miss his/her spouse's companionship in times of seperation.
    My solution? Well thats a complex dilemna and I'll give it a shot, but please feel free to correct me where you see fit or add to what I have said.
    I will start with the observation that most people in singles groups are inherently unhappy. This has been my observation going back 13 years to before I was married and involved in the groups. The whole push from church administration seems to be to be to get these people involved in a "singles ministry" of some sort to allow God to minister to them. But I believe that the largest part of these individuals are not ready for that and end up viewing the prospect with resentment. To a lady who has just escaped an abusive husband, the prospect of being single might be a welcome change. But to a person who has lost their companion/sex partner, friend, and co-earner to any one or more of a host of causes, being single can be a liability. I think in lieu of the fact that most churches are overtly family friendly, singles groups should be treated as a care giving tool to people who are in transition from the single lifestyle in to a married life with a person who is a born again Christian and whose union with will be an everlasting blessing (if thats what they want). I think that less efforts should be in play to herd these people into a ministerial effort and more attention given to providing an upbeat atmosphere where association and bonding is encouraged. Also the effort should extend to inter-church fellowship events that will allow the singles to get a breath of fresh air and mingle with like minded people.
     
  4. Joseph_Botwinick

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    So basically, you think it should be a singles social club? Is that the purpose of the Church?

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    Two things:

    First, the means of dealing with loneliness, bitterness, depression, or whatever may be going on in a single persons' life does not change. The biblical principles are true, whether they come from a married person or unmarried. I wasn't married until I was 33. I was a pastor for five years before I was married and in other ministry positions before that. I did premarital and marital counseling. When asked, my position was always this: THe Bible says what the Bible says. It doesn't matter whose voice it is coming from. So I would say that a divorced person is not more qualified to deal with singles than a married person. In fact, they may be less qualified. I have one of the more lenient positions on divorce on this board. But divorced people often (not always) carry a lot of baggage that prevents them from being an effective pastor. The church is not a place of "I've been there before" but rather a place of "Let's take the next spiritual step today."

    As to singles programs, I think too often they are meat markets where people are tacitly encouraged to find a partner. But not everyone in a singles group is a candidate for marriage. And that must be taken into account.

    If people are unhappy being single, then that needs to be dealt with. Marriage will not take the unhappiness away. A person who is not satisfied being single will not be satisfied being married. Marriage is not better or worse; it is different. Having been a pastor on both ends (single and married), I can testify to Pauls' words in 1 Cor 7. When I was single, I did have a lot more time to put in the ministry. But I was doing it alone. When I got married, my wife lifted a tremendous load in many areas.

    I have thought a lot about singles' ministries based on some conversations over the years as well as my own experiences in singledom. I am always interested in other opinions.
     
  6. freeatlast

    freeatlast
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    Xingyi Warrior
    Most single groups are all you stated and more. They are mostly a hotbed of sin waiting to happen. I have the answer to your delima. Stay away from single groups! You can find the biblical teaching you need from general bible study groups as well as Sunday moring bible studies in a local church.
     
  7. aefting

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    I also got married when I was 33. Prior to that, I was involved in two different types of singles ministries. The first was a college-age Sunday School class at University Baptist Church in Clemson, SC. Our church began an outreach student organization on campus and so the “singles†ministry consisted mainly of outreach activities, organizational meetings and events. Unlike many campus ministries, our church worked hard to maintain a local church emphasis and the highlight of the ministry, as far as I was concerned, was the Sunday School class taught by Dr. Charles Dunn, at that time head of the political science department at Clemson (now a dean at Grove City College). He was a perfect leader for our group because of his Christian character, example, and love for college-aged students. We had a small but intimate group and, honestly, I owe much of my current spiritual character to the iron-sharpening friendships that I developed during those years.

    After graduation, I moved to Maryland and joined a church with a different type of singles ministry. In this church, the singles included both college AND career type people, even those in their 40’s. We didn’t have a special class (or leader) but we did socialize together quite a bit. I enjoyed that but at times there was frustration in the group that resulted from trying to appease the needs/desires of the wide range of singles. The best part was the fellowship that we enjoyed.

