Friday, December 30, 2005

The Psychology of Deafness

November 15, 2005

When talking about the “psychology of deafness”, perhaps the first questions that must be asked are: “Is the state of being deaf pathology, or is it a culture?” Does this distinction matter? In either case, does the description, “psychology of deafness”, apply?

The definition pathology that best applies: “a departure or deviation from a normal condition.” The “normal condition” of humans includes having a sense of hearing; any deviation from this norm, such as deafness or “substantial hearing loss” falls under this definition. If we want to, we can conclude that deafness is pathological.

On the other hand, the Cambridge Dictionary Online gives us one definition of “culture” as “the way of life of a particular people, esp. as shown in their ordinary behavior and habits.” Do deaf people, collectively, exhibit behaviors and habits that set them apart from hearing people?

When answering this question, it seems helpful to refer to people who cannot hear as either deaf (lower case “d”) or Deaf (upper case “d”). People who consider themselves “Deaf” see themselves as part of the deaf community (or culture) and regard their state as a way of life. Much like an ethnic identity, their culture is not something that they need to have “fixed”.
Deaf people use sign language as their primary means of communication and frequently as their “native language.

People who are “deaf” do not consider themselves culturally “Deaf”, though they may socialize with Deaf people. The “deaf” (in English speaking countries) use English or a form of signed English as their primary language and view themselves as part of the hearing world. The deaf see their deafness is primarily pathological (a deviation from the norm), rather than cultural.

To the Deaf and the deaf, it matters. The deaf see their state of being as an interference with normal communication and learning; by extension, their deafness interferes with life in general. The Deaf see themselves as a group of people with a common language, and for whom vision serves as their primary means of interacting with the world. There is nothing “wrong” with them, they don’t need “fixing”; hearing people are visitors to the Deaf world, not the other way around.

For some deaf people, this distinction feels awkward and difficult; they feel excluded from both the hearing and Deaf cultures. The hearing culture finds it difficult to understand the deaf; few hearing people understand “sign” and a deaf person with verbal skills may be difficult to understand. Deaf people who read lips may find it hard to keep up with conversations with hearing people.

The Deaf care deeply about their culture and protect it from “outsiders”. We can easily understand this attitude – if we look at deafness as a disability, certain prejudices develop. As with all disabilities, there is something wrong. When people are treated as if there is something wrong with them, they react in kind. When Deaf people are treated as “disabled”, they respond.
I have learned from deaf people that I know that people Deaf from birth often see people that have lost their hearing as a sort of “second class citizen” of the Deaf Culture and people that can hear are even lower on the “social scale”.

A woman that works with me told me that she had dated a Deaf man. They would have his friends over and many of them would not even look at her, much less interact with her. She belonged to the “hearing culture”, not the “Deaf Culture” and they were not going to let her in. She eventually quit dating this man because he (understandably) would not give up his culture and his culture refused to include her.

K.M., on a Deaf Culture web forum, wrote: I am a hearing person who has been interested in the Deaf culture for many years. I learned some ASL years ago, and practiced it off and on, but didn't have much contact with the Deaf. One day in Walmart I passed a man and his wife who were signing to each other and I made the sign for "Excuse me" since the row was narrow. He stopped and asked me if I was Deaf. I said no, but I knew some sign, but he just waved me off and made a sign I've been told means "lousy", and walked away. I was crushed! I hadn't meant to offend, but clearly the fact that I had the audacity to use his language to speak to him was something I had no right to do in his mind.

A dear friend has a father and a stepmother who are both profoundly deaf. His dad began losing his hearing early in life and his stepmother lost her hearing totally as the result of an illness. They relate how they have been included in social events for Deaf people, but then are excluded and snubbed when it becomes known that they both have verbal skills and neither one of them were born deaf.

Clearly, a “Deaf Culture” exists and guards itself carefully.

If we consider the definition of “psychology” as “the study of human behavior and mental process”, does the state of deafness mean observable differences in behavior and mental process?

In other words, do the behaviors of non-hearing people (Deaf or deaf) appear different from those of hearing? Clearly, the answer must be, “yes.” Deaf people use a visual language, versus the verbal language of the hearing. Hearing people rely on sound to alert them to activity or conversations around them, deaf people rely on sight and touch. Deaf people find it extremely rude to break eye contact during a conversation, hearing people not so much. Hearing people might whistle or call out to gain attention, deaf people tap, wave, touch or even switch a light on and off. These different behaviors are easily observed.

Some research indicates that these different behaviors don’t necessarily indicate different mental processes.

The human brain uses different parts of the brain to process sight and sound. The prevailing view has been that speech and sound are critical to the organization of language in the brain. But two studies conducted by Laura Ann Petitto, a psychology professor from McGill University, challenges this view, suggesting instead that the specialization concerns patterns rather than sound.

In 1991 Petitto published a paper in Science explaining that profoundly deaf infants, when exposed to sign language from birth, begin to “babble”, using their hands, at the same age (seven and ten months) hearing babies begin to use vocal language, a “syllabic babbling stage.” The deaf infants began using single “real” words at about eleven to fourteen months – the same age that hearing children begin using single words.

In fact, the deaf infants using signed language matched the hearing infants using speech milestone for linguistic milestone. Petitto said, “The question this raised was: How is it possible? If language acquisition is so dependent on speech, how could the profoundly deaf children be matching the hearing children milestone for milestone? The only way it could be explained was if there was some common mechanism at work for both spoken and signed language."

This led to the second study, by Petitto and Robert Zatorre, a neuropsychologist from the Montreal Neurological Institute. Consisting of 22 individuals, 10 of the people were hearing and had no experience with signed language, the other 11 were born deaf and used only signed language. Positron Emission Tomography ("PET" or brain-imaging) was used to study the blood flow in the brains of these people.

The research team made two remarkable discoveries. The deaf people processed the highly specific parts of language (words and parts of words) at the same specific brains sites as the hearing people processed words. Even more remarkably, the processes took place in brain tissue that had been regarded for over 100 years as used only for processing of sound.

This discovery led the research team to offer a new look at the “system” of language processing. Rather than being “programmed” to understand only speech and sound as language, our “human computer” may recognize patterns - highly specific patterns that are common to the language of sound and to sign languages.

The “planum temporale” area of the brain, until this study, has been believed to be a type of sound processing tissue called “unimodal”, meaning that it performs only one function. The planum termporale is much larger in the left side of the brain than in the right side in both right and left handed people. Interestingly, 94% of chimpanzees studied at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York share this characteristic. When a person hears meaningless sounds in spoken language (such as la, ba, ta), the brain processes the sounds in the planum termporale. Petitto’s study discovered that the brain activates planum termporale in deaf people when they see meaningless hand movements that are part of sign language. These findings reinforce the finding that the brain processes both spoken and signed languages in much the same way.

There are (expected) differences in language processing between the brains of deaf people and hearing people as well. Petitto’s study showed that deaf and hearing people have increased blood flow to language portions of their brains, the deaf people also showed increased blood flow to primary visual areas. Since they use a visual language, not verbal, the brain must recruit different areas of the brain for language processing that hearing people do not use.

We can establish that hearing people and Deaf/deaf people alike can choose to see deafness as either pathological or cultural. For hearing people, this choice has an impact on how they relate to the deaf and Deaf. For the Deaf and deaf, they can choose to see themselves either as part of the “Deaf Culture”, or they can choose to see themselves pathologically “outside the norm” (having something wrong with them). This choice can have a great impact on how they view themselves, their abilities, and how they interact with others.

