adult singles in the family ministry jungle

Family ministry is here to stay. Publishers are adapting curriculum to account for the growing demand, while also churning out new books on a regular basis. I am pleased with these developments. I especially am delighted at the growing level of awareness that family ministry and children’s ministry ought to complement each other, rather than compete for attention. Yet, I still think we are missing some important points in the conversation, not least, how do we include adult singles?

What comes to your mind when you see the phrase adult singles? Twenty-somethings just getting started in their adult journey? Widows and widowers who have lost spouses, but have not remarried? Divorced persons? Single parents, typically moms with children? Older adults who have never married? The adult who has chosen to remain single throughout his life? Surely, family ministry is not relevant to them, right?

Wrong.

Adult singles are living, breathing human beings. Sometimes we get lost in the family ministry jungle. Even empty-nester parents may feel this pinch as the child-rearing years become a fond memory, rather than a present reality. Yet, they still are a family. So too, are singles in the sense of their extended families on one hand, and their church family on the other.

So I ask you, publishers, authors, influencers of family ministry initiatives, to avoid disregarding us. We have so much to offer our faith communities. Plus, we need them. We do not want to be segregated into groups of people who are only our age and social circumstances (some of my single adult peers, younger and older, think they do, but they do not know what they are missing). We want to live and breathe the essence of family life across the generations along with our married friends, knowing that we all need each other in God’s economy. We understand the importance of mothers and fathers having family time with their children, so we do not wish to impose ourselves as distractions to that aim. Yet, why is it that so many churches assume that single adults without children, and even sometimes singles with children, do not wish to be involved in the ebb and flow of community relationships?

True, some of us have brought this on ourselves, independant thinkers that we are. But even the most independant among us (I say this from personal experience) will recognize the value of community if we are given consistent opportunities to do so.

What is the point of this post? Is it an apologetic to start a singles ministry? No. Is it a criticism of the home-centered/church-supported family ministry model which has largely dominated the evangelical ecclesial landscape? Slightly. But I make this case with the respectful encouragement that we open our hearts to the idea that every human being is part of the human family, and thus, even if they have not married or produced offspring, they still retain value to the larger family because of who they are, made in the image of God.

What then needs to happen? Singles and leaders need to meet each other halfway. As a single, I take the initiative to be involved in community. As a leader, I advocate  that my single adult peers follow my example in engaging fully in community, while also poking holes in their excuses for why initiatives like small groups or intergenerational opportunities do not apply to them.

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