The youth groups that I've seen assume that all youth/young adults will get married when the emphasis turns to relationships and purity. I understand that we don't want to scare kids off by saying, "There's a possibility that God may have you single (read: a virgin) for the rest of your life." But let's be honest — that's what happens in some cases. Never, in all my years as a Christian and in all the books I've read and sermons/teaching sessions I've heard have I ever heard this addressed or even mentioned. Not even in passing!
I know many Christian people who would make great spouses, and yet they are not married. These folks have put God first, they are (or have been) involved in ministries (both "professionally" and in the church) and are personally and spiritually stable and mature. By the Christian community standard, they've done everything right. And yet they remain alone. And while they are certainly not miserable, this is not their first choice — they long for marriage and family life.
I think the reason churches assume that most of their young people will eventually marry is that most of them do: 90 percent according to the Census Bureau. (I wish I'd known that back when I was dateless and worried I'd never marry.) With such a high probability that someone will one day marry, it makes sense to discuss romantic relationships and sexual purity in that context.
Still, I'm sorry to hear you've never heard the issue of celibate service addressed. It may be that it's an underrepresented topic simply because Protestant churches don't have a clearly defined path for lifelong service the way the Catholic church does.
So how can someone in a Protestant setting know if they have the gift of celibacy? Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggests asking yourself: "can I imagine going my whole life without the companionship of a spouse, without sex, without children and without being bitter about it?" If you answer yes to all of those questions, there's a good possibility you have the gift.
But what about those who answer no to one or more of those questions and are still single? What about people who are single beyond their expectations due to the circumstances of living in a fallen, broken world?
To them I say don't lose hope. It's never too late to marry. Pray boldly, seek the input of mentors and remember, "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).
Copyright 2009 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.