I asked my single friends from City Pres to weigh in on some advice for things to try or ways to think or new possibilities to consider for 2014 if you’re single. I haven’t been single for awhile, but I used to work with a ton of unmarried people in my campus ministry years. Of course, many (though certainly not all) were anxious to be married as soon as possible. For some that’s just what happened. For others, it’s not what happened – at least not yet. But following God is for all of us. And that can be really different in this single stage of life. Try some of these super insightful ideas this year. [If I have a comment, I’ll put it in brackets but otherwise these were written by the single men and women in our church. As you can see, we have some insightful people in our church!]
– Go on vacations.
– Make community a HUGE priority. You need it at every point in your life.
– Take up a new hobby. Have goals and see them through.
– Enjoy your life and be where you are.
– The practicality of the situation, group psychology, and the opportunities God provides you may lead you outside the church organization. You will seek refuge in the same places other hurting people do. It may look like you’re purposefully spending time away from the church body to live your own life. If this is what you’re called to, it’s okay. Your ministry is your life, and not everyone is going to understand what that looks like.
– Trying to make people understand can be counterproductive and cause you to feel ostracized, just as it could be counterproductive for a married couple to force you into their life so you understand what it’s like. God may provide opportunities for mutual understanding, for a married couple to let you into their lives, or for someone who is married to become part of yours. There may not be many of these opportunities, and they may feel like a booby prize because you’re not part of the big wonderful group God has set up for married people. This, too, can be deceptive: things are not always as easy as they seem from the outside, and the grass is always greener.
– Go forth. Be who you are. Be brave!
– Don’t wait! Don’t wait to be married. Don’t wait to travel. Don’t wait to do grownup things. Don’t wait to have married friends. Don’t wait to love and care for children (there are children everywhere who need loved). Don’t wait to have friends of the opposite sex. Don’t wait to move out of your parents house (for the first, or as in my case second time). Don’t wait to be adventurous, try new things. Don’t wait to set a budget, break your budget, and get back on your budget. Don’t wait to have difficult conversations with friends, family, church friends, and pastors. Don’t wait to manage your media usage, stop viewing things that should not be viewed. Don’t wait to go to counseling (we are all broken sinful people in need of a savior talking through your brokenness can help connect with that savior and others). Don’t wait to pay all your own bills. Don’t wait to move to a different place or many different places. Don’t wait do great things. God has used many great single people not despite their singleness but because they were single they were able to do countless remarkable things.
– Don’t shop for clothes that people of the opposite sex will like. Shop for clothes that you will like. Don’t work out so that you will be more likely to get a date. Work out because it makes you feel good and it’s healthy for you.
– If you are a man, ask women on dates. If you are a woman, say yes at least once. It’s not accepting a marriage proposal. Just get coffee with people. Work on getting to know them. Not necessarily as a potential spouse but as a person. He or she could become a great friend. [I really think everyone deserves one date just on bravery alone. After one date, please feel free to say no.] Women, ask men on dates too.
– Respond patiently & graciously to (usually ignorant) comments and questions about your singleness/job.
What are you going to be when you grow up? What are you doing with your life? Are you dating anybody? I find that people who ask these questions are either genuinely for my good, or they’re trying to see how I rank in the social pecking order. From the caring folks, I think these questions are simply a misguided way of showing they care for me and want these good things in my life. (There are other conversation starters that are better for showing compassion, but that’s another subject.) From the socialites, these kind of questions can be annoying at best, and sometimes hurtful. But whether the questions are from the caring folks or the socialites, I find that the best way to respond is to tell a little bit of your story that directly or indirectly involves your singleness and job situation in a redemptive light. Show through story that your identity is in something other and greater than your singleness or job situation. That way the caring folks hear good things and may be encouraged by your response, and the socialites might think twice about their priorities and could even feel invited to something more. If I find my self bitter with the question and responding in a snarky way, it’s a good time to check myself.
– Be promiscuous…with your money and time. You don’t have to ask your wife or husband if you can give away some preposterous amount of money to the church or some ministry. You don’t have to ask if you can spend the whole Saturday volunteering or building a strong community. Just do it.
