Singles Segregation

I remember the first time I walked into my church 7 years ago. There was a lot of things I liked.  I’m not gonna lie, as a 32 year old single guy, one of those was that half the church was single.  But here is another part I liked, there was no singles group.  Now at first this might seem odd.  But here is what went through my head when I first found that out, “So, we are equal here.”

Now I want to come clean and admit that I’ve never actually been a part of a big “singles group”.  But I don’t see how it helps the overall community of the church.  I’ve never been one for dividing everyone up.  It seems to me that if we want community then we should mix it up, not split it up.  We have so much to learn from people that are different from us in context, age, and every other demographic.

A lot of this stems from the fact that we church shop these days with two questions in mind.  One, are these people like me (affinity church shopping) and two, what are they going to do for me (consumer church shopping).  So what we end up with is a program for everything.  Of course the bigger the church, the more programs. It makes the church less local, and more like Walmart.  So if I’m married with kids I look for the best youth program church.  If I’m single I look for the Church of the Hot Chick. In the process we miss hanging out with all sorts of people.

I guess it is easier if we are all coming from the same place, so to speak, because we have common experiences etc.  I get it.  I just don’t think it’s worth what we lose.  Truth be told many singles like it because it’s a way to maybe meet their spouse.  But what if you don’t?

To me this sort of division makes no sense and here’s why.  First and foremost we need each other.  I recently corresponded with someone who wanted to help single people, but even though their church had a huge singles program they didn’t know any of them. Why? Because they meet in the married small group.  How can we learn from and about each other if we aren’t ever together.

Secondly I think in a way it devalues friendships and frankly singles.  So let’s say I’m in a singles group for three years.  Then I get married, heck let’s take a step further and say my plan of going there to meet a spouse works, and I marry someone from the group.  So now what?  Do I “graduate” to the married group?  Do I leave all my single friends that I’ve spent all this time with?  I mean one week I’m at the singles small group, the next week I’m at a married one?  Really?

What if I’m called to be single?  If I’m 60 and single am I still in the group?  Hahaha, no, now I probably have to lead the singles group – except that all the young singles are scared to follow me for fear of ending up single.  What if I’m a single parent – single parents’ group? Yikes!

I get that it’s hard.  I know we struggle with this at our church.  Someone who is single ends up in a small group with all marrieds and a single person 15 years older than them.  A married couple with kids end up in a group with almost all singles.  Believe me I get it.  But I still think that the value of true cross context community is worth the cost.

Now this isn’t to say we shouldn’t have specific ministry to marrieds and singles.  I think it’s great to have events, forums, studies, and retreats on all this stuff. If you have a study/forum/reatreat on marriage, it will be mostly marrieds that go, but would it be wrong for singles to be there?  If you had a study/forum/weekend on singleness it would be mostly singles who would be there (ok probably just singles – but that’s part of the problem).  But if you are going to study Matthew or Genesis, I don’t get it.  Wouldn’t a variety of viewpoints  be beneficial?

So talk to me.  What has been your experience?  Should we be segregated by marital status or should we fight to be in it together across that status?  Why?

14 thoughts on “Singles Segregation

  1. I strongly disagree that there isn’t a need for a singles group. Maybe if you’ve been single all of your life and have living well single all figured out, then you don’t need support in that area of your life, but for me, finding a church with a singles group that helped singles live well changed my life.
    I got married in college, almost 6 years later had a child, and a couple years after that found myself single again. I never thought I’d have to answer questions like, “How do you date as an adult and deal with sexual temptation?” There I was after 7.5 years of marriage with only married friends and no idea how to deal with being single again.
    I joined a volleyball team and met a fun girl that liked to go out. Through her I met I bunch more “fun people” who like to go out. “Going out” meant bars. That seemed to be the only option for single adults. The people at the bars taught me that “fun” people get drunk, and if you want to date as an adult, everyone sleeps with people that they date. I didn’t like this and knew it was messed up, but was starting to accept that that’s just the way life was, when I visited a married friend’s church that had a big singles group. I visited multiple times and then eventually started going to the singles group.
    I was so happy to find other single people like me who wanted community and friends to hang out with, and they could do so without getting drunk. We’d go out to bars sometimes to dance or have big parties, but people didn’t get drunk. I was hooked. I started getting to know people on a deeper level and I wanted to be like those people. Then I was SHOCKED when I started finding out that these people didn’t sleep together – not even if they were in relationships with each other. I remember the exact moment that I found out that this was even an option. I was having heart to heart with a beautiful 30 year old blond and it came up that she was still a virgin. I tried to hide my shock, but I’m sure it was all over my face. I knew she dated, and she dated attractive guys too.
    The people in this group helped me learn that there are healthy ways to live life as an adult single. I started listening more closely and seeking more information. I was hungry to learn more. One of the leaders saw my hunger for God and started mentoring me. I grew. Eventually I was asked by my mentor to commit to purity and to not getting drunk.
    I seriously don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t become a part of a church with a singles group that teaches singles how to live well single. The world doesn’t teach that, and people who were married young and stayed married, don’t have a clue what kind of temptation is out there. There are very well-intentioned married church leaders who have given me the absolute WORST advice, because they just don’t understand. They haven’t been on a date for 20-30 years or more. Yes there are great things we can learn from people who are different from us, but we also need to learn from people who are like us, and we need to help people who are struggling with the same life stage as we are. Isn’t that why you started this blog? It’s because SINGLES NEED HELP LIVING WELL SINGLE. A GOOD singles group can do that.