We can also establish that some in the Deaf Culture choose to exclude those who are different than they are (either not born deaf or being hearing). We see this same tendency in many cultures; White Culture, Black Culture, religious cultures of many varieties. The fact that some people in the Deaf Culture mistreat those who do not fit in may only serve to tell us how they act like people in other cultures, not how different they are.

The “Psychology of Deafness” also shows how similar deaf people are to hearing people. The way we process language is important to our humanity, and the finding that the way these two groups of people (deaf and hearing) are so similar in this brain process is more significant to our alikeness than our differences.

My conclusion is that (as with most cultures) the more we learn about others, the more we see similarities, rather than differences.*1+0&dict=A

Adult Christian Singles: Conclusion/Works Cited


Two places should fully accept every member that walks in; family and church (there are a few exceptions to being accepted – being single is not one of them.) If nay person walks out of a church service feeling lonelier than when they walked in, a problem exists. When a single adult walks into a church and sees nothing relevant to his or her own life situation, a problem exists. When a single adult walks out of the church and away from the bride of Christ because he or she feels disenfranchised by the church and pastorate, a problem exists. A problem exists in many American churches today.

The final question (that has been asked before): “Does the church find single people worth the effort?” Shouldn’t the church find all of God’s children worth the effort to minister to them, in the way that they need, right where they are? To what extent will the church invite, pursue and embrace single adults, the fastest growing mission field in the United States today? Only the church can decide.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine…you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:10)

Assemblies of God(USA) Official Website
Barna, George. Single Focus, Understanding Single Adults. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003
Christian Connections Ministries
Christian Reformed Church of North America.
Duin, Julie. “Why Singles Boycott Churches.” Breakpoint Online (This article is no longer available online)
Dupont, Marc A. Toxic Churches. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 3004
Johnson, Jeff. “Singles’ Group Calls Marriage Benefits ‘Discrimination’.” CNSNews
September 23, 2003
Kamstra, Doug. A Single Focus. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications
New American Standard Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: World Publishing, 1995
Sacks, Glenn. "Convicted Murderess Can Get Custody But Decent Fathers Can't."
September 19, 2003
Sacks, Glenn. "Many Divorced Dads Struggle to Remain in Their Children's Lives." June 5, 2003
United Methodist Church
Unmarried America
United States Census, 2000
Widder, Wendy. A Match Made in Heaven, Grand Rapids, MI Kregel Publications, 2003
Willow Creek Community Church
Young Widows and Widowers

Monday, December 26, 2005

Adult Christian Singles: Options for Singles Ministries


What the Church Can Do For Singles

The diversity of the singles population requires that any singles ministry reflect that diversity. A multi-faceted singles ministry can be built around the spiritual, emotions, physical and fellowship needs of the singles involved.

In a typical week, only one of three single adults attends a church service (Barna 86). About 30% of all singles have not attended a church service other than a holiday or special event within the past six months (Barna 93). Even among singles who consider themselves Christians, many are walking away from the church. In order to understand how the church can meet the needs of singles, we need to understand why they are leaving the church in the first place.

“We live in an age where the commutes are long and leisure time is short, “Duin writes, ”Singles, like everybody else, do not like to waste time nor suffer fools gladly. I’ve seen the same pattern all over the country; committed evangelical Christian men and women in their thirties and forties who have had it with their family-centric churches and who have quietly slipped out. They have put in their twenty or more years of service to their church and have gotten little or nothing back.” If churches do not make themselves relevant to the lives of single adults, church attendance will continue to dwindle, even as the singles population explodes.

The answer to the question, “What does a singles ministry look like?” is not simple; it depends on the church and the singles that attend. Single adults want to be integrated into the church as a whole, to be included as servants and as recipients. They also want to have peer support and fellowship to meet their particular needs as singles (just as seniors, women, youth, etc., want to meet together.) DivorceCare© and GriefShare© (both from Church Initiatives) are wonderful examples of the care that many newly single people benefit from. A single adult should be able to worship fully, help to teach, organize and minister – and yet have that niche where he or she can meet with others with a commonality; where they can all understand each other more fully because they have been there.

George Barna defines six pillars of the Christian faith that form the basis for healthy Christian development: worship, evangelism, personal spiritual development, resource stewardship, community service and fellowship. Christians (married or single) often see this list more like a menu – choosing one or two of the more comfortable areas and developing those, resulting in incomplete believers (75). When this happens, they have a lopsided view of Christianity that enables them to continue with their lukewarm beliefs. Helping singles identify and develop each of those pillars will help them make a major leap forward in their walk with God and become better servants within the church.

Single Christians, like all Christians, need an active prayer life. Like all Christians, they need intercessory prayer and the opportunity to pray in small groups and (if needed) to be taught to have an active individual prayer life.

Single adults who are entering the church for the first time, or who find themselves in a new life situation and serious about God for the first time, will need to have an opportunity to study God’s Word. They will benefit greatly from having a small Bible study group with a guide written by single adults. Singles, especially new singles, need to see the “dots connected”, to be taught how the entire body of Christ fits into God’s greater purpose. Until they have a chance to dig deep into Scripture, they will continue on the path they are on, ever hearing, never understanding.

Programs or Bible studies that address the unique needs of each group of singles involved in the ministry should supplement the universal needs of singles. Smaller churches can network together to form sustainable groups.

Younger people (either in age or spiritual maturity) may still be searching for significance and may be working their way toward discovering their place in the church. Younger adults who have never been married might need assistance learning how to relate to adults (married or single) as adults. Only a few younger adults (especially singles) have developed a significant understanding of Barna’s spiritual pillars and should have the opportunity to study and put what they learn into practice (Barna 130). The more mature Christian can offer experience and be valuable role models to celibate teens.

For the divorced person, life can be a wild ride. They can feel physically exhausted, emotionally drained, financially strapped and spiritually confused (Barna 131). Any person working in a ministry to divorced people, especially newly divorced, needs to have a deep understanding of the stress in their lives. At times, divorcees need plenty of space and other times they may want to cling; they want direction and support, but also want control. Those who minister to newly divorced people should not expect much enthusiasm about church involvement. The divorcee may have already felt the contempt of those “Christians” who look down on them because of their divorce.

Many widowed people live at a pace all their own. Typically older, they may choose not to be a part of a singles ministry at all, preferring to fellowship with “senior adults” rather than more active, younger singles. They do not want more responsibility, control or conflict. They may wish to help out with a ministry, but not run it (Barna 130). Younger widowed people may identify more with divorced people in their age range and should be encouraged to join whatever group (or groups) they feel most comfortable in.

Some singles do not want a segregated singles group at all; they want to be completely bonded to the mainstream of the church and get their “singles fix” some other way. Others want to be connected to the heartbeat of the church, but also want a smaller, more intimate group of single adults with which to fellowship. Still others would like to be part of an integrated small group, but have social opportunities for singles. In a church that cares about singles, all can be available. The church can facilitate the gathering of singles but should be careful not to make it appear to make it mandatory. The list of activities that can be geared toward single adults or be sponsored by a singles ministry is endless, and the list will vary from church to church

Many of the goals of a targeted adult singles ministry are universal to all ministries, but some are particular to singles. A sample list of “Goals and Objectives for a Singles Ministry” reads:
  • Recognize singleness as an acceptable lifestyle.

  • Equip single adults with necessary skills to live productive lives.

  • Minister to single adults during times of crisis.

  • Help single adults become integrated into the local church ministry and family.

  • Help members of the church family see single adults as family members.

  • Provide single adults a place of service to minister to the church family.

  • Develop support structures within the church to meet the unique needs of the single adult and single-parent family.

