women in ministry: all the single ladies

Welcome to a series that is focused on women leaders in ministry. It doesn't matter where you lead. If you are woman, leading a ministry, then this is for you. I want you to know that I am approaching this as someone who doesn't know all the answers nor have I figured it all out. All I know are the lessons I have learned in my short time in leadership. I have been a leader, in some shape or form, for the past 20 years. These roles have included leading a small group, mentoring, leading events and volunteers and leading mission trips. In the Spring of 2015, God called me to a role that would stretch my leadership capabilities to a point of constantly needing Him and that is leading the women's ministry at my church. Thanks for joining this series as we dive into areas of ministry that we might find challenging or alone in dealing with. The premise is to understand you are not alone!
The topic for today can be applicable in just about every ministry and church. It's one that isn't entirely taboo but, for some reason, tends to be avoided. Probably because it isn't something that has been though of as an issue. We're talking about all my single ladies!

I recently watched a video that had a panel of women, in ministry, who are single. They were asked to share about the highs, lows, how they would encourage other singles and, what the local church can do better. As I listened to them, I began to formulate my own thoughts on this very subject because it is, indeed, a challenge. So, here are my answers and, I hope that no matter your marital status, this topic is helpful for you as you continue to lead in your ministry. 

When it comes to being single and the church, what are the highs?
I am going to "go there" with this one - my highs are that I can do what I want, when I want and how I want. There is no spouse, or children, to coordinate with or gain permission. If I want to go on a trip, I can just go. If I want to leave the country to do missions, I can go. There is a lot of freedom with being single. The mess at home is only mine and I am not responsible for anybody else. There is flexibility with my schedule as I am the only one I am scheduling around. 

When it comes to being single and the church, what are the lows?
I am going to "go there" with this one as well. 
It can be very lonely. The tendency to feel isolated can be pretty strong and common. Especially when most events are organized around the family unit. For example, fun family nights where spouses are kids are encouraged to come - it can be awkward for a single person to go, even if they are welcomed. I have personal stories of being left out of things because of my singleness. Friends who would go do fun things and it would only be the couples while I was home wondering where everybody was at. Being an extrovert who needs her friends, it can be a very lonely place! No automatic date, or friend, to attend functions, weddings, events, etc. And, the other tough one? Is when people seem to assume that I wouldn't want to attend something because I could very well be the only single person. 
Yes, it can be very lonely. 

What would I do to encourage other singles?
Not to wait! For whatever reason, our society (and church) have embraced this notion that we are not complete until we are married. Well, here is the thing - no HUMAN is going to complete you. Compliment? Perhaps but, definitely not complete. The only One who can complete you is Jesus! So, with that thought, knowing that you are already complete, do not wait to do ministry. To lead a ministry does not mean you have to know what it's like to be married. The equipping that you need comes from God and Him alone, no matter what your life status is. You can lead, serve, go on mission trips, disciple, etc. no matter what. God equips all of us and doesn't discern us on marital status. Jesus was single. And if HE can do what HE did? Then so can I. 

What can the church do differently?
Can I just take a minute to brag on my local church? 
I am a single, 43 year old woman leading the women's ministry. The leadership empowers me and God has definitely used me in many ways. I didn't need to be married or have children in order for Him to do so. I may still get left out sometimes but, at the end of the day, I am thankful for a church leadership that has empowered and encouraged me in this ministry. 
Now, all that to say - I think the church can do a better job of seeing the big picture when it comes to meeting the needs of their people. I think the church can be aware that the person, who is single, can make their own decision when it comes to attending functions, and the like. Sometimes the decision is made for them because the people don't think a single person would enjoy themselves. Well, that's not their decision to make. Personally? If I let marital status get in the way of feeling comfortable at dinner parties, ministry events and the like, I wouldn't get out much and I wouldn't have any friends or community! I love hanging out with my married friends. I love seeing them function in their family unit and "adopting" their kiddos. It's all extended family to me. 

There doesn't need to be a separate singles ministry. Honestly, that just becomes a meat market whether we think it will, or not. Singles don't need to be segregated from the rest of the congregation. There are other things we can relate to, like hobbies and food and music and such. 

When planning events, keep in mind that there will be people from all walks of life, of many different marital statuses and backgrounds. So, there is an importance to ensure that not everything is geared towards one demographic or life status. 

Finally, hey church? Could you please stop saying, "The right one will come along." or "Your man is out there somewhere." You know what my answer is? "Yes, yes He is and His name is Jesus." 

Get more singles serving in leadership positions, too. This helps broaden the big picture and gets input from folks who are actually single and are wired for leading. 

How does this relate to women's ministry and women leading?
If you are single and you are feeling the pull from God to lead, then be obedient and do it. Don't wait. Ignore the stigma and presumption that you need to wait for your helpmate first because, you don't! I didn't. I will confess, I wondered how I could possibly relate to all the women because, my experience in women's ministry, has always been one geared towards mothers and daughters. God showed me that it doesn't matter the marital status. When it is about HIM, that is all that matters. Because everything is done to glorify Him and only Him. Whether I have a ring on my finger or not. 

Now, if you are married, and reading this, please include your single lady friends. Ensure that what you are providing is relevant to any woman that walks through the doors - married, divorced, widowed, single, etc. Because, at the end of the day, we are all human in need of a Savior. The gift of salvation is available to everyone. Being a leader, we know this to be true so, it is like preaching to the choir a bit. 

Also, while being single can tend to get lonely, do not assume every single person is lonely all the time. Because they are not. My loneliness stems from being an extrovert. I fill up being around my people and, when I am (or feel) isolated, it can become a bad situation. But know that single people are people. You don't have to be gentle or treat us any differently. Yes, we will join you and your husband for dinner if you have us. Yes, we would love to come to your Fourth of July family bbq and spend time with you. 

What have been your experiences when it comes to this topic? I am interested to hear from all sides. Single and over 30? Single and young? Married but, remember your single days? Let's use this as a time to encourage and not vent or shame. 


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