Is there a black sheep in the church family? To many, the ideal family consists of a mom, dad and 2.5 children. However, today’s political and social movements have led to cultural shifts that challenge the traditional definition of family.
In their blog “The Church’s View of Singleness,” Keith Clement and Laura McGee note, “As evangelicals have become more politically involved, there has been the rallying cry for ‘family values.’” So how does the concept of family affect Sunday School and small group ministry?
One retired widow compares her small group to an “island of misfits,” because single women of diverse ages and contexts do not fit any traditional mold created by the church. We have groups for wives, mothers, husbands, children, married couples and families, but where do single people fit into our church family?
Singles ministries used to be for college students and young professionals — people under 25 who have never married. Now we have single people of all ages who have never been married, whose spouses have died or who are divorced. As we create groups to connect people in our church families, have we neglected some?
As we create groups to connect people in our church families, have we neglected some?
In their article, Clement and McGee point out the inequity of church ministries between families and singles. “Many evangelical churches are unapologetic about their primary ministry focus to families, and they structure their ministry offerings and resources to encourage and strengthen families.”
Clement and McGee conclude by sharing how Jesus addresses the definition of family in Mark 3. After receiving word that some of his family members are looking for him, Jesus asks, “Who are my mother and brothers?” and then answers his own question in v. 35: “whoever does the will of God.” Jesus’ statement expands the idea of family beyond blood-based relationships.
How are single people doing in your church? Maybe a better question to ask is how is your church doing connecting with singles? All people need community. Groups are not only the vehicle by which people join a church’s community but can also be game-changers in people’s lives. Four components of healthy groups are:
- Spiritual health is foundational to the life of all Christ followers. Spiritual health is not measured by attendance records but by the biblical standard of falling more in love with Jesus Christ. This growth is the outworking of spiritual habits, e.g. Bible study, prayer and meditation.
- Relational health takes place as people build healthy relationships centered around the gospel. Rather than manipulating, guilting or shaming, the gospel transforms lives and creates an inviting environment for singles.
- Authentic frameworks are key components of healthy groups. If your group is comprised of both genders, it is important to build gender-specific clusters. These smaller clusters create intimate bonds of trust where people can share personal struggles with other Christ-followers who will walk with them and pray for them, life on life.
- Internal and external service opportunities are very attractive to singles. Most singles have a desire to connect with others, which can happen through serving both inside and outside of the church. Singles often suffer from loneliness, and being on the mission of God can replace loneliness with a God-given purpose.
If all people are unique individuals created in the image of God, we can learn from one another and serve together rather than gathering only with “people like us.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Hughes, senior consultant for Sunday School/Small Groups, BSCNC can provide more information on singles and groups in your church.
Terri Howell / Production Assistant / Baptist State Convention of North Carolina