What Single Adults Can Do For the Church

Dick Schmidt says:
Singles ministry plays a vital role in the life and development of our church. It is viewed that way from the top down. Our elders view the singles ministry as vital for at least the following two reasons: 1) It is a key entry point into the church. Many people who are now in leadership…came through the door of our singles ministry. 2) As a church we believe…that every individual has spiritual gifts. Everyone is challenged and encouraged to nurture their God-given abilities to serve others…People who are part of the singles ministry have the opportunity to develop into strong Christian leaders…In fact, one of the stated goals for the singles ministry is that it be a leadership development center. A significant part of our church leadership is made up of single adults. They play a vital part in the life and growth of this church.” (Kamstra 4:8)

A targeted singles ministry can have an immense impact on a church. While there are many single mothers on the verge of poverty (or beyond), there are also many single professionals who bring education, skills and “sweat equity” to the church. Single adults have much more to bring to the church than filling the nursery or Sunday School duty that is typically open to them.

Susan notes that before any person can feel truly accepted, they must first feel truly useful. An integral part of a singles ministry should be to offer opportunities to serve the church in a wide variety of ways. If the church reaches out to single adults and gives them equal opportunities to serve on committees, boards and councils, singles will reach out in kind and become an involved and satisfied part of the church.


Adult Christian Singles - The Church's Response


Do We Need a Singles Ministry?

George Barna challenges, “Now that you know many of the complexities of singles and just how challenging such a ministry might be, are you asking whether nor not ministry to single adults is worth the effort? (If you’re not, I suspect you’re not paying attention!) (133)

churches paying attention? How sensitive are churches to single adults?

American churches exhibit more sensitivity to the needs of families, the elderly, children, teenagers and the poor – and less to the needs of minorities, non-Christians and singles. The church’s sensitivity to families gets the highest rating, while single adults and single parents get among the lowest. (Kamstra 2:1)

In Grand Rapids, there are two churches that are located only a few miles from each other. One appears to have no immediate plans for a focused singles ministry; the other church already has one in place. The first church has the usual assortment of targeted fellowship groups, but no singles fellowship that meets on a regular (or even irregular) basis. There are singles there, but the church does not facilitate making it easy for them to meet together in an organized way. The church has chosen its focus, and a targeted singles ministry does not fit into their paradigm at this time.

Single adults quietly slip out the “back door” of the church to attend down the road, seeking fellowship with other in their life situation – and one of them, Anne, was sent. A small group leader at the first church had told her that if she wanted to be with singles, she needed to go to [name withheld] church.

My dad told me a story while I was researching this paper.

Two pastors were chatting over coffee. The first one proudly told the second one, “My church is so family oriented that there are no divorced people and very few single people in our congregation!”

The second pastor was sad for the first pastor, but just as proud of his own congregation, “Yes…I know. We have them all.”

This seems to go beyond the indifference that Elie Wiesel talked about. Anne did not leave the first church looking for something more; she was sent. A (married) church employee, when told this story said in response, “That’s not sending them away because we don’t want them. It’s an act of love to send them where they will be given what they need.” Unfortunately, while this sounds good, what would Christ really have them do? Is the “save them and send them somewhere else” attitude truly the “Christian” way of doing things? Jesus gave us the parable of the “Good Samaritan”. In this parable, the “religious” men of the church passed right by that hurting person on the side of the road. It was the Samaritan that saw the need and met it. He didn’t send the man someplace else; he washed him, bandaged him and helped him right where he was and only later put the victim on his own donkey to take him to a safe place to stay.

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34)

The first church has a sign in their office: “All things must be saturated in prayer.” That is true. The Bible says that we are to pray about all things, without ceasing. But the Bible also tells us that if we do not follow up our prayers with action, our faith is useless. Until all members of the body are on board and truly making all people feel fully embraced as spiritual siblings, this attitude of indifference will continue.

“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)

Pastoral Staff

The Bible calls Christ “the Good Shepherd”, the senior pastor might be compared to the sheep dog, out in the field, running his heart out, trying to keep all those silly sheep going in the right direction. If the pastor appears indifferent to any one group, the rest of the church will most likely follow. “A ‘do it, but don’t bother me with it’ attitude will put the singles ministry right next door to the broom closet.” (Kamstra 4:10) Any ministry will die without the full support of the pastorate, and that includes a singles ministry. Pastors do not need to live the life of a single person; they do need to recognize that the church needs to make a focused effort to minister to all of Christ’s flock.

Most pastors have healthy marriages and families of their own so it may be difficult for them to “wear the shoes” of single adults; they may not be able to run a singles ministry as effectively as a single person.

Any singles ministry must be “owned” and headed by singles. Since an adult singles ministry will have a higher turnover in leadership (due to marriages and moves), there must be a specific and determined effort to develop new leaders. The leadership team should be larger for a singles ministry than for most other types of ministries.

The pastorate and married congregation must ask (and keep asking), “Are singles worth a targeted ministry?” In many churches, the answer seems evident – no, they are not. As long as single adults fit into the current programs that the church has, they are welcome to stay, but no new programs are on the horizon.

Many singles fell that they are never truly embraced. When they want change, the receive the unspoken (or spoken) hint: The church down the road already has lots of singles…why don’t you go there?” And many singles have. In early 2004, I was in the choir at my church, looking out over the sanctuary. There were many seats open that particular Sunday and the thought came to me, “If this church truly wanted single adults here – if we really invited them, pursued them and embraced single adults until they represented a third of the congregation, this sanctuary would be full and overflowing.”

Julia Dunn relates, “Look at church budgets. One church I used to attend had a vibrant singles group. We pleaded for some part-time staff help but were turned down because budgets, we were told, were tight. Yet at the same time, the church was adding on youth worker after youth worker. So our group died.” In that church, singles were not worth it.


Adult Christian Singles - Desires and Perceived Needs


The life situations of single adults vary so widely that if asked how their churches could better minister to them, a dozen single adults would likely give a dozen different answers.

The wide range of needs and desires of singles fall mainly into four general areas: spiritual (their walk with God), physical (life’s daily needs and challenges), emotional (depending on their reasons for being single) and social (fellowship in the body of Christ). The organizational structure of the church cannot possibly meet all those needs and it should not even attempt to. The church can, however, make it possible for the congregation to meet the needs of their spiritual siblings. Caring pastors and boards can make it easier for single adults to find each other and meet each other’s social (fellowship), spiritual and emotional needs and help them navigate the organizational structure in place to meet their physical needs.

Spiritual Needs of Single Adults

All Christians, including singles, need to define and establish their purpose in life. Single adults, however, have different needs than married people. Couples need to focus on their marriages – God intended them to be as one flesh (Genesis 2:24) and they must pursue the spiritual aspect of their marriages with that in mind. Singles are “going it alone”, whether by choice, chance or circumstance, and they must recognize their spiritual needs with that in mind.

“Ministry groups” (designed to reflect the makeup of the congregation) hold the focus of one large church in Grand Rapids. The church urges these ministry groups to attempt to meet the needs of the members of their group before going to the resources of the church. When this paper was first written, there were no singles-only groups available and singles were mostly getting put into groups at random. A ministry group can easily consist of a group of people with nothing in common except Christ9. Many singles find it uncomfortable, if not inappropriate to share inner struggles of a personal nature in a mixed group of men and women, so the intimate sharing that could (and should) be taking place cannot. People in ministry groups are quick to reach out and help in any way that they can and they do support singles in many ways. For issues that relate specifically to singleness, however, singles may find the fellowship and support of other singles more useful. Some singles desire a “singles only” group; others do not. In an ideal situation, they would have both options.

