How to enjoy church again

Do you enjoy church, or has it become something you feel you have to do because you're filled with guilt if you skip?

I can understand if you've come to dread it. Many pastors do not make their church a "singles-friendly" atmosphere. We're treated like oddballs, like second-class citizens who are somehow to be pitied because we don't have a spouse and a family. Even if that message is not overt, many singles feel awkward being treated differently from the rest of the congregation.

Pastors should know better, but many don't get it. It's been so long since they've been single that they've forgotten what it's like. Older preachers, especially, may take a patronizing attitude toward the singles in their congregation. They may think all the "special attention" helps us enjoy church.

You're single, but you're not alone

Enjoy church again

If going to church makes you frustrated or even angry, you're not alone. I hear this comment from singles quite often.

One young woman complained that her pastor was starting a three month series of sermons on marriage. Now the married folks in the church may eat that up, but the sermon has become irrelevant to almost half the congregation--and for three months, yet! Show some common sense, pastor!

We all know that women do most of the work at church. Many of the older ladies are kind and thoughtful, treating young single women like their daughters. But they don't have a right to keep asking if you've met an eligible man yet, or to treat you with pity because you're not among the ranks of the married.

Women in their generation may not understand that many single women today are happy being unwed, so they can pursue their career and other interests.

It's difficult to deal with these well-meaning folks. You don't want to be rude, but on the other hand, you don't need a second mother or pseudo-relative giving you the "unmarried guilt trip." Yikes!

We just want to be treated like a person, not a single person. We have a right to enjoy church as much as married folks.

The dreaded singles' groups

Church singles groups are well-intentioned but can have just the opposite effect. Not only can they make you even more aware of your singleness, they can put you in an awkward situation of being "eligible" with people you'd rather not be eligible with--if you know what I mean.

A divorced female friend gave a poignant account of what many singles feel:

    "I've known loneliness. The first time I attended a singles’ event at a local church I cried all the way home. Maybe it was just an unusually bad night, but the thought of my new single life being that dismal and lame propelled me to find other ways to make friends."

Fortunately, she didn't let that stop her. She rebuilt her life to include a variety of worthwhile activities. I admire her for stepping out, with God's help, to take a creative approach.

Some of these groups throw young singles, middle aged singles and elderly widows and widowers in together; the only two things they have in common being their church membership and that they don't have a spouse. It sounds like a perfect formula for a lot of very uncomfortable people to me.

Just because your church may have a singles' group doesn't mean you'll be arrested if you don't participate in it. You can't enjoy church if part of it makes you half-sick with anxiety.

It's not Bible times any more, Pastor!

Here's the deal. In ancient Israel, people considered it their duty to God to get married and have a large family. As we read about several Bible women (Sarai, Rebekah, Rachel, and Elizabeth), married women considered it a disgrace to be childless. Because many children died in infancy, large families were necessary to sustain the tribe and the nation.

But it's not Bible times any more, Pastor! Women are no longer denied opportunities in the work place. They can achieve anything men can achieve. They can provide for themselves and often outearn men. Our country doesn't need big families.

It's even all right with God for people to be single.

So stop telling us marriage is the best state on earth. It may not be for everyone. Many widows and widowers will not remarry. The opportunity has passed some of us singles by. Is there a reason you want singles to feel bad?

Oops. Sorry. You're not a pastor. You're just a single person reading this. But maybe you should forward it to your pastor.

How to enjoy church again

We singles can get by these aggravations, if we really want to. We can enjoy church instead of dreading it, if we make up our minds to.

Here are a few suggestions on how to enjoy church again:

  • Remember that church is about Jesus. Amidst all the irritations, it's easy to forget that. We tend to fixate on something, shifting our focus off who we came to worship. It takes a forgiving heart to let this stuff go. So let it go. Home in on Jesus.

  • People will always be people. No matter where you go, you're going to run into insensitive, even nosy people. You can't escape them, so you need to deal with them. You can politely but firmly tell them your dating life is none of their business and not to ask you about it again. You can do it without being snappy. You really can. Rehearse what you're going to say, if necessary, then just be as calm as you can about it.

  • Your pastor may be clueless. It could be that your pastor isn't even aware that he's offending singles or making church difficult for them. Maybe you need to have a gentle talk with him, and if you can get other singles of a like mind to go with you, he's more apt to pay attention. He may have fallen into the same pattern other married pastors have adopted. Give him or her the benefit of the doubt, but let him know. Don't simmer in your anger.

  • You may have to change churches. This is a drastic and last resort, but if there's no sign that your church or pastor is going to change, it may be time to look for a church that treats singles more kindly. God wants us to enjoy church and worship with others. Life is too short to be miserable every weekend.

Here are some excellent pointers on How to find a church...

You can laugh about it! Read this hilarious piece on Surviving Church as a Single...



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