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?