Married couples with children, to some extent, have their spiritual path marked out for them. One of their major spiritual goals is to raise their children in a Godly way; God laid that path out for them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Single adults with children also bear this responsibility; without the help of a partner, the job becomes much more difficult. Single custodial parents may fill the role of both mother and father, creating a pressure that God never parents to bear. The Bible says that God supports the fatherless; single mothers find it easier to believe the promise when the men of God step up to the job description of mentor, teacher and guide.

“The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow…” (Psalms 146:9)

Single adults without children have challenges as well. Persistent matchmakers may cause singles to question their value. They may begin to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I just be accepted for who I am?” In a church where the focus in on the family, a single person might be told outright that God has that one special person out there for him or her. Faith in God may suffer when that person doesn’t show up. This focus on marriage pulls the focus away from God (Widder 179)

The church must intentionally address the unique spiritual needs of single adults – issues like marriage and singleness, dating and preparing for marriage in a Godly way and relating to the rest of the church as singles in a married world. Until it does, church will become increasingly irrelevant to single adults, especially those new to the faith and those who are struggling with other life circumstances.

Emotional Needs of Single Adults

The emotional needs of single adults differ by population and age. Never married singles and those without children may seem more transient than those who have children, primarily due to either education or work related moves. This movement leads to high turnover rates in the church and makes it difficult for singles to develop and maintain relationships with other Christian singles adults. Because single adults are often geographically removed from their families, they have an increased need for relational connection (Kamstra 5:6). Single adults may want or need help making and maintaining intimate, long-lasting, same-sex friendships.

For divorcees, the emotional needs depend not only on the circumstances of the divorce, but also on the attitudes of the church that they attend. New divorcees often have a sense of alienation, guilt and failure. They not only deal with the end of their marriage, they suddenly feel the added responsibilities of being the only adult in the household. Divorcees with children are thrust into single parenting; combined with an overwhelming feeling that nobody understands and a sense of intense loneliness, life seems a recipe for burnout. They often feel not only rejected by their spouse, they feel alienated by their families, churches and even from God. More than nearly anything else, divorced people (especially new divorcees) have a need for acceptance. They need the support and fellowship of other single Christians and divorced people in particular; they often find value in recovery programs such as DivorceCare©, conducted by people that have experienced divorce themselves (Church Initiative).

Traditionally, the church accepts widowed people more than the other segments of the singles population. Yes, the marriage ended, but it ended with a death certificate, not a divorce certificate. Widowed people account for 6.6% of the United States adult population, with 2% being between the ages of 34 and 55 (2002 American Community Survey). Older widowed people in the church are more likely to be emotionally cared for by their families and many churches have programs for seniors, which offers older people the opportunity to fellowship with peers. Older people may also enjoy serving the body of Christ as “phone buddies” or by being mentors to younger Christians. Like all people, they have a need to be valued and needed for who they are (Barna, 131).

Younger widowed people walk a different path than older widowed people do. Many have children at home and may find that they share more challenges with divorced parents than they share with older widowed people. They may also feel anger and frustration at having to start over at a young age, when they should have been married for many more years (Young Widows and Widowers). This group often benefits from a recovery program, such as GriefShare©. While GriefShare© is designed for anybody who has suffered a loss through death, the program recognizes that widowed people may find it difficult to feel optimistic about the future. This faith-based program offers the opportunity to meeting with others who understand the deep pain that widowed people experience (Church Initiatives).

Newly widowed Christians, thrust (sometimes unwillingly) into singleness, find fellowship with other singles essential. For years, they have functioned as half of a couple – part of the whole; in the time it takes to draw one breath, the are the whole. Like divorcees, widowed people need to learn to socialize as a single person and given the opportunity, they can learn from each other.

The local church cannot meet all of the emotional needs of newly single people in most cases. Ideally, people are not “fixed”. Rather, they are given the tools to adjust to their changing lives. Of course, in some cases singles (like anybody else) do need counseling, but if the first option puts singles into a group of peers where they can get support and ideas from others who have been where they are, showing them that they are not alone, those adjustments take place much more quickly.

Emotionally, every person faces experiences that require a strong support system. Most marriages have that built in, but single adults must actively recruit their support. A single parent finds this support crucial in the case of illness.

When a married parent has a cold, in is an inconvenience – his or her spouse makes dinner and picks up the slack (although some married people would argue this point.) When a custodial single parent has a cold, he or she may not have a backup to pick up the slack. If the parent is sick in bed, the dishes will still stay in the sink, the laundry will pile up and life will rush on. If a sole custodial parent has a sick child, he or she may have nobody to take turns during the night, laving the parent exhausted. During the day, a single parent with a sick child may miss work to take care of his or her child, which can quickly lead to financial hardship. Susan, a single adoptive mother says, “When my daughter is sick, I have to stay home from work; it makes me look irresponsible to my boss, my co-workers. And I still have to pay for daycare!”

Even minor surgeries can cause big problems. I recently had a minor surgery; all of my family lives out of town and I had to make arrangements to get home. My siblings all work, my mother and father were in Florida. They did make arrangements to come back to Michigan a little early so my dad could drive me home. A friend volunteered as well and - somehow things got confused and both of these people thought the other one was driving; so neither one of them made plans to be there! It did work out – they both showed up. But it was difficult not having somebody there. Sometimes people complain that I’m too independent, but when I did need help, coordinating it was harder than I thought.

Serious illness wreak an emotional havoc all their own. A single parent can feel isolated and adrift. Helene is a young teacher, 26 years old. She has never been married and has a three-year-old son. A third year teacher, she currently takes classes toward her Master’s Degree. In November 2003, she also had cancer surgery. Helene lamented, “Married people just don’t understand! I need to talk with somebody who understands what it is like to be single and going through something this hard!” In a church that holds marriage up as the ideal, this woman wanted somebody who could empathize, not just sympathize.

Married people do go through serious illnesses, but illness can seem much harder for a single parent, unless they have had the opportunity to form strong relationships with their peers. Faced with the realization that life truly does not go on forever, a single parent has to deal not only with his or her own mortality, but also with the future lives of his or her children. In the lives of most divorced people, the other parent can step in. For single mothers with children whose father is not around, having to choose who will have custody of her children can be a soul-wrenching experience.

Most married people simply cannot comprehend the depth of feeling that a single parent feels during times of life-threatening illness. They can sympathize, but not empathize. This does not mean that married people cannot effectively minister to singles, but in times of great stress, most human beings feel a need to draw close to others with a single life experience in common.

Singles can and should fellowship with married people. The experiences of the entire body have value and nobody should ever go out of his or her way to segregate totally. However, married people may have a harder time internalizing some of the specific challenges that single people experience; other singles may more easily draw closer to the situation since they can more easily picture themselves alone and ill. The church organization cannot meet the single person’s need for peer support, but it can (and should) make it easier for single people to network (fellowship) and meet together to meet each other’s needs.

Social Needs of Single Adults

Known by the church as “fellowship”, people have chosen to fellowship with people that they have something in common with since nearly the beginning of time. Women gathered around the well in villages or at the river to do laundry and talked as they worked. In more recent times, quilting bees have drawn women together for fellowship and the Bible tells us about men gathering at the gates of cities. People have a need to socialize with other people and they are naturally drawn to those that they share a common kinship with. Single adults are no different.

One church tells singles that the church is not a “consumer church,” and they do not want to have one group of people segregating themselves. Looking at a table with fliers advertising a marriage retreat, events for “MOPS” (Mothers of pre-schoolers), people over 50, teens, grade school children, women, men and even golfers, it was hard to understand why all of these segments of the church family deserve targeted ministries, while singles were described as a “consumer group”.

