Proposal for Singles Ministry

September 7, 2003

By Bill Baldwin

Definition

In order that there not be any confusion, I would like to write down the definition of the term "Single". I will divide people up into three sets. The first is the set of all married people. That is, people who are living together as a married couple. Second, I would define a set called children and youth. These are those people who are living with, or otherwise currently dependent on their parents for their physical and emotional needs. The third set is single persons. These are those people who are not dependent on their parents, and yet are not living in a married situation.

Each of these groups are not as clearly defined as one might initially think. For example, married people would include those persons living together who do not have the legal contract of marriage. At Singles Reunion last year it was pointed out that there are some people in the church who live together as husband and wife who are not legally married due to restrictions on Social Security. That is, a widow and a widower are living together, and would like to be married, but if they did then their Social Security would be cut off and they would not be able to maintain a household.

Similarly, children and youth probably include everyone up the the age of 18. However, some people have been married younger than that. In addition, some people get well over the age of 18 before they leave home. Indeed, I know of one person who is considered mentally incompetent, and will probably never leave the care of his parents, except to enter an institution.

Similarly, "Single" is somewhat vague to mirror the vagueness above. Anyone not in the first two groups is defined as Single.

For the purposes of giving a definite definition to this vague term, I will use a working definition of single as being anyone over the age of 18, and out of High School, who is not married. Due to potential conflicts with the young adult ministries, this age may be raised to exclude that group. (It is well known that many members of this group are single, and usually the sensitivity of this group is such that this is taken into account.)

Problem

Currently, more than half the adult population in the United States is single. This should indicate that there is a need for ministry to single persons. Normally, this ministry would be supplied out of the normal personal ministries of the church.

Single individuals have many problems that are unique to them. These may or may not be met by the current ministries of the church. Some examples are:

  1. Counseling ministries. This does not refer to psychological counseling which should be left to a professional, but rather to the ministry of presence. That is, a single person has more danger of becoming lonely, or just being in need of having someone to talk to.

  2. Childcare. If a person is a single parent, then there is a need for childcare that does not exist in a marriage. That is, if, for example, a child is sick and a trip to the store is needed, a married person can ask their spouse to watch the children for a bit. Not so for single parents.

  3. The need to meet other single people, particularly other single people who are members of the church. While there are some people who are single by choice, this is only a very small percentage of single people. The others would appreciate the opportunity to meet other single people in a social environment.

  4. Ministry to physical needs. If someone is single and sick, it can be very difficult to attend to even simple chores such as preparing meals, for example.

  5. Education. Some single people need education in "Courtship and Marriage." At the Singles reunion this year there was a Courtship and Marriage class that was one of the better attended classes.

  6. Advocacy. Single people need an advocate. Often programs in the church inadvertently exclude single people, and there needs to be an advocate to insure that this does not happen, and to educate people to the existence and needs of single people.

In addition, there are some special needs for single people who are recently divorced or widowed. This can include such things as grief Counseling (this was also a class at the Singles Reunion), supplying a place to stay for someone who is temporarily homeless (these could be people you've known for years), help in dealing with legal issues, finance, etc. Some of these ministries could be beyond the capabilities of the local congregation, and may require referral elsewhere.

Dangers

The biggest danger in supplying this type of ministry is the creation of an "us vs. them" dynamic. Good singles ministry should lead to integration of the single community into the life of the church in all aspects, and certainly should not impede that integration.

Any time that new ministry is proposed there is a danger that this might take resources away from existing programs. Resources include money, personnel, building resources, etc.

There is a danger of singles ministry being viewed as just a ministry to a particular group of singles rather than to single people in general. That is, often the term "Singles Ministry" has been viewed as ministry to divorced people over the age of thirty five or forty. This proposal is for a singles ministry which encompasses all ages and situations.

Current Alternatives

Currently there are some singles ministry programs.

Central Field Singles

(Currently this is maintained as a ministry of the Tri-stakes mission center, and technically does not encompass Olathe.)

