Trying to figure out why some people find a spouse and some don’t is murky, mysterious business. So let me say right up front that I don’t think there’s any hard-and-fast formula for making it happen, nor am I interested in dishing out a one-size-fits-all prescription for getting married.
That said, my wife and I were involved in several different ministries to young single adults for many years, and we began to recognize some identifiable patterns when it came to who got married and who didn’t. More specifically, the men who got married.
My wife, in particular, noticed that there was one trait shared by many guys who eventually made it to the altar after logging time, sometimes years, in a singles’ ministry: They had become church members. Not all of them, mind you. But enough that it was noticeable.
In our conversations about this subject, we identified several reasons why there might be a link between becoming a member of a local church and becoming a husband.
Becoming a member of a local church gives men a chance to exercise their commitment muscles. Sometimes we men like to keep our options open. And that’s a mindset that our culture certainly reinforces. After all, what if something, or someone, better comes along? Committing to a church, in contrast, gives a man a chance to say, “I’m going to dig in here. I’m going to put my gifts to work here. I’m going to be here … not somewhere else.” Becoming a member — not just a regular attender, but a member — offers men a chance to practice commitment. And practicing commitment in one significant area sometimes spills over into the ability to make commitments in others, like, say, marriage.
Becoming a member opens doors to serve others and grow in other-centeredness. In most churches (that I’m aware of, anyway), officially becoming a member often involves a commitment to serve the needs of the church, perhaps even in ways you never thought about before. In one church I joined, for example, my pastor encouraged me to serve as a teacher in the fourth- and fifth-grade class, which was where there was a need. It’s not a commitment I likely would have made short of going through the membership process. But the two semesters I spent in that ministry taught me a lot — about God, about ministry, about my church and about the kids I had the chance to serve (even though I had no real idea what I was doing).
Serving others takes your focus off of finding a spouse (at least a little bit). When a man starts serving others in a church, it gives him a reason to be there that’s not exclusively focused on finding a wife — and that’s a good thing. In my case, working with a couple of kids who were really struggling in my class pulled me out of my strong tendency toward self-absorption. Focusing on their needs, not just my own desires, helped me grow and mature as a human being.
Becoming a member might make a man seem like a more attractive option to a woman. Last week, I wrote about how my wife took almost four months to decide if she was interested in me. One of the things that brought her around was the fact that I was a member of my (at the time different) church and that I was actively serving people. She was drawn to the fact that I was committed to my congregation and to ministering to others.
I suspect that there may be other correlations between men, church membership and marriage. But I think these reasons help explain why guys who say “yes” to joining a local church are also making a choice that could help them down the road to matrimony, too.