Single people should, of course, participate in the church body as a whole but may also desire to socialize as singles. Churches need to avoid completely segregating singles and having a “church within a church”. Most of the time singles should have the opportunity to feel embraced by the church body and have a singles fellowship where they do not feel like the oddball. To fit in, to belong is a basic human need. Shortly after I was widowed, I was asked to attend an event with a couple. Afterward, I said to a (single) woman who had been a close friend for years, “I felt like a fifth wheel.” She responded, “You’re a fifth wheel. Get used to it.” That blunt statement of how this single woman perceives that couples see singles was my first real introduction to being single in a married world. Even women’s groups can feel challenging and frustrating for a single adult woman. Churches may unintentionally exclude single mothers when they do not offer child care for an event – assuming that there is a spouse at home to care for children. In women’s groups the topic often turns to husbands (and their faults), and single women feel not only left out of the conversation but can also feel that the married women around her just do not appreciate the value of the life they have. There are times in women’s groups when the conversation turns to more intimate topics; this can be extremely awkward for single women, who cannot participate.

Physical Needs of Single Adults

Single adults feel very aware that they are outside the church “norm” just by being single. Many Americans thrive on independence and singles are on their own; they may not want to admit that they need help with life’s daily problems (child care, illness and home/car repairs.) the one who gives is blessed as much as the one who receives; to deny a spiritual sibling the opportunity to help deprives him or her of the blessing. For single adults who may already feel isolated from the body, this may be a difficult lesson to learn. If singles are supported by other singles who encourage them to turn to the church, seeking help may be easier.

Singles should not bypass the church for their giving; goods and services have traditionally (and Biblically) been funneled through the organization. Christians should encourage other Christians to allow the body to minister to them by giving either goods or services

“For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.” Acts 4:34-35)

Single Parents
  • 60% of all children in the United States will live in a single parent household before the age of 18

  • The single parent is the most rapidly growing “poverty level segment of our society.”

  • Three out of every four teenage suicides occur in single-parent households (Kamstra 7:1)
Statistically, the children of a single parent are more likely to be at risk, and churches must make a choice. They can either embrace single parents, helping them mentor their children or they can treat them with indifference or worse. Single parents have many personal challenges – they may be recovering from the loss of a relationship and may be dealing with grief, forgiveness, depression and loneliness. A sole custodial parent must learn to adjust to being single while bearing the responsibility of being a parent. Many single parents are financially stable, but some are not; planning for the future can be frustrating when you are part of the fastest growing population in poverty.

Single mothers need the help of a few others with parenting. (Studies show that in contested cases mothers are granted the sole custody over fathers by a margin of eight to one. According to research conducted by Sanford Braver, author or “Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths”, divorced mothers are five times as likely to be satisfied with their post-divorce child custody arrangements as divorced fathers (Glenn Sacks, Convicted Murderess.) With younger children, single mothers need a break now and then. The church can help by facilitating relationships that will offer those breaks. Single mothers with teenagers need to have a system in place that will provide a dependable Godly man to mentor her children into adulthood. All children need multiple adult models; they will find them whether the church helps provide them or not. If a child finds all of his or her adult role models in secular sources, congregation members should ask themselves if they church is filling its job description. Deb says, “I had people ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ I suggested they include my son when they take their son fishing, baseball – nothing! Nobody followed through.” My own experience is similar. An elder who had lined up a mentor for my son – as a trial for a church sponsored system, approached me. We were introduced, the man was given our phone number – he never called.

Non-custodial single fathers need the love and support of the church as much as custodial
mothers do. Two-thirds of divorce proceedings in the United States are initiated by women between the ages of 21 and 37 (U.S. Census). Studies show that (as mentioned before) in contested cases mothers are granted sole custody over fathers by a margin of eight to one. Many single fathers have not only suffered the loss of the marriage, they are also dealing with being separated from their children. Seventy-five percent of divorced fathers maintain that their ex-wives have interfered with their court-ordered visitation rights and 40 of the ex-wives admit to it. In some cases, the ex-wives have moved many miles away, making it nearly impossible for fathers to see their children on a regular basis (Glenn Sacks, “Many Divorced Dads”). Child support payments are often a huge drain on a non-custodial father’s finances, making the adjustment as a single even more difficult

Single parents need loving support, not judgment. They need to be surrounded with loving spiritual siblings – both single and married. Like every part of the body, single parents need to be supported in a tangible way – and that means that the body of Christ must step forward to meet their spiritual, physical, emotional and fellowship needs. Singles need to be included in the worship, the organization, the social structure and small group support system of the church. More than anything, they need to feel that they belong.


Adult Christian Singles - How Singles See Themselves


George Barna tells of a ministry partner with whom he shared the self-portrait by single adults in his research. The colleague “laughed in amusement and asked, ‘Do you think that’s how they really see themselves? They really are self-deluded, aren’t they?”(31) the issue of whether or not single adults have deluded themselves may not be as great as recognizing that a huge gap may exist between how single adults see themselves and how married adults (and the church) see them.

Differences between married and single people appear in their moral and religious views. 39% of married adults view homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle choice, compared with 63% of never-married adults, 35% of widowed people and 44% of divorced people (Barna 66). 37% of married people approve of legalized abortion in most or all circumstances, compared with 51% of all single adults. Overall, only 10% of single people “follow principles/standards that are based on the Bible,” compared to 22% of married people (Barna 53).

Most singles see themselves as healthy, whole people, just as married people do. They have car payments, children, mortgages and aging parents; jobs, retirement options, fears of the future and pains and joys of the past. Single people have more in common with married people than they have differences, although the differences push the similarities aside. To get past the differences, it may help to understand the similarities.

Married people share many core perspectives with single people (with the exception of widowed people, who fall mainly into older age ranges). Most people, married and single alike) like to try new things, enjoy occasional deep discussions, but also like to keep things light.

Major differences between married and single people appear in their feelings and perceived needs. Singles tend to feel less understood and are more likely to avoid conflict whenever possible (Barna 23). And naturally, singles and married people have different daily challenges, based on life circumstances.

“New singles” also tend to see themselves differently than those who have never married, or those who have been single for a greater period of time. Those recently divorced or widowed may feel guilt or an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Divorcees especially may feel that they may have failed in one of the single more important endeavors in human life.

Deb, a divorced woman wrote, “My hardest issue is the guilt I feel from others that say divorce is not an option. I was gone from my church for a year before anybody even noticed.” People recently singled after many years of marriage may feel lost and adrift in social settings. After years of socializing as “half of the whole”, they feel at a loss about how to socialize as a single person in a sea of couples.

Adults who have never been married do not have the guilt and pain of a failed marriage and those who have been married but have been single for a while (or who have participated in a recovery program) may not feel those emotions as acutely as a new single. But they may still feel that they just do not fit in. Widder says, “Many of us have learned the hard way that going to a church “family event” can mean going to an event that is really a collection of families.” (172)

In a church that focuses only on families, singles can feel placed in a difficult position. On one hand, single adults live and work in the world, they can be successful, have careers, nearly everything that married people have. Then, when they walk into church, they can easily feel that they are “out of the loop”, that their life has not truly begun in earnest. Most churches do not deliberately exclude singles, but many should still ask, “How do we make singles feel part of the family?” How churches respond to that question will determine how singles respond to that church.


Adult Christian Singles - How the Church Sees Singles


The attitudes of local churches toward single adults vary widely. Some congregations embrace singles and some have a “church within a church” – where singles have their own services, etc. Others seem indifferent or content to send singles somewhere else.
Many churches have developed strong, vibrant singles ministries; Willow Creek in the Chicago, IL area, Saddleback Church in southern California and Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Where churches have made a focused effort to reach single adults, their efforts have been rewarded.

