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single’s ministry

Social Issues

singleness in evangelicalism

happy woman

There was one day in graduate school when I got home from work, went on a very long walk, then I hid in my room, cried, and ate Sam’s Choice vanilla ice cream while I watched Sense and Sensibility. I’m not exactly sure why I felt the need to do that on that day, but the feeling of just being done with singlehood got a little overwhelming. I was lonely, and I just wanted it to be over with. I wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to be happy.

I was only twenty-four years old.

Up until that point, I’d had marriage pushed on me pretty heavily– if you’ve been a Christian in America for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced that, too. GET MARRIED is most likely the dominating message any teenager and young adult hears in evangelicalism.

A few days ago, I read an article that included quotes from two prominent Southern Baptist leaders arguing that Christian adults need to be getting married sooner, and to hell with completing your college education or being financially stable. As always, the biggest concern was oh noes if they wait too long they might have The Sex!

Reading that came after several conversations I’ve had with my small group recently. We’ve got a good mix of single, married, dating, 20s-30s adults in my small group– something that I’m very thankful for. But those conversations have reminded me how very lucky I am. I’m married. When I walk into your typical American church, as a young married woman there’s a place for me. I’m welcome at the wives’ Bible studies, there’s activities and seminars and dinners and classes and picnics and breakfasts and retreats. I fit into the structure many churches are built on– I fit very neatly, very comfortably, into the churchy social life.

Granted, I’m a liberal progressive pro-choice pro-freedom-from-religion Pelagian liturgical universalist thinks-sin-mostly-includes-stuff-like-passive-participation-in-systemic-racism, but hey. I’m white and married. The people who greet visitors when I walk into a church know exactly where to put me.

The same isn’t true for a lot of my friends who are in their late 20s, 30s, 40s. They walk into a church, and the reaction they’re likely to get is umm, well, we have a college and career class! It’s as though you turn 26 in evangelicalism and you grow two heads. No one is quite sure what to do around you. And if you’re over 30 and you’re happy and you love your life and you don’t really care about whether or not you get married?

Yeah. No one knows what to do with that.

Anyway, I don’t really have any thoughts or solutions for this. I’m about to turn 27, and I’ve been married for a year and a half. I was only single for a couple of years before I met Handsome, and while it was not fun and dating was an in-general bore, I lucked out. I don’t have to deal with any of this, although I know it’s a problem.

But, I figured that I probably have plenty of readers who are in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s . . . and are single. It’s something that I think should be celebrated, and I really do think that articles like the one I read a few days ago are completely wrong– devastatingly wrong, in some aspects.

So, my adult single readers– if you’ve been in a church that has been a good fit for you as a single adult, what has that experience been like? What did you like about it? What are they doing well? Or, have you been to a church that felt like you were ignored unless you were married? What ideas do you have to help churches who struggle with their “singles ministry” (gag me with a spork)? What would you really like to hear from a pulpit? What would you want to know as a visitor? Etc, etc.

Hopefully you all know that this is a place for candor and gut-level honesty. 🙂