Monday, December 26, 2005

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.


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