Carolyn McCulley, author of several books and blogger at Radical Womanhood, was recently asked to write a guest post for John Piper with advice to leaders on how to serve singles. Although it was written especially for pastors, I think it’s applicable to anyone in the church who wants to serve their spiritual family.
I’m sharing the main points of the post, and a brief parts of their explanations. Do yourself a favour and read the whole post.
You are not shepherding a dating service — wait, yes you are.
Churches should have a high view of marriage and uphold it without apology. But church leaders also need to recognize that when marriage is devalued in our culture, that brokenness comes into the church, too.
The church should be proactive about facilitating what God prizes in Scripture. That said, there’s a huge difference between being nosy busybodies and facilitating relationships among single adults.
Marriage is not the ultimate prize.
While I believe all churches should prize marriage and family, I also believe we have to be careful about the unintentional messages potentially conveyed about marriage and family. Both are gifts for this life alone.
The Singles are actually unmarried men and women.
It’s important that unmarried men and women are discipled as men and women and not a generic lump of singleness. Unmarried men and women are no less masculine or feminine because of being single.
Single men need leadership responsibilities.
When church leaders ask unmarried men to take on significant responsibilities, they demonstrate a belief that godly singleness is a tremendous asset to the Body of Christ.
Single adults are not workhorses.
Understand the challenges of endless opportunity.
A wise pastor once told a singles group that because he was a pastor, father, and husband, the boundaries of his day were fairly well-defined from the moment he woke up. He knew his responsibilities and the priorities given to him by God and he didn’t have to spend a lot of time deciding what he was supposed to do. But single adults can think they don’t have those same clear priorities and can be tempted to drift through their days.
Single men trust God by risking rejection and single women trust God by waiting on him.
Encourage single men and women to read Ruth. Not because it’s a matchmaking book (it’s really not), but because we all tend to be like Naomi. We survey our circumstances and think we know exactly what God is doing. . . or not doing.
Don’t be afraid to challenge bitterness.
Extended singleness is a form of suffering. Don’t minimize the cumulative years of dashed hopes for unmarried adults.
That said, we single adults need loving challenges when we have allowed a root of bitterness to spring up and block our prayers to God, our fellowship with others, and our service to the church. Deferred hopes cannot be allowed to corrode our thankfulness for the gift of salvation.
It’s not self-improvement, it’s others-improvement.
Too often our advice to unmarried adults stems from worldly thinking that infects us all. We give advice to improve and equip the unmarried adult to attract better relationships, rather than reminding them they are stewards of whatever relationships they have been given.
It’s not whether boy gets girl. It’s whether we can look Jesus in the eye and say, “Thank you for the time you gave me with this person. I did my best to encourage and pray for this individual while I knew him/her. I loved without fear of loss because I wanted to be like you. So by your grace, I did my very best to build up this man/woman and return him/her to you with thanks for the gift of this relationship.”
I don’t see my blog becoming a place to discuss singleness because, although I have experience there, it’s not the only thing that defines me and my interests. Still, I have a voice to singles, and an ear for young single ladies. With that in mind, I recommend that single women read this post, “Why Pray for a Husband?” also by Carolyn. It’s one of the most succinct, honest, wise articles I’ve seen on the subject.