When I was in Portland, I went to a church small group for a while. About 20 of us came every week. I went to the group for a few months and then I stopped going. Not because of my schedule or personality conflicts or anything like that. I stopped going because the only social events for the women were wedding showers and baby showers. And I realized that, as a single person, I would always be celebrating other women’s lives, but if I never got married and never had a baby, no one would ever celebrate mine.
When I say that I left the small group because of wedding and baby showers, it sounds like I’m either selfish or a really bad sport. But I can honestly tell you — I didn’t feel uncharitable towards these women. I didn’t feel jealous or envious; I felt left out, like the group was unconsciously discriminating against me.
It was like working for catering company where you are always expected to serve food to other people, but you never get the chance to eat food yourself. How long do you work in that environment before your starvation drives you to find employment elsewhere?
The only time people come together to celebrate a single person, plan a reception and give money and flowers is at that person’s funeral. Seriously. We have to wait to be celebrated until after we’re dead.
My dad is a pastor who has overseen many small groups in the past, and he and I had a great conversation about this over Christmas break. He asked me what I thought the solution was, and these are the things that came to mind.
In order to understand what single people need, we need to first understand the point of community. If we follow the culture’s lead, we’ll slip into default mode. We’ll throw showers for engaged and pregnant women, and the only people who will get meals brought to them are people who have just had a baby or a major surgery.
I think a bigger vision of community is to realize that we’re here for each other to reinforce what is present (gifting, opportunities, children, marriage, etc.) and to fill in the gaps for what is missing.
It may very well be that what’s missing in married peoples’ lives are things like childcare. Which means that single people can help watch the kids so the parents can take a nap or go on date night or run errands without interruption.
But single people have gaps in their lives, too. Here are some ways to fill them.
We need to be supported. We need people to process major decisions with, since often we’re the only one making them. When we are thinking about changing jobs or buying a house or getting a new car, we need other people to walk through the process with us. When we have put in an 80 hour workweek or we’re stressed about a major project, we need to be listened to and encouraged.
We need to be celebrated. The idea that no one will gather around to celebrate us til we’re dead is disheartening, sometimes downright depressing. When I bought my house, I would’ve loved my church to throw me a housewarming party. (As I always say, “Singple people need kitchen stuff, too!”) When I got a job promotion, I would’ve loved for the group to take me out to dinner.
We need to be served. As I said in an earlier post, I would’ve loved for people to bring me meals when I was exhausted from a whirlwind of speaking engagements. I would’ve loved for someone to offer to take my car to get the oil changed or bring me groceries or to do something for me so I would get a break from having to do everything myself.
We need to be included. Don’t assume we have a place to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas. Invite us to join you if we’re not able to celebrate a holiday with our family. Invite us over for dinner on a random weeknight to eat with you and your kids, and maybe even get the chance to do bathtime with them or read them to sleep. Invite us to your kid’s baseball game or birthday party or other family events that we often don’t get a chance to participate in.
In the next post I’m going to talk about promoting unity over affinity in the church. But for now, I want to hear from you! What are some ways your church has supported you or let you down? Anything you think I missed from the things I listed above?