    I ended up leaving that church to join another. This time I was the only single in the church (besides elderly widows). They, of course, did not have a singles ministry. The key to church life is to find a place of ministry and serve the Lord faithfully in it, regardless of any special programs for my “situation.â€

    Looking back, I remember many nights coming home from church and feeling lonely. That is part of being single. I think finding a good roommate can be helpful in that regard, but roommates can bring in their own set of problems. [​IMG] In the end, you have to be content with God’s plan for your life. His way is perfect and He makes no mistakes.

    Whether it is wise for a church to have a formal singles ministry depends, I think, on the demographics of the situation. I don’t think it is necessary but I can see where it can be helpful. I would do it if adding a special ministry class helps those in the class connect more effectively to the overall ministry of the local church. I don’t think the leader needs to be single or whatever. The main qualifications are godly character, Scriptural understanding, and a love for the people to which he is ministering.

    Andy
     
  8. jshurley04

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    To a certain degree, yes! But it should be one that allows the integration of the single to the whole church family and not exclusive to singles only. It should be a way to provide singles with an avenue to find Christ and allow Him to meet their needs. Ministering to some groups is much like finding a mate in that there needs to be a friendship and bond built first so that when the truth of scripture is presented it is accepted as coming from someone that person can trust.

    The idea that all singles are the same is repulsive, there are not any two groups that are the same. Single divorced is different from single since birth. This single divorced recently should be handled differently than the single divorced ready to move on. Each one is a separate ministry and as a single group they should be a part of the same department within the church, but each should have their own time together just like the Jr. High and High School kids in the Youth Dept. Each group is at a different spiritual and mental/emotional level than the other and cannot be treated the same as the single from birth waiting on God's audible voice to say to consider thinking about calling to get to know to see if that person might possibly be willing to entertain the idea of getting to know each other to the point that the prospect of further relational development may possibly take place. I have a sister in law here in town that holds that mind set.

    This is one of the areas in which the way we do church and the way we live our beliefs needs a good swift kick in the groin and then an upper cut to the face. After that drag it off to the plastic surgeon for a remake. The stupidity about the way we have preached certain doctrines and held to them like a pit bull holding onto a steak is partly to blame for this particular problem. We seem stuck in a time warp of 1950 in which we see the world and minister to the world the way it was then, and when we are slapped with reality, we recoil with shock and shout our stupidity even louder.
     
  9. Joseph_Botwinick

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    Would you please show me from scripture where it says this is the purpose of the Church?

    Thank You,

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  10. Xingyi Warrior

    Xingyi Warrior
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    Pastor Larry, I wholeheartedly agree with you on most of your post and it was very enlightening but I do take issue with the above statement. Job was right with God but he was (pardon my French)misserable as hell in being so until God removed the affliction from him. I believe that if God sends you the right person who will thoroughly complement you then you will be happier than otherwise. I will probably take lots of flak for this next statement but here goes. I was married for 9 years. My wife and I were largely incompatible and most of the time our relationship was stressfull. But it had its high points now and then and if asked to choose between the 9 years of mostly not happy marriage and 9 years of being single, I would take the marriage. Why? Beacause to have had something is better than nothing which is what you get in a single lifestyle. I think that with your background Pastor Larry that you would be a very good singles pastor. You were not married until 33 which meant that you spent a large amount of time alone and probably can deal well with and relate to those people in question. Nearly all of the singles pastors I know met their spouses during or shortly thereafter their freshman year in bible college and were married after graduation. They don't have a clue what its like to be single in the sense of what a large percentage of any singles group does. The same reasoning would hold true if I were to counsel a rape victim. I can offer them general, anecdotal advice but when it comes right down to it - I don't know what they've been through and hopefully I never will. But as such I would not be able to reach out and bond with that person, gaining their trust and establishing a relationship where I could really minister to them, as someone who had been there.