    • First off thanks for disagreeing and posting it. We need a little more of that around here. To be clear, here is one thing we totally agree on – There needs to be ministry to singles – the part maybe we don’t agree on is the set up. Also one thing for both of us to keep in mind is that we both go to thriving churches with thriving singles. Most churches are not in that group. So a couple of thoughts and some questions.
      First of all I obviously want singles to live well single. But I also want marrieds and singles to live well together because I think this DOES help singles live better. I think we live in a world where we identify ourselves by what we do or by our circumstances and I think it’s dangerous. That said we need to minister to all sorts of different situations including singles. Where this doesn’t work is when churches don’t address the needs of singles. This is really why we have singles groups, right? Because we never preach about it, or study it, or challenge the thoughts about it, or incorporate their needs into stuff, and most the time we don’t even have a good theology of marriage or singleness. So since our needs aren’t met in the church we have our own group within the church. What I’m saying here is that if the choices are 1. Singles being left out/ not helped, etc or 2. A great singles group – then I would vote great singles group every day of the week and not think twice about it.
      But what I want to see is the church treat everyone with the same importance. I want married people to know as much about singleness as singles know about marriage. I want my pastor to stand in the pulpit and speak on stuff that affects us the same way he stands in the pulpit for six weeks a year and speaks about marriage.
      I have a lot of respect for your all’s group so tell me how you keep it from being segregated. What happens when someone from your group gets married? How do you keep it from feeling like they “graduated” to the married group? Do you have small groups that are mixed? This week I’m in the singles group, next week I get married – what happens the week after if all my deep friendships are in the singles group? How does all that stuff I brought up here get answered in your group? I would love to hear how you all address that because I’m sure you do. How does that work for you guys?

  2. I went to a church with a very large singles ministry. Married people in the church referred to it as the singles youth group, even after we repeatedly pointed out that at the time, the median age of the group was thirty-four, and that the group consisted of doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, small businessness owners, physical therapists, college professors, speech pathologists, financial advisors, and other highly skilled and successful professionals. That’s some youth group!

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  4. I have been approached by my Officer (pastor) to start “hammering out” ideas and a plan to and run / setup a singles “group” or “ministry” or “fellowship”

    I like how I was volunteered 😉

    I told him that I would think about it, I would perhaps give some concrete ideas about this after my week with my ‘boys’ at Boy Scout Council Camp (which is for the boys, but it is MY vacation away from everything as well)

    My ideas at this point. I waver. I have prayed and thought about it.

    IF a group like this was started. I would need a female to run it with me. Someone who is single, involved and a member (soldier) of my church. That will be a challenge. I mentioned it to one fellow sister I see / minister with all the time (yeah I am “friendzoned” with her…asked her out last year) and she “supports” the idea, but she doesn’t want to help run it. She mentioned off-hand “I want to get married, me running a group like this will make it impossible for me to ever date and marry. Everyone will think I have been called to be single. Brother, I have a hard enough time dispelling that myth about me already, me running a group like this, or co-soldiering it….I can’t.”

    For a second I thought she was being a bit daft, and selfish. I wanted to gently “rebuke” and mention to her that we’re “Soldiers in God’s army…..and this is where you need to be. You’re cute, funny, inspirational, love Christ….” and PRAISE GOD that I held my tongue….

    It suddenly struck me that….she was actually “correct”

    People who do run a singles ministry / group DO have that reputation, or it is assumed by everyone…from the members, to the elders, to the pastors that they are “blessed with the gift of singleness.” It may not be the intention, but the impression given to the church family that the person running this “wants” to be single or is “called to be single”

    As I thought about it more, this is a “misconception” common in other churches as well. I have a very good friend here in my town, brother in Christ who runs a “singles ministry” at St. John’s Catholic Church….we had coffee a month or two ago…and I didn’t think about it
    at the time…but he mentioned offhand after prayer “Friend, I am twenty-seven. Ever since I started running our singles group, I can’t even get a sister in faith to have lunch, take a walk, or hang-out.”
    “Well, they must think you’re busy brother.” I said, or something like this.
    “Yeah, but before I started running this, I had a pretty decent dating life, Christ-like
    of course…..and now, no woman can ever go out, or seem vaguely interested in getting to know me.”

    So at this point. I am leaning towards for once “questioning” the orders given me by my Officer. Will think about it more at scout camp.

    • That’s a really interesting situation. On the one hand a singles group does bring attention to a need, and I think has the potential for outreach. On the other hand I can see how it could corner you. As I mentioned here, my biggest thing with singles groups is that I feel like it segregates the body of Christ. I’m more for singles ministry without the group – more how do we care for singles, or how do we think about singleness. In the same way we have marriage conferences, I wish we would have singles conferences. But the group thing is a tougher call in my opinion. My thought is, that if you do lead it, you have to be clear on what is the point, what it’s about, who can come, etc. Very clear. Good luck with that decision.

  5. Our singles group ran into a problem of people marrying, then still hanging out with us, as friends, but then the married girls didn’t want their husbands copying the single guys…

  6. Eventually, the group split up, and actually dis-banded somewhat, kinda hard to find a great group of friends like them, though, so I still hang out, even though most of the people there are dating.

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