In churches that have not made that effort, many singles feel that the church sees them as the “second-class citizens” in the bride of Christ. Discovering why does not take long.

Marriage is “Better”

“Unmarried America” (UA) was formed as a secular political action group to “seek fairness for unmarried employees, consumers, and taxpayers…” (Unmarried America). This organization wants “federal and state legislation to counter the many laws, regulations and policies” that it alleges “unfairly discriminates against people based on their marital status.” Executive Director of UA, Thomas Colman believes that federal and state laws and private employment policies designed to encourage traditional marriage constitute “discrimination” against those who cannot or choose not to marry (Johnson).

In response, Director of Social Research and Cultural Affairs for “Focus on the Family”, Glen Stanton says, “Married people engage in less risky behavior, [and] they’re more responsible. They tax the healthcare system less for any physical or emotional problems, and when they do suffer from these problems, they recover more quickly and successfully. Pick out any imaginative ‘well-being measure’ that you can think of, you’re going to fnd that, relative to marital status, married people do better” (Johnson). Stanton, in this quote, makes no attempt to determine whether the single and married people are divided into “churched” and “unchurched”; educated or uneducated, with or without children. Any of these factors might be a much of an indication of “responsible” or “irresponsible” as simply being “single”.

Speaking for myself, I am a single parent. I have held the same job for eight years; I have a mortgage and a car payment. My family moved 2 ½ years ago and before that, we were at the same address for 12 years. My family has been attending our current church for three years and we were members at our previous church since my son (now a freshman in college) was in first grade. I am hardly the portrait of instability that Mr. Stanton paints of single people. Too many single people I know are parents, PTA members, teachers, engineers, IT professionals and more – I cannot take Mr. Stanton’s comments lightly and easily.

Wendy Wright, senior policy director of “Concerned Women for America” adds, “Unfortunately, they appear to be rather selfish and narcissistic and don’t recognize that family life benefits not only the individuals who are involved in that family, but also all of society. It’s the foundation of a healthy society” (Johnson).

When single adults and especially single parents hear representatives of major Christian organizations making statements like these, they can easily get the impression that these organizations believe that all singles are selfish risk-takers who are a burden on society.

Myths About Single Adults

Myths abound about single adults, both inside and outside the church:
  • Single people are less whole than married people

  • Single people have more time than married people

  • Single people are less committed than married people

  • All single people are hurting

  • Something is wrong with married people

  • All singles are sexually frustrated

  • Singles live a glamorous life (Kamstra 1:1)
Most people can look beyond these myths. A single mother struggling financially (or a single father choosing between paying rent and paying child support) shatters the myth that “singles live a glamorous life.” Some of the myths, however, remain very real strongholds.

Sometimes the attitudes of church members only imply that singles are not whole; that there is something wrong with them. The church may try to fit singles into their pre-existing programs, leaving them feeling like the proverbial “square peg in a round hole,” rather than help them find the peer support that they may need as singles. When singles seek support in meeting their spiritual, emotional or fellowship needs, their unique needs may be treated as “damage”.

Many times, a single adult may be referred to a counselor, rather than encouraged to seek the support and advice of other singles. His or her perception may be that the church (or at least the small corner of it that he or she is speaking to) sees singleness as brokenness, in need of counseling, not support.

The myths remain and until they fall it will remain difficult for single adults to feel fully embraces as “spiritual siblings” within the church.

Divorce and Remarriage

The issue of divorce and remarriage posts a major point of friction between singles and the church4. The attitudes and doctrines of churches vary widely, depending not only on the circumstances of the divorce, but also by denomination. Policies range from not allowing divorced and remarried people to attain leadership at all to tolerance and accepting divorce for any reason. Three examples are the Assemblies of God, the Christian Reformed Church and the United Methodist Church.

Assemblies of God churches discourage divorce even in the case of adultery and consider remarriage after an “unbiblical divorce” (for reasons other than adultery or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse) to be adultery. In Assemblies of God churches, people that are being considered for pastors and church leaders “should be those who have not been the guilty party in initiating a divorce.” Thus, even those people who are guilty of initiating a “Biblical divorce” should not be considered for leadership. The doctrinal statement by the Assemblies of God church says that even leaders who have been unwillingly divorced and not at fault may not remarry because of their “role as moral examples” (Assemblies of God (USA) Offical Website). Thus, even people who have been divorced against their will – even by unfaithful spouses – must either remain alone or disqualify themselves from leadership in the Assemblies of God denomination.

The Christian Reformed Church says, “Since failure to keep the marriage covenant is sin, the church must exercise a ministry of reconciliation and call marriage partners to cnfession, forgiveness, reconciliation, and renewed obedience.” They know that some marriages fail and do not clearly prohibit remarriage after divorce, choosing to look at each case individually, offering full forgiveness and restoration (Christian Reformed Church of North America).

The United Methodist Church says that divorce is a “regrettable alternative”, and goes on to say that “Divorce does not preclude a new marriage. (United Methodist Church)
Many churches do not take a stand at all, leaving it to each couple to discern whether or not they can remarry and tending to discourage (but not prohibit) any divorce and remarriage.

Indifference Toward Single Adults (Do Singles Really Fit?)

The perception that singles are not seen as whole reflects only one small piece of the puzzle. A larger piece may be that the church sees any conflict between the married church and single adults as a non-issue and singles perceive that the church appears largely indifferent to their unique needs as singles. In spiritual lives, this indifference may have eternal consequences.
Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, is quoted in a speech to President Ronald Reagan:
I have learned the danger of indifference, the crime of indifference. For the opposite of love, I have learned is not hate, but indifference. Jews were killed by the enemy but betrayed by their so-called allies, who found political reasons to justify their indifference or passivity. What have I learned? When there is obvious injustice and principles are violated – when human lives and dignity are at stake – when your allies find reasons to justify their silence or indifference, neutrality is a sin (Dupont 38).
The startling scarcity of ministry resources for singles may demonstrate the indifference of American churches toward singles. A local publication company, CRC Publications publishes a catalog of church resources that offers no resources for singles ministries (although they do have one Bible study for single adults). They offer resources for ministering to homosexuals, alcoholics and drug addicts, but nothing for a focused singles ministry.

Family Christian Bookstores at Cornerstone College, in Grand Rapids, MI has a section set aside for children’s ministries and a larger one for youth ministries. The section for marriages fills an entire wall. At the time of this writing, they do not have even one book on singles ministries, much less an area set aside. For a person seeking to start a focused singles ministry, it becomes very discouraging to walk out of that store with nothing but a package of breath mints. There are many books about how to be single (many of them consisting of “this is your chance to minister to married people), but there are few on how to effectively minister to singles.
If the resources available for singles ministry can inversely measure indifference, the indifference must be great indeed.

Wendy Widder says, “I’ve been single my whole life and I’ve been associated with the church my whole life. I know, along with many of you – singles and church leaders – that bing single in the church is a little like being a dill pickle in a fruit salad.” (13)

Together, all Christians make up the body of Christ. Not just the married couples, not just the youth, not just the ministerial staff – all Christians should be valued and treated as part of the same body. The church must encourage all members to realize their full potentials as Christians. Equally important, every church member must see the value of every other part. The body of Christ suffers when the body as a whole feels indifference toward any one part, just as the whole human body suffers when one part is neglected.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (New American Standard Version; Romans 12:4-5)

A while ago, in a Sunday morning sermon in my church, the final point was about prayer; who should pray and who they should pray with. Married people should pray together, and pray for and over their children. The pastor went on to exhort married couples in the congregation; their marriages are the cornerstone of society and the powerhouse of prayer. The next point was that friends should pray for and with each other. Grandparents should pray for their children and grandchildren. Would the pastor include single-parent families somewhere (anywhere)? Would he exhort single parents to pray with and over their children? No; single parents were never mentioned. This did not feel like abuse or neglect…merely indifference, a non-issue. At that moment in time, to this single parent in the congregation, singles did not appear to represent even a blip on the PowerPoint screen. As a single parent, I am not included in this “powerhouse of prayer”.

