By Dennis Franck
Harold Ivan Smith, a prolific writer and speaker for thirty years to and for the
single adult community, says,
Any church that ignores single adults is signing its death warrant!
That sounds like a rather strong and opinionated statement. Yet, what
else can we say to those churches who treat single adult ministry as
only a fad?...
He suggests five excellent reasons why a church cannot ignore single adults.
a. A church that ignores single adults fails to underwrite tomorrow’s
leadership. Thousands of skilled, competent, passionate adults are only pew-warmers. This is not because they are unwilling to serve, but because many times church leadership thinks young adults should either “grow up,” or “settle down and get married” before they are mature enough or eligible to be in key leadership positions. Sadly, it is also true that many church leaders and pastors look for married couples before single adults to fill important leadership roles in the church. It is as though there is something more normal, mature or spiritual about being married.
b. A church that ignores single adults fails to appreciate the pattern
demonstrated by the early church in Acts 6. In this passage, the church did not react, but responded to the needs of the widowed, or “chera,” (those without a mate). I wish to remind the reader that James wrote, “Religion God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27) The weight of the Old Testament thought is summarized in severe curses on anyone who ignores the chera (Exodus 22:22).
c. A church that ignores single adults fails to follow Jesus’ example.
The words of Jesus on the cross to John were, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:27) These words expressed one of the Father’s priorities…to take care of a widow in her grief who was now losing her son. If Christ took time while dying to remember the needs of a widow, how much more should the church take care of those without a mate?
d. A church that ignores single adults is a slave to the past rather than a pre-viewer of the future. There is a sense, today, of the Church wanting and hoping that the majority of society will return to the days of the nuclear family, one having an original husband, wife and two to three children. The Church is “in exile” from the days of the nuclear family we so fondly remember and imagine! I personally believe as Harold Ivan Smith does. “The church must painfully abandon some of its most cherished myths and cultural notions concerning the family in order to embrace the realities of twenty-first century (and beyond) living.” 6 Societal practices and trends have clearly shown this “how it used to be norm” is no longer the case, nor will it be in the future. “I believe singleness to be the permanent direction of the American population, not because of some post-Vietnam or post-Watergate consequences, but because the drift of American culture for more than 200 years has clearly been in this direction.”
It is time the Church see the “singling of America” as an opportunity to be seized rather than only a problem to be solved! It is time to turn what looks bad into something good! It is time to train the Church to teach single adults to become “kingdom seekers rather than mate seekers!”
d. A church that ministers to/with single adults will help them mature, make spiritual
commitments, and establish Kingdom priorities that will lead them into better marriages. I firmly believe this to be so! A church that targets single adults for ministry to/with them will help build stronger individuals for Christ, both from a redemptive and preventative perspective. Effective single adult ministries can and will help prevent future divorces because of the individual healing and training that takes place in such ministries. The spiritual and relational growth that results in people is invaluable, and is uniquely brought about by the sharing of like people in like circumstances.