– Find a way to be genuinely happy for your friends that are in relationships. And if you are in a relationship, make a conscience effort to still actively participate in your friendships.
– There is something very freeing in realizing that you don’t have to wait to be in a relationship to love. There are so many people to love: children, parents, siblings, friends, hurting people, sick people, sad people, intimidating people, different people.
– Looking good never takes a day off. Take showers regularly. [I thought this was obvious, but maybe not?]
– Go to church…when you think life is going great; when life sucks; when you break up with your girlfriend; when said ex-girlfriend goes to the same church; when you drank too much last night; when you feel God’s love; when you feel ashamed; when you “have everything together”; when you have something to celebrate; when you have something to mourn
– Don’t go to church… when there is a season in life that you need to be away for a while, according to your conscience.
– Find a godly mentor in your church whom you trust to encourage and admonish you.
This is one of the most important for Christians who are single (or married, for that matter). We listen to authoritative narratives every day from professors, employers, friends, parents, news, entertainment etc. Those narratives shape who we are. Who authoritatively speaks into your life? Yes, any Christian can help “sharpen iron.” But leaders in the church seem to be uniquely and mysteriously tasked with helping in this way. It’s what they’re there for! And they take joy in it. Purposefully seek them out. Earnestly pray to God for someone to help guide you. With them we can better cultivate our gifts, get us outside our comfort zones, see the forest for the trees, mock consumerism and his cousins, and learn to more fully enjoy God’s good gifts. We can also confidently share our struggles, confess our sins, and receive forgiveness with them. Yes, they are sinners too, and we need to be aware of that. But a discipleship should always point to Christ.
– Practice hospitality in the church and community with friends and strangers.
Think you have to be married to be hospitable or to host? Feeling pouty because nobody invites you to hang out and you can’t get to know anybody in the Church or community? Get over it. Put the married couples to shame by inviting them over for dinner, kids and all. You are a participant of the church community just as much as anyone else. If you’re a little introverted or don’t feel completely comfortable doing it yourself, grab a friend to help host a dinner. Involve the guests in the dinner preparation because hospitality is different from entertainment. Hospitality is for making strangers into friends (or friends into better friends). Christ invited us while we were still strangers to dine with him as friends.
– Play chess and ultimate frisbee
– Do fun things that are easier to do when you are single: Go on a spontaneous adventure. Spend four hours on a Saturday morning getting lost in a great novel. Read the books people don’t have time to read. Offer to bring someone a meal or to babysit on a random night. Babysit for free. Go on drives to watch the sunset. Go to a retirement home and hang out there.
– Let someone else in the church in on your big decisions. Our money, body, time and resources are not our own and we aren’t alone in making big decisions. Decide with God and with someone else where you are going to invest and what boundaries you are going to set up and let them hold you accountable.
– Befriend whole families. Get to know the kids and the parents and invest in their lives. Let them invest in yours.
– Have dance parties. Sing at the top of your lungs. Let yourself be a good gift to the community.
– Loneliness is a part of life, married or single. Single people don’t have a corner on it. When you are experiencing the particular loneliness that comes from singleness, let God into the conversation. Pray and ask him to show up and keep you company, and then maybe reach out to someone else, married or single. They might be lonely too. Maybe you could bring them some frozen yogurt and talk about it.
– Create opportunities if they are unavailable. Families with kids don’t want to hang out after church because they have logistical problems that singles don’t experience. An alternative to a “singles group” is to create opportunities for people to voluntarily do things together outside the church building.
– The goal isn’t to create a program-oriented church – going outside the building to do things with non-believers isn’t really at the core of an attractional ministry anyway. You are trying to offer both families and singles something to do that is worth paying the sitter, missing out on that other event, or not being able to relax at home.
– [Believe the gospel is for you. You are not hopeless or worthless. You are loved in Christ. You’re the bride of Christ. That may be sometimes or oft-times difficult to remember and live in, but lean into that, rest into it. You are cherished and loved, important and valued – God has a future and a hope for you.]