Saturday, December 8, 2012

Being useful isn't enough

Ideally, the culture of a Christian congregation should be such that every member feels valued, noticed, encouraged, tended. This need may be particularly urgent for single adults, who may not have many other relationships in which they experience love.

Doing it right.

A friend of mine and fellow blogger (explore her lovely words here) recently sent me a link to an article entitled "Serving in Ways Married People Can't." The author discusses the ways in which the freedom of being single allows one to go and give in ways married people (especially those with children) cannot. As far as it goes, this article is really good, and it reminded me how thankful I am to be able to decide, for example, to spend a month in China on a mission trip.

Indeed, if I were to write a book on "How to Be Content as a Single Christian," a chapter on "Being Useful" would have a privileged spot in the table of contents. I love being useful, whether that means serving in the nursery so parents can worship, sitting on a committee, leading a Bible study group, or something else. Like my mother, I savor the rush of endorphins (and perhaps also pride) that comes from accomplishing some necessary work.

At the same time, being useful is not enough to establish the contentment of an unmarried man or woman. We must know that we are beloved.

Theologically, I know that, as a member of the Church, I am the Bride of Christ. However, that assertion doesn't always assuage loneliness. I've heard many preachers use an illustration that makes much the same point: two parents hear their a child crying in the night, and going into his room, assure their little boy that Jesus is always with him. "I know," the child sobs, "but sometimes you need someone with skin."

My Texas church gave "skin" to Christ's love in many ways.  Having visited several other churches since I moved, however, I am beginning to wonder how many congregations intentionally look for ways to make single adults feel not only useful, but beloved.

You can read through my blog archives to for examples of how a church can make a single woman feel   so loved she can hardly bear the weight of it: celebrating important life events (here and here), asking to hear her story (here), providing small groups for study and support (again, here), teaching her to say good-bye (here). I could list so many more: giving hugs, cultivating friendships, offering dinner invitations.

No matter what practical expression that love takes, churches should fight the assumption that single adulthood is a time to be as useful as possible, and that Jesus will satisfy our need for love until marriage comes. For some us, marriage may never come. If we are to experience human love, oh church, it must come from you, and it must come now.


  1. I knew of a church that had a 'singles and widowers' luncheon on a monthly basis.

    1. That's a wonderful idea. I've often wondered if it is more difficult for widows/widowers than for people who have never married. I don't know anything other than single life, but I imagine it would be so difficult to learn to be alone after years of marriage.

  2. As always, you've hit the nail on the head. I struggle with this, and with the desire for motherhood. Several people have said something along the lines of "But you have your students, they're like your kids or something," They aren't. I care about them a lot, but they are not my kids.