Many singles do feel that their local congregation accepts and fully embraces them. Judy, single for over 15 years, feels loved and accepted by her church, and she feels no desire to change her corner of it. However, she was established in her current church for many years as a married person. When she became single, she explored other churches with singles ministries, but ultimately decided that she did not want to leave the church where she had developed ties while she was married.

The numbers of single adults that withdraw from the church gives the impression that this woman is an exception; singles that walk into a church for the first time will not have the history that this woman enjoys at her church. Many conversations with singles reveal this as one of the more significant differences between “newly single” people and those who have been single for a greater period of time. New singles tend to feel a desire for peer support and a targeted singles ministry; those who have been single for a while or who have never been married are more likely to have settled in and become comfortable with the type of relationships that they have.

Many single adults already have the feeling that they do not quite fit into today’s church and what they find at many churches does nothing to change that. If the church offers no established singles group, singles often have to make their way past advertisements of marriage retreats, “date nights” and other family oriented events into a sanctuary filled mainly with couples.

Today’s Christian culture has a passion for families that eclipses nearly everything else. The family bears the label “cornerstone of society” and family values legislation targets holding marriages together at any cost. Widder says, “In a Christian culture that idolizes marriage and focuses on families, singles are oddballs. It doesn’t matter how many times well-meaning churchgoers (or leaders) have tried saying otherwise, nobody is really fooled.” (13) The discrepancy between words and reality creates a tension between singles and the church.

“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second son and said the same thing; and he answered ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of the Father?” They said, “The first.” (ESV; Matthew 21:28-310

Churches that pay only lip service to embracing all members of the body of Christ are like the second son; singles are not listening to what the church says. They are looking at what the church does.

Part of the responsibility rests with the singles. The United States operates on a consumer driven mentality. When singles come to a church with a consumer attitude, looking for instant gratification, the church cannot deliver. In a country where we can often drive down a street and find 10 or more fast food restaurants within a mile of each other, singles (especially those without children) can “shop” for a church week after week, never finding satisfaction. Until they realize that their relationship with their church must be a symbiotic one and that they must serve the church just as much as the church should minister to them, they will not find that satisfaction. They appear unstable, unable or unwilling to make a commitment to stay with one church.

Part of the tension also lies at the feet of the church. “Today’s evangelical community is so consumed with preserving and enhancing the traditional family,” Widder says, “that an accurate understanding of that other family, the family of God, is virtually impossible. Such an intense family focus has resulted in the denigration and dishonoring of singleness” (30).

The focus that the church has on the nuclear family is another reason for the tension: marriage is accepted as the norm, singles is not. The list of “family oriented” activities seems endless and unless a church makes a focused effort to include singles, the trend of “all family, all the time” will continue. The church may say that they see singleness as an equally valuable way to serve God, but in many churches the actions, attitudes and even words say otherwise. Subtle implications that singles may not have quite the value of marriage include:

  • “You’re a nice girl; why aren’t you married?”

  • Perceived meaning: Perhaps I’m not as nice as I appear.

  • “It’s time for him to get married and settle down.”

  • Perceived meaning: I am not a full-fledged adult until I am married

  • “God has somebody special just for you.”

  • Perceived meaning: If I don’t get married, God has let me down.

  • “I hope you meet someone; I really want you to be happy.”

  • Perceived meaning: I can’t be happy without a relationship.
(Widder 177-178)

Other statements, spoken or not, include such things like a cassette offered by “Fatherly Advice to Singles: Get Married” by Al Mohler Jr. After the original broadcast of this show, Dennis Rainey – one of the hosts – explained how excited he was when his sons proposed to their respective girlfriends, “Because now I knew that life was about to begin in earnest!”

These statements give the impression that earnest life does not begin before marriage.
Until the value of singleness is truly understood and accepted by the church, singles will continue to feel about as accepted as a sixth toe.

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)

Single adults share many needs with married people, but also have unique needs and desires as singles. Until today’s churches recognize that Christianity is not “one size fits all,” that people need to be ministered to in a variety of ways, the perceived indifference of the married church will continue. Julia Duin writes, “Why churches push away singles is a puzzle, as people living alone are one of America’s fastest growing demographic groups. The two-parent family with kids and stay-at-home mom is a shrinking demographic. I know church leaders have the latter model as the ideal Christian family, but they are chasing the wind.”


Adult Christian Singles - Introduction

Like never before, American churches must face the issue of how to reach and serve single adults. Each congregation must ask itself if it believes singles1 are worth the cost (in time, effort and dollars) of inviting, pursuing and embracing them fully into the body of Christ.
Single adults make up one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, accounting for 45.6% of heads of households (2000 U.S. Census).

Reaching single adults becomes more complicated when the population is broken down; of all single heads of households in the U.S., 59.3% have never been married, 21.2% are divorced, 14.3% are widowed and 5.2% are separated (2000 Census). The Census Bureau’s 2002 American Community Survey indicates that in just two years the number of households headed by single adults had risen to 49.4% (Johnson).

As local congregations respond to this rapidly growing population, single adults respond in kind. When a church ministers to singles in a meaningful and effective way, singles reward the effort (in both attendance and spiritual growth.) When singles perceive indifference, neglect or abuse they leave; and ever growing numbers of singles are quietly leaving their local congregations2 (Duin). As church attendance decreases, the number of singles in the United States is increasing rapidly (Barna Research Group).

The “1992 Synodicial Committee to Study Single Adults” by the Christian Reformed Church (the most recent CRC resource that is available) says:

“Someone may ask why we chose to speak of the church’s ministry to adult singles rather than to adults under age 30, both married and single. The reason is simple. In the great majority of churches, one’s married state, rather than one’s age appears to determine acceptance into the community. Young couples are readily accepted; singles tend to remain on the fringes of the church’s life. Accordingly, it appears to be to adult singles that a special ministry of the church is needed.” (Kamstra, 8:1)


American Christian Singles - Table of Contents


---Marriage is “Better”
---Myths about Single Adults
---Divorce and Remarriage
---Indifference Toward Single Adults (Do Singles Really Fit?)
---Spiritual Needs of Single Adults
---Emotional Needs of Single Adults
---Social Needs of Single Adults
---Physical Needs of Single Adults
---Single Parents
---Do We Need a Singles Ministry?
---Pastoral Staff
---What the Church Can Do For Singles
---What Singles Can Do For the Church


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Compare and Contrast - Martin Luther and King Henry VIII

NOTE: I get a lot of hits on this essay - the research and writing is original to me...please either cite the works cited or me ;-) Remember the rules...thanks - I'd appreciate it if you left a comment (along with the reason for the search; which school, etc...thanks a lot! I'm really curious.)


December 12, 2005

Martin Luther and England’s King Henry VIII lived at the same time, yet lived very different lives and had very different goals. In many ways, their lives show some interesting parallels.

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany on November 10, 1483. Scholars can say little about his childhood other than the angry, strict character of his father made life difficult for a young boy. He entered the monastery in 1505. His religious life was no less difficult than his childhood. Luther was excommunicated from the Roman church in1520, but continued to wear his monks’ habit 1525. He died in 1546.

