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Singles and Older | Part 1

March 25, 2010

Aidan: One of the things we’ve noticed is there is loads of content in these posts and because of that, the posts can be on the long side.

Mike: Right. So I suggested maybe breaking them up into two posts and instead of one long post each week, maybe we have 2-3 posts a week, depending on what we’re discussing.

Aidan: So Mike, I’m not going to lie, today’s topic is straight off of some of the questions I’ve been asking in our community and I’m hoping this will give us some insights for how we can move forward.

Essentially, our community is made up of families, mostly people who are Gen X’ers or Gen Y.  So our age range is pretty limited…from an adult perspective we have in the range of 20-40 years old. Almost all of them are married.

So there were two questions that I’d like us to discuss this week:
1) For people who are single, who want to be married but aren’t, and maybe they are creeping up on 30 or 40, how do we deal with the fact that they are single when they desperately want to be married? (that’s today’s discussion)

2) We really don’t desire to be a community that is this limited in age. We would love people who are our parent’s or grandparent’s age involved and central to our community. What might that look like? (that discussion will happen later in the week)

Mike: Well I imagine these questions aren’t just particular to your community but are probably questions many missional leaders are asking…whether they are young or old, single or married. We want a church teeming with the fullness of humanity.

Aidan: Hopefully that is the case!

Mike: As for singles, which is what we’re dealing with today…I think this is an issue we haven’t dealt with adequately in the church for a while.

I think single people recognize the well-meaningness of saying, “You just need to trust the Lord.” I think they know it’s coming from a good place.

But in a way, it demeans them. You’re essentially saying they haven’t been trusting God before then. That can certainly be frustrating. We’ve probably all had experiences where that’s been the case.

There are two things we can point out here, both deal with culture. One way is negative, the other is positive.

1) We really need to recognize how completely wired our culture is for people creating relationships where there is sexual intimacy. In many ways, our culture revolves around sex. For a Christian who knows that God has hard-wired us to experience sexual intimacy within a life-long relationship, living in that kind of culture is so very difficult. It’s erosive on the soul of someone who knows what God has designed but can’t do anything about it.

And our culture puts massive pressure on single people.
Pressure to conform.
Pressure to step outside how God has hard-wired us.

I think we need to say this so it’s recognized. We do a huge disservice to singles when we don’t acknowledge this as reality.

This is the negative about culture.

2)  The positive is that by-in-large, human culture has always dealt with singleness in a certain way (with the exception of Western culture in the past 50-80 years): Include singles in the matrix of the extended family.

Look, singles are part of the family.

When they are part of your family, they feel ownership over helping to raise kids, contributing to the well-being of the family, being a blessing to what goes on in the family. The problem is that there has been a complete breakdown of the extended family in Western culture. If you want to know why there is such moral corrosion in our society, it isn’t the breakdown of the nuclear family; sociologists point to the breakdown of the extended family!

What Sally and I have always tried to do is recreate this extended family. Create spiritual households (in the NT the word for this is “oikos”) and everyone is included in this. Married? Included. No kids? Included. Single? Included.

It’s so important to see that Missional Communities as a place where this can happen and are where people find a place. Missional Communities are simply spiritual, extended families on mission together. They are they “oikos.”

You see, #1 has a lot to do with conversation. We’ve got to recognize and talk about the corrosive and pervasive nature of sexuality in our culture and what it does to our single people. Why haven’t we talked about that?

In #2, we want to create communities from the ground up that embraces and creates extended family. And like anything else…it starts with leaders. If you aren’t doing it, why should anyone else?

If Missional Communities serve as extended families, if they create spiritual households, people will never dream of not having one. Why? Because they have been hard-wired for that. They will never want to leave it.

Aidan: Obviously some Missional Communities could be geared to single people and you end up with a Missional Community of all single people. Couldn’t that aid the problem?

Mike: It depends on how mature the people are.

In the monastic world there is a word…”stability”…that can be lost on some of us. Obviously the monastics were single, celibate communities that were all the same gender. But for them, “stability” meant reaching equilibrium in life; strength, poise, maturity in most, if not all, aspects of life. If you have a Missional Community where there is that kind of stability within the singles, you can create a really beautiful extended family.

However, they may not be in the most “stable” place sometimes, and having a matrix of differing relationships (old, young, single, married, kids) is extraordinarily helpful. I have a hard time when a church puts down hard-and-fast rules on these things. It’s really different for each group of people.

I also think Paul said that single people are key to the mission of God being fulfilled because they aren’t tied down by partners or children. This is rarely talked about with the honesty we ought to have.

Aidan: Well this has been some really good stuff.

Mike: Good! I trust that can lend some help to your community and I definitely think some others out there.

And I suppose later this week we’ll tackle our “older” brothers and sisters in Christ.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Naomi Hill permalink
    March 26, 2010 9:43 pm

    hi Mike
    thanks for these thoughts – helpful for church to hear as a whole… although I wonder what single people can do to take the initiative?!
    love and all
    Naomi

  2. Dan permalink
    March 27, 2010 12:56 am

    There’s also the issue of churches putting a lot of pressure on people to be married so single people can often feel inadequate or unwanted. Even people who are happy with their single status, or at least at peace with it tend to be told the best thing is to be married and they should be praying for a spouse – hardly a way to make people confident. Some churches I know of are much more likely to put married people in leadership roles than single people.

    Another way of making single people feel included is if more people had single folk as godparents for their kids – so many seem to always pick married couples.

    And of course there are single people who are gay and have chosen not to pursue relationships because of that, many of whom may well be closeted – the sense of pressure =to marry must be even worse for them than it is for single straights.

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