Most notably, there is the "Central Fields Singles" program in Independence. However, that is more than a 45 minute drive from the Olathe church. This distance would preclude the possibility of any real personal ministry to any of the needs mentioned above.

This ministry consists of social get-togethers about once a week. Therefore, to be truly active one would have to travel to Independence once a week, and at times twice a week. This is a lot of time in the car.

While this ministry does supply the opportunity for single persons to meet other singles (number 3 above), all the other needs mentioned above are not addressed. In fact, there are only a relatively small number of single people who take advantage of this ministry. I believe that they would consider a meeting where 20 people showed up as being well attended despite the fact that the there are literally hundreds of single people in the Central Field.

Other congregational Singles Ministries

There are other congregational singles ministries. I recall a congregation in Independence that I visited once that had an active singles ministry. I am not aware of a congregation closer than Independence which has a singles ministry.

Singles ministries in other denominations

The need for Singles ministry has lead to formation of singles groups in other denominations. While I am not aware of the situation in Olathe proper, I know that the Village Prespeterian church maintains an active Singles Ministry near where I live. I have attended that ministry of couple of times, and will base my views on that ministry.

I will note that I have seen other churches advertise a singles ministry.

When I attended the ministry at Prespeterian church, I noted that they meet once a week on Tuesday. Usually there are several hundred people in attendance. There is program, which may contain a mixer and a speaker. Because of my hearing problem I had trouble with the mixers, but I would think that anyone could easily be overwhelmed by the number of people that they would be expected to meet.

In addition, there was some other activities planned for smaller groups. This included a bowling event that I attended, but there were many other events. This event had more like fifteen or twenty people attending.

There was an invitation to join them on Sunday morning. It appeared to me that they had a separate service for Single people, and, certainly, there was a minister who had a job as a full time singles minister.

Again, this answered the social needs for Singles probably better than the Central Field Singles. However, none of the other needs were met (although, I suspect that some of the counseling needs may have been met by the full time minister. I was uninvolved in this, however.)

Also, this is viewed by them as a missionary outreach. That is, they view it as an opportunity to convince people not currently members of their church to join.

Solution

I would propose that we adopt a singles ministry program for the Olathe congregation. This ministry would be patterned after the Youth ministry program rather than existing Singles ministry programs. There must be a core of people interested in, and willing to devote their lives to singles ministry. I would suggest that this core needs to be at least 5 people, at least two of whom are single. I would hope that at least two of the persons would be married.

  1. The ministry would watch the programs of the Olathe congregation for those instances where Single people are being needlessly excluded from the congregation.

  2. In addition, the ministry would be available in those instances where personal ministry (as defined by the committee) may be needed.

  3. There would be a social program. This program would involve social events in which the needs of single people are particularly addressed, but might also involve the married community, or even the youth as appropriate.

  4. The singles program would be available if there is immediate needs due to congregational members who are newly divorced or widowed.

  5. Classes in courtship and marriage could be offered. (There are books on this subject.) Roughly speaking, this is equivalent to the congregation offering a "marriage enrichment" class (I believe both have their place).

The major difference between what I envision and the current single program is the involvement of the married community in the program. By doing this, there should be less of an "us-them" atmosphere, because this would actually bring the two communities together.

I would hope that this would not overlap existing ministry in the congregation. Of course, if social events are planned, then it may be necessary to coordinate that with other social events in the congregation.

Involvement of Married persons.

There are many places in this ministry where married people could be involved. In fact, there are some places where married people could provide better ministry than single persons. For example, when I was first divorced, married friends supplied me with a place to stay when I was really homeless, and needed to keep my whereabouts hidden due to my ex-wife's vengeful actions. In addition, married people gave me food when I did not have work, and could not reasonably expect to find work due to the stress of being divorced.

It is much more effective to have a courtship and marriage class taught by a married person who understands what it is like to be single rather than a single persons. If it were taught by a single person, then it would have to be taught as a seminar class (that is, the teacher really doesn't know the subject either).

Much of the counseling that I suggest above could best be done by married persons who understand the problems faced by singles rather than a person who is single.


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