Henry VIII was born in eight years later, June 28, 1491 in Greenwich Palace in London. Like Luther, little is known on Henry’s childhood; a second son, few expected him to become king. His reign began in1509, four years after Luther entered the monastery. Henry VIII died in 1547, only one year after Luther.

For both of these men, their lives had everything to do with their motives in changing the church. Luther’s motivation appears to be the need for acceptance by God and his urge to see things made right. Henry’s motives seem to be driven by his very real need for an heir.

Luther didn’t want a fight with the church; he was in a battle for the church. His original approach was one of academia; he didn’t start out wanting to be a revolutionary. When he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the University of Wittenberg, he only followed the custom of religious scholars who wanted to debate a topic. It is reasonable to assume that his goal in posting his Ninety-five Theses was either reasoned debate or reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, not to overthrow the church.

Henry, far from a simple monk, had married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. This was considered incest, nearly the same as marrying a sibling. Thus, Henry had needed a special papal dispensation to marry, which he had received. As Henry’s queen, Catherine was not providing him the heir that he needed; out of 5 pregnancies, 2 were sons that died in infancy. Catherine was six years older than Henry; in 1526 Catherine was 42 and no longer able to conceive. At that time, Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the sister of one of his mistresses. Henry read in the Old Testament of the Bible that if a man takes his brother’s wife, they shall be childless. Henry didn’t need just any child, he needed a son and so he didn’t count Mary, his only daughter by Catherine, as a child. With this mindset, he petitioned the pope for an annulment. This would mean that his marriage to Catherine would be invalid and his daughter, Mary would be considered illegitimate.

Henry was at a disadvantage with the pope for two reasons. First, when the pope gave the papal dispensation to marry his brother’s wife, he was declaring that the kinship was not an issue. To now grant an annulment on the grounds that it was an issue would be an admission that he had made a mistake in the first place. That was unlikely.

Second, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had recently invaded Rome and captured the pope. The pope remained in office, but as a virtual prisoner. Charles was also Catherine’s nephew, so to side with Henry against Catherine would have been risky at best.
This struggle was political as well as religious and continued for six long years and came to a head when Anne Boleyn became pregnant.

By contrast, things of this earth did not concern Luther as much as things eternal did. He had entered the monastery searching for peace, but didn’t find it. Fear of a righteous and holy God, impossible to please, led him to works: fasts, constant confessions, prayers and pilgrimages. The more he tried to please God with his works, the more impossible it seemed. Luther’s superior, Johann von Staupitz, decided that Luther needed distraction (more work) and encouraged him to leave the monastery to pursue an academic career. In 1508, Luther began teaching at the University of Wittenberg and in 1512 he achieved a Doctorate of Theology.

Luther new duties served to drive him deeper into Scripture. As the culture affects the church, so the Renaissance affected Luther. Humanism’s appeal to ad fonts (to the sources) led him to study Scripture and the writings of the early church fathers. Before long, Luther became convinced that the Roman Catholic Church had fallen away from several key truths of the Bible and had perverted others.

Luther was a professor; he was also confessor and preacher at the Castle Church. Rome was renovating St. Peter’s Basilica and was falling short of money. Johann Tetzel toured Germany selling indulgences – an assurance by the Roman church of the remission of temporal punishment of sin – with a saying, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther could foresee the effect this abuse could have on his congregation – dependence on the purchase of forgiveness, rather than sincere confession and good works – and it was the last straw. He preached three sermons condemning indulgences and on October 31, 1517 he nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg door.

In a nutshell, the Roman Catholic Church had problems, and Luther wanted to see them fixed. Henry, on the other hand, had problems and he wanted to see the church fix them. These two men had very different motives, yet each of them started a movement that would change the church forever.

Henry, torn between a kingdom with no heir and a pregnant woman he loved, ousted the pope’s man, Cardinal Wolsey and appointed laymen to important church offices. In 1533 Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer to the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. On January 25, Cranmer participated in the wedding of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. In May he officially voided Henry’s marriage to Catherine and then declared his marriage to Anne valid. In 1934, the “Act of Supremacy” was passed, making the king of England the “supreme head of the Church of England”. With this act, the king had “full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, reform, order, correct, restrain and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offences, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be, which by any manner spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought or may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed corrected, restrained or amended”. In short, in order to solve his personal problem Henry had parliament make him the functional pope of a new church, the “Church of England”. Henry embraced the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church – in fact, he had been given the title “Defender of the Faith” by the pope in 1521 for writing a treatise condemning Martin Luther. The Church of England closely mirrored the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, except that this would be a church sponsored and ruled by the state. There would be no pope and king keeping each other balanced.

Martin Luther, on the other hand, had no desire to leave the Roman Catholic Church. His deepest desire was to see the church return to the early teachings and to leave behind the abuses that had developed. When he posts his theses on the university door, he also sent a copy to the pope. While some of the theses directly questioned papal authority, they were put forward as debate topics, not open rebellion.

From 1517 until he was excommunicated in 1522, Luther defended himself and his beliefs within the Roman Catholic Church, before Roman Catholic authorities. Again and again he said that he would recant (say that he was wrong) if only the church could show him in the Bible where the Roman doctrines were right.

In 1521, Luther was summoned to appear before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (nephew of King Henry VIII) at the Diet of Worms. Charles was a devout Roman Catholic, yet recognized that he own kingdom would be stronger if the pope was weakened. He vehemently opposed Luther’s views, and issued the “Edict of Worms”, stating that Luther was a heretic and an outlaw, yet promised, "The word which I pledged him and the promised safe-conduct he will receive. Be assured, he will return unmolested whence he came." However, it was understood that once, home, he was fair game. In route, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and went into hiding for nearly a year. During this period Luther wrote a series of pamphlets attacking Roman Catholic doctrine and began to translate the Bible into the vernacular, German.

After that year, Luther married and had children; he also organized many evangelical churches (with the support of princes) throughout much of northern Europe. He died knowing that, although the Roman Catholic Church had not changed, many people had followed him out of that church to follow what he believed was the right path.
Henry died without a male heir, knowing that he had left what he believed was the right path in order to pursue his own earthly goals.

Henry VIII and Martin Luther lived at the same time, but had very different challenges and they handled those challenges in very different ways.

Both men were driven from the Roman Catholic Church - Henry for earthly reasons, Luther for eternal reasons.

Both men laid the foundation for entirely new denominations - Henry did so willingly, because the church refused to solve his problem, Luther did so reluctantly, because the church refused to solve its own problem.

The denominations of these two men – the Church of England and the Lutheran Church both survive today. The Church of England remains largely as it was then, with the Monarch of England as its head. The Lutheran Church largely holds to Luther’s teachings, although variations in doctrine have splintered the denomination.

In the end, Henry’s goal for the Roman Catholic Church (to divide it) succeeded, but his goal for his personal life (an heir) did not. Conversely, Luther’s goal for the Roman Catholic Church (reform from the abuses) failed, but his personal goal (to see the common people released from the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church) did succeed.

Both men worked toward a goal, neither one achieved it. In the end, the actions of both men worked to break the stranglehold the Roman Catholic Church had on Europe, bringing about a greater freedom of religion that Europe had not seen in many, many years.



I posted one of my essays to a little geocities page and didn't like the way it looked - I'm not really ready to have a 'real' webpage, so this looks like a good place to post some of my writings.

Some of these writings are assignments for class - the "big one" is on Adults Christians Singles in American Churches. My motherboard crashed so I have to retype the whole thing and it's taking a while.

The one I'll post first is the first 100% that I got in my history class - I struggled with figuring out what this professor wanted. The topic: Compare and Contrast Martin Luther and Henry VIII.

I've got a couple of other ideas coming up - keep looking!