A single thirtysomething friend recently told me about their increasing sense of isolation. “All the people I used to hang out with, five years ago, are now married,” she lamented. “I no longer have any friends.”
Apparently, when some people get married, they no longer hang out with their single friends.
Something shifts in our thirties. As a thirty-eight-year-old, I am aware of this change. People our age are moving on with their lives. Most people in their thirties are married with several children. If you are single, you do not fit the norm.
Single thirtysomethings can feel left out and left behind.
Single thirtysomethings can feel left behind.
A similar pattern emerges at church. People get married young and get straight into the business of having children. They change services or churches with more suitable kids’ and youth programs. The singles stay put in an ever-diminishing congregation.
There is a natural progression to this. It is expected that most people will eventually couple up and start their own families. The thing that never ceases to shock me is how friendships seem to fall by the wayside as a result.
Couples only hang out with other couples.
Parents only hang out with other parents.
Singles are expected to group together like some kind of leftovers in a takeaway tub.
This phenomena is understandable. But the isolation and exclusion of singles in inexcusable.
The isolation and exclusion of single people is inexcusable.
I may get torn a new one for saying this. It might be controversial. But I am tired of seeing single people adrift and drifting because narrow-sighted couples and churches cannot think outside their social box. It makes me mad.
Those of us who are married should be making the most effort on behalf of the most marginalised amongst us. In contemporary church, the most marginalised people are, in no particular order:
– Single people;
– Childless people;
– Those with disabilities or chronic conditions; and
– Those with mental health issues.
Show me a church that is actually running programs for or specifically targeting these groups.
Show me a church that is actually targeting these groups.
Perhaps I am getting old. Perhaps I am a little jaded. Or perhaps I am sick of churches running like social clubs. Church is not a place for popularity contests. It is not a place for cliques or social exclusion. It is supposed to be home for people from all walks of life. It is meant to be family.
Yes, I feel strongly about this. But I think God does too. In the Bible, God tells us over and over to look after these people:
– The poor; and
– The foreigners.
In other words, God wants us to look after people who have no support of their own. People who have been left high and dry. People who need to be adopted into God’s family.
God wants us to look after people who have no support of their own.
We need to look after people whose needs are greater than ours. And not just as an afterthought. We need to be vigilant and on the lookout for people who seem out of place, people who may not feel they belong.
Then we need to make sure they belong.
That is the real church.
Do you have a story of feeling isolated or out-of-place? Did someone or something help you belong? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.