I’m going to admit right off the bat that I know very little about the single life. I married my first boyfriend. We met when I was 17, and we got married when I was 21. We had a baby when I was 23.
I’m about the least qualified person to write this post about what singles need. I actually think that’s why I need to write it, because if you’re like me, you have a tough time knowing how to reach someone who is in a different stage of life than you.
We don’t automatically think to mentor people who are different from us. We want to mentor to someone we relate to, or who we see struggling with the same things we struggled with. We want to know what we are talking about, and give the best advice.
The problem I found with that mindset is that the whole relationship depends on me and what I have to bring to the table.
“Gospel Mentoring” is about pointing her to the gospel on a consistent basis. It’s about asking her questions that will make her face what she really believes, theologically, and face those beliefs honestly. It’s about coming alongside whatever God is working in her life, and witnessing the miracle.
In my online course of Gospel Mentoring I have lessons on talking to younger women about their marriage, or talking to them about motherhood. The reasons that I included those subtopics is because those are areas where we tend to sway about from sound theology in our “advice” to younger women. Oh my goodness, the marriage or parenting advice out there that is rooted in legalism is rampant. It’s all surrounding “here’s how you have the perfect marriage and children.” Not, “here’s how you live with your imperfect husband and your imperfect children.” We go for the quick fix, instead of looking to see where God is trying to reveal himself, and teach the younger woman to abide with him.
I meant to write a lesson for singles. Honest, I did. But, I froze. I felt like I had too many stereotypes in my head. I had never mentored a single. I had never been a single.
So I’ve been doing a few months of listening to singles in the church. I’ve listened to writers who are singles. I’ve talked to young singles, and I even got to talk with some older, retired singles. Once again, I found a theme that ran through these conversations about their frustrations with the church. Once again, the advice given them was based on bad theology.
Trap #1: They Are Just Waiting to Get Married
I guess I used to think that. Sure, some of them want to get married, and some have no desire to get married. Some will get married. Some will never get married. The main thing I’ve learned is that they don’t want their identity to be based on their singleness. They don’t want to be a project, that you take on to marry off.
They just want to be loved and valued for just being them, as they are: single. No agenda. No conditions.
I don’t think agenda’s are necessarily bad. For instance, if your agenda is to encourage them in their faith and point them to Jesus in all things, that’s great. If your agenda falls outside of that, you’re in danger of striking out.
Trap #2: They Just Need to Meet Singles Their Own Age
Once again, they likely have single friends. They may even be open to meeting new single friends. But across the board, most singles I talked to hated the pushing of churches to get them together, and leave them alone. They want to mix with the families, and mix with the older generations, they just don’t mix very well. Well, I should say that families/couples don’t mix very well. They kind of act like singles don’t exist.
I heard one single say recently that Thanksgiving ushers in the “lonely months for singles” between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Those months are a series of holidays, where families and couples are celebrated, and singles are interviewed by family members about their relationship status. These months are the months when they especially struggle to fit into the diversity of the church they crave. So many churches are set up to serve families. Singles tend to feel like an afterthought.
Families and Singles: The Beautiful Relationship
God has laid on my heart singles this year, and like all ministries, they should start with prayer, for God to prepare our hearts. What exactly do you want us to do, Lord? Let’s leave our agenda’s aside and take up the posture of listening to our single neighbors, and what is really on their heart, and what God is really already doing in their lives.
What I heard over and over and over again in my interviews, that singles just wanted to be brought into a family. They wanted to enjoy kids. They wanted to just hang out. They just wanted to be that cool aunt or uncle. With that, they didn’t want to be just “used” as a babysitter, or for the accessibility.
However, as in all mentoring relationships that I’ve ever been in, I feel guilty for getting out of it more than I offer. The ministry to singles I felt was extremely unfair with how much it blessed me. Although I don’t think these are reasons to mentor a single person (their worth alone in God’s eye’s is enough) I couldn’t help but feel like God’s design to just graft single people into other families was just so beautiful for both parties. From my end, here were some amazing parts:
- First, it was fantastic that she wanted to spend time one on one with my kids. Although I didn’t really ask her to babysit (except once when I was in a pinch) my kids were just so more settled after having just another adult pour attention into them.
- I learned that having a single person hang out around my house made my kids keep their manners on…at least a little bit. There was generally less yelling, less fighting, and more polite behavior because there was someone else in our house.
- I got to talk to her about kid related things, but also, it drew me out of my mommy-brain into broader areas of the world, and things on her brain. We got to talk about literature or politics. She made me smarter. My brain was so happy.
- When I dealt with a misbehaving child, she was watching, and considering what she would do in a similar situation. Afterwards, she complimented me on how I handled the situation. Seriously? I could have cried. Whenever I do the hard, right thing to let my kids know what is right and wrong, I usually deal with tears and crying. Growing up is hard when you can’t have everything you want. But to have a cheerleader saying, “Great job!” I hugged her. I begged her to stay.
- I got to hear her stories. Single people are full of great stories and thoughts and want someone to share their stories with. What a joy!
- I got to encourage her, and see that encouragement even change her posture, physically. When we push singles alone, not only do they not get to speak encouragement into other people’s lives, but no one is speaking into theirs. Oh, the relief it is you can see when you speak life into their lives.
As a mother of young kids, I often wished I could be involved in more ministry in the church. I wished that I could volunteer more, but my kids just made everything hard. Going places was hard. Packing up and in and out of carseats, and packing snacks and diapers. It was exhausting. I didn’t know that opening up my home to a single person to just come and hang out would have such rich rewards for both of us. It’s such an ideal match up.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: you don’t have to mentor someone just like you. Reach out, especially during this season, even if you have little ones at home (or I should say especially if you have little ones at home!) and invite a single person into your home to be an honorary member of your family.
Don’t let the November-February slump where Satan isolates the singles and tries to center their identity around their singleness instead of around the Lord.