    Joseph Bostwick wrote:
    The church has many purposes the first and foremost being the edification an exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ through praise and worship. Last year a family in a local Church lost everything they owned to a sudden fire. The church banded together and raised money and helped them to get on their feet again until the insurance matters were settled. So is it the Church's purpose to act as a Red Cross to members in need who are unfortunate and hurting? You bet it is or should be. And that reasoning transcends into other areas as well. Churches who take care of the needs of their congregations are generally successful and people who attend do so because it is a welcome distration to the toils of having to live in a Godless society most of the time. I don't think the concept of a dating service or "social club" as you put it is appropriate but if we can't enrich ourselves through the "assembling together of ourselves for his names sake" then what are we going for? We could all build a small Chapel in each of our homes and worship God without ever seeing or coming into contact with anyone else and still get the same experience.

    aefting wrote:
    I like that idea. I hold fast to the assertion that most modern churches that I've had the pleasure/displeasure to attend set up too many roadblocks that, if not there, could possibly contribute to a more productive experience for everyone. In the last singles group I was in most of the people ranged from 32 to 50 years old. There was a younger college and career group for people in their 20's. I recommended that there perhaps be an activity that would combine the two groups and allow them to mingle and provide the opportunity for us all to get to know each other. This was shot down in a hurry and I was informed that the Church neither approved or disapproved of the open association of people from different groups but that the existing structure was in place to insure that people of "like needs" were grouped togather with others of the same. Like needs? How the heck do they know what my needs are? I have a friend who has been married to his wife for the past 8 years. They are both born again Christians, have 3 children, and are active in the in church. So? Well, Christina is 12 years younger than John. John told me once of how God showed him that he had prepared Christina for him and united them in marriage - a marriage that has been a blessing to them, their families, and those around them. But under the current structure in the last(and many other churches that I've been in) they could have met and married as they did, but it would have been going against the grain. I don't think thats right to impose those kinds of sanctions against people as many churches do.

    jshurley04
    I could not have said it better. Your whole post was right on the mark and very truthful.
     
  11. Pastor Larry

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    I would attribute Job's problem to his attitude change that resulted in a sinful attitude. Early on, he was resting in God's sovereignty. The longer it went, with the help of his "friends," he developed a bad attitude towards God. When he repented of that, he was fine.

    I have always said that God told Satan he could take everything but his wife and his life. Job probably wished he would have taken his wife before it was over with ... She was a thorn in his side.
     
  12. aefting

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    I'm sorry but that's not true. Nothing on earth is as miserable as hell. Nothing on earth hurts like hell.

    I know these comments are off-subject but I would suggest that we not trivialize hell with statements like this.


    Back to the subject . . . I heard a former military helicopter pilot say that being married is like flying attack helicopters. It's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than to be in the air wishing you could get safely to the ground.

    Andy
     
  13. Xingyi Warrior

    Xingyi Warrior
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    aefting

    It was just a figure of speech. I didn't mean to offend you with it. I don't view everything in a literal sense but tend to forget that others often do.

    Pastor Larry,

    Job was primarily angry because he had been afflicted and in his view had done nothing to warrant such a trial (kind of like a lot of singles I know). Job rejected the advice of his friends but I believe that his attitude was in part due to the fact he was misserable both physically and emotionally (why is God putting me through this? Sound familiar). As to Jobs wife, yes she was a thorn in his side as my X could often be but in my situation, not nearly as much of a thorn as being single.
     
  14. jshurley04

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    Shure,

    It is right after that passage on how to properly organize a Sunday School and just before the mandate of Wednesday night services. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  15. Joseph_Botwinick

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    I am guessing your sarcastic answer would imply that you don't think scripture should play an important role in the purpose of the Church?

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  16. SaggyWoman

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    Dear Warrior;

    I feel your pain. I am single, never married, and I hate being lumped into "singles" groups. Honestly, I have only participated in them because I wanted to participate in something I didn't have to lead myself. Often I have found many group trying not to be "meet Markets" but how can you whe your married friends tell you to go to church to meet a man?

    WHAT--EVER!!
     
  17. SaggyWoman

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    And, too, sometimes I go because I need to socialize and I am told that as a happy go lucky single, I should not hang with marrieds because it may make them want to be single again. I gotta have someone I can share dinner with in those lonely moments.

    But singles groups isn't always a cure for loneliness.
     
  18. amberrose

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    whoever told you this is talking out their hat...when i was still living with my hubby we had loads of single christian friends...why??we enjoyed the fellowship...and no it didn't make us want to be single(I'm 'single' now but for a whole differant reason)
     
  19. Pastor Larry

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    Wasn't that a joke?????

