Why Married People Need A Singles Sermon Series

Recently, I was asked by a pastor friend of mine to help him consider how to handle singleness from the pulpit and frankly throughout his church.  I of course said, “Read my blog – duh.”  Just kidding.

First of all, this man should be commended for taking it on and asking questions (not just of me).  I’ve written before about how your pastor probably doesn’t get it.  This is how one gets out of that situation – because anyone can get it.

Now I have some thoughts on what a sermon series on “singleness” would look like.  I’ll share some of that soon.  But one of the things I think a pastor runs up against if he wants to talk about singleness from the pulpit is that most likely the majority of his audience will be married.

This is one of the good reasons that churches do marriage sermon series.  They are trying to help people who are married.  And they know if they do have single people there, that most of them want to be married and therefore might be able to gain something from it.  In fact as I’ve written before – as a single you really should pay attention to that sermon series.

But the problem comes when this same pastor wants to talk about singleness.  How does he “sell” that to a mostly married crowd?  Today I’m going to tell you exactly how I’d do that.  In other words, I’m going to tell you why all this stuff we talk about here should be important to married people in the church.  Very important actually.  There are many reasons, but here are a few – in no particular order.

For starters, most married people, have single friends.  They work with single people, live down the street from them, sit next to them at church.  Married people need to know how to best minister to these people – and not from a place of superiority.  I think there are a lot of married folks who want to care about their single friends but don’t know much about it.  Learning more would help.  In the same way that I tried to learn to minister to my married friends (and even challenge them) even though I wasn’t married, married people need to do that as well.

This leads to a secondary point.  50% of American adults are unmarried.  Most of those people (as in literally most) don’t go to church.  So if we are going to invite a friend to church, there is a good chance they will be single.  If we are serious about reaching out into the community, learning how to think about singleness and the Gospel is pretty key.

Another reason married people need this information is that many of them entered marriage under wrong premises.  Yes the marriage sermon helps here.  But so does the sermon about not being married.  When you knock down all of the spiritual platitudes that we tell single people (God has someone for you, hasn’t brought you the one yet, is waiting for you to be ready, save yourself for marriage, etc.) we also help married people who are struggling in their marriage because they believed in those exact platitudes and now they are being let down by them.

Let me promise you this.  If a church did a gutsy sermon series on the unmarried and the Gospel, they would rock a lot of married people’s worlds.  In what would eventually be a good way, some crap would hit the fan.  Not only that, but there would be some marriages that are struggling in which by the end of this series, they would become committed to figuring it out.  They would be thankful.

Talking about singleness in all it’s forms, also reminds married people, that yes, you are in a covenant relationship for life, but your identity is not in that.  You were created unmarried and will be resurrected unmarried.  Not to mention, that talking about the holiness of celibacy also raises the holiness of marriage.  When we look at both together we get a better picture of the Kingdom.

Further, most married people will also become (or already are) parents.  If I had a church with a lot of parents of adolescents, I for sure would want them to know the stuff we talk about here.  Because how else are they supposed to help their kid walk through it?

Parents need an accurate view of what is going on out there.  If all they know how to offer their kids are the spiritual platitudes that the church throws out to the unmarried, they are setting their kids up to fail – and possibly fail hard.  It is vital that parents understand as best they can the scene today and all that goes with it.  The more they understand the better they will be able to advise, comfort and hopefully guide their children.  I don’t think this can be overstated.

Finally, and maybe most important, many of the things that we need to talk about with singles, have just as many (if maybe different) implications for those who are married.  The Gospel is the Gospel.  Switching contexts won’t change that.  Just like I’ve heard pastors say in a marriage sermon, “Single folks this applies to you” they would be saying, “Hey married folks, this applies to you.”

 

 

 

How To Survive A Marriage Sermon

As a single person it’s easy to feel a lot of different things at church.  You can feel marginalized, left out, treated as less mature and worst of all lonely.  People forget the amount of guts it takes to go to church all by yourself.  Now often single people are invited by friends but for example when you are single and you move to a new place it takes some courage.  You don’t have a partner to go with.  I know, I’ve done it.  Same thing with checking out a small group.

But there is nothing that can bring out the bitterness, loneliness, or venom like the Marriage Sermon or worse – the Marriage Sermon Series.

I will admit that there have been times in my 20+ years of singleness that I have skipped those weeks.  Usually for one of two reasons.  Either I was hurting at the time and didn’t want to think about it, or I just figured there wasn’t anything in it for me.  That was wrong.

So today I want to talk about how to survive a Marriage Sermon.

Let’s first acknowledge that a lot of churches screw this up when it comes to singles.  One way is to not acknowledge us at all.  It’s like they just kind of assume we aren’t in the room. Another way is they often throw in a spiritual platitude or two without actually addressing it. This to me is actually worse.  Things like mentioning the gift of singleness without actually talking about it, or saying that we need to know this stuff for the time when we will be married.  AHHHHHHHHH.  Drives me crazy!

But we need to show up and here’s why.

First there is a difference between a sermon (series) on marriage and one directed solely to marrieds.  Most in my church are the first.

This is important.  Regardless of where we are going to end up, married or not, we need to have a right theology of marriage.  We need this because if we don’t understand marriage, how the heck will we understand whether or not we want to get married.  The more I understand it the more I can determine if I’m called to do it.

Secondly, it’s not just about you.  A lot of our friends are married (please see my posts pleading with you to be friends with married people) so it might be a good idea to know what they are going through.  If we are going to live in community (and for that matter the world) we are going to be interacting with married people.  Whether in community or on mission if I’m going to love married people well – and we are called to love people be they married or single – then having a working knowledge of how that all works would be key.  We like to talk about how the church often doesn’t seem to let us lead married people.  Well, what wisdom will you offer them if you don’t seek to understand marriage?

Thirdly, a lot of marriage issues have to do with selfishness and relational issues.  Hmm, I’m pretty sure we have those.  We ought to be able to pull some stuff out of those messages that could help with our friendships and other relationships.

Another big point is that a lot of marital issues ultimately stem from the colliding of two stories.  In other words marriage has the potential to bring out a lot of wounds from peoples’ pasts, relationships, and upbringing.  I think as a single person it is easier to hide these wounds (which can often be in the way of getting married in the first place).  So maybe, just maybe we could think about how our upbringing and wounds affect us as single people.  This is huge.  Why not face that stuff now?

This is one of the great advantages that marrieds often have.  What most of the people I know who go to marriage counseling take out of it is stuff that is wrong with them, be it wounds that need to be healed or sin patterns that need to be stopped.

I don’t know what the ratio of married people to single people in counseling is but I’m willing to bet it’s pretty high on the married side.  I promise you they are not more screwed up than we are.

I think we need an attitude adjustment here.  Look, I get it.  It can hurt.  It makes us realize what we don’t have and in fairness the church needs to figure out how to do singleness sermons (series).  They are wrong to not address it specifically.  But that doesn’t mean we should skip out on what they are doing right. So go and listen – for your own heart and for the hearts of others.