Picking a church feels a bit like picking a spouse. We’re supposed to commit to a church and serve it, but there are many options, and none of them are perfect. Once we settle on a place, it’s often only a matter of time before we come up with reasons why it’s time to go:
“There aren’t enough single people.”
“I don’t feel like my gifts are valued.”
“There’s no Chipotle in the lobby.” (That one’s actually mine. It’s been my main complaint at every church I’ve attended.)
Attending church as a single person can be challenging, especially as you get older and “age out” of the groups they have in place for your life stage. I once got rejected from a community group (one that had said it wanted people of all ages and backgrounds) because I was the only single person who signed up and they were afraid it would be too awkward.
Alone in Church
The sitting by yourself, the assumptions, the uncomfortable advice, the bizarre questions, the watching families go home together while you go back to an empty apartment and takeout. It hurts. It’s frustrating. It’s sometimes easier to stay home, try another church, or cut your losses and go cry into a burrito (the latter option being strangely therapeutic).
Feeling like you belong and are of value to the congregation is a powerful affirmation – one that many singles may not be getting from their church home. As a result, we can float from church to church, staying until the frustration or hurt becomes too much, and then we start over.
What if, though, in spite of disappointments and loneliness and feeling like we don’t belong, we became a generation of single men and women who spoke well of our churches? Encouraged our leadership? Supported and rejoiced with members of our congregation in their various life stages, even if our hearts long to be somewhere else? We should make leaving a last resort, not a first response.
There is so much hurt in our churches – deeper than we probably know. No one has escaped the effects of sin. Married, single, divorced, widowed, we all carry with us a set of unmet expectations and wounds, both seen and unseen. We have a unique opportunity to put aside the subtle “us vs. them” mentality that sometimes plagues the body of Christ as we partner with each of these wounded sinners to live on mission for Christ. To share the good news of the One who cries with us and heals our deepest hurts.
The longer we stay at a church the more we’ll notice its weaknesses and failures. We should strive to remember what our church does well. We can pray for the leadership and members, and ask God to help us be on their side. We can beg for wisdom on how to put our own will aside and discover hidden ways to serve and build up rather than critique and tear down.
There are certainly times where leaving a church is necessary, and many complaints are legitimate and bear thoughtful discussion. However, I think if our generation of singles can make a choice to love easily, forgive quickly, assume the best about our church and the people in it, seek to help our church flourish, and leave it only with great thought and sober mindedness, we can influence the next generation of believers to be known not by their relationship status but by their love and care for Christ and His people.
Kristin Weber is a comic, writer, and music teacher. Her second book, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Mean Girls, Manicures, and God’s Amazing Plan for Me, an advice book for teen girls, releases July 1st. She lives in Colorado Springs and loves hiking, re-watching episodes of Parks and Rec, and Chipotle. You can find her at: www.kristinweberonline.com