    As for Job, in chapter 2, he started off fine: The Lord gives and teh Lord takes away. That is the proper attitude to have. But when his friends got involved and starting talking about Job's problem, Job became self-focused and that is where his problem came in. Early on, he didn't understand but was comfortable in God's sovereignty. Later, he began to be upset. But that is a side issue.

    Single's groups can serve different purposes. Before I became pastor, I was at a church with a fairly active single's group. Usually twice a month we were at someone's home after church for a get together. Usually, on at least one of hte other weeks we were out a a restaurant. We would have Saturday or Friday night activities every month or so.

    They can work in a variety of ways. One of hte biggest problems, IMO, is the tremendous age span involved. When you have college age thrown in with mid 40s people, that is an issue.

    But like everything else, a single's group is what you make it. If you build good relationships and have good Bible studies, things are better. I don't think there is an easy answer ....
     
  20. Xingyi Warrior

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    I would like to know what your solution to this problem would be Pastor Larry? Would it be better to divide to singles groups along arbitrary age lines? How would you go about fixing the problem without overtly encouraging the kind of infrastructure that most churches avoid. I would say that the age span is the foremost issue in singles groups. One singles group I was in had a pretty wide gap as you describe and there was a lot of resentment on the part of some of the more mature ladies who were angry that many of the younger women were recieving most of the attention from the men(both young and older). It was clearly a stumbling block to the group, but also to be expected. As to the Job issue you are probably right and it was a bad analogy on my part and in all, not really relevent to what were discussing.

    Its really a no-win situation Saggy Woman and thats partly the reason why Singles groups end up being so inneffective. If you haven't already noticed, online Christian dating services have, in sheer numbers, far surpassed secular ones. There is clearly a problem with Christians meeting people and establishing relationships. I don't think the problem is isolated to the church, but one that exists in our culture in general at this point and time. I remember when I was a child living in a rural area, I knew by first name neighbors up to six miles away. I had no problem stopping by their houses and asking to air up my bike tire or for a cold drink of water or tea and they were happy to accomodate me. Now people don't even know the names of their neighbors who live on the other side of the wall in an apartment complex. Community spirit in our culture is a thing of the past and gone with it are various social support mechanisms that traditionally helped make peoples' lives a whole lot simpler. One of them is the institution of matchmaking. Matchmakers were usually one or more people who were family members or friends that were mature and experienced enough to recognize potential compatability between two people and facilitate the introduction process.(I'm not making this up either there was a big story on it in a major publication about 6 months back)Matchmakers would bring together people who would otherwise not meet or even know or recognize the availability of another single person who was looking for or needed companionship. Studies have shown that marriages that were facilitated by this process were quite successful based on the low divorce rate of the group who identified themselves as being introduced to their mates by a friend or family member. Gone also are the community events such as dances and socials that were greatly responsible for gathering people and providing the atmosphere were potential matches could meet and associate. In fact where most couples of yesteryear identified themselves as meeting their spouses in a social or recreational setting, a growing number of couples today are meeting them through association on their jobs or other business functions.

    I don't think that your hanging with marrieds will have as much of an adverse affect on them as it will on you. There is a great disparity in the lifestyles of singles vs. marrieds and it's easy to become jealous and resentful of the arrangement that your married friends are having vs. your situation. Marrieds and singles, with respect to lifestyles, just don't have a lot in common. And as a single you have a much greater and frequent need for distraction and activity than do your married counterparts. This becomes an issue when you want to go do something and they cannot because of the obligations they have to their family. As I said before I think many churches exacerbate the problem by throwing a guilt trip on singles and thus, end up portraying them as second-class citizens or congregational members. To me telling a single person such as yourself who is lonely and hurting that they are not happy because they are not in right fellowship with God would be the same as telling a person with terminal cancer that the reason that they are the way they are is the same and if they were in right fellowship they would be healed. How callous.
    Honestly I think that if a single person is tired of their lifestyle then there is nothing wrong with actively pursuing what you believe will make them happy. We are told by most churches and singles groups to wait, wait on the Lord. But do we wait on him to bring us a job and sit back on our rear ends and never get out and apply and hope a representative from a major corporation shows up one day and offers us a position at $50,000.00 a year? Of course not. And I think that given the current situation as evidenced by all the turmoil and dissent that a change in attitude of how we and our churches address the situation could be in order.
     

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