He walked out on his marriage a month ago and comes to your church. He’s brand new and comes to the singles group. He seems nice and you greet him, talk to him, and connect him. Over lunch that week, he mentions that he is recently divorced. As the conversation progresses, you realize that when he says “divorced” he mean that he has left his wife and the “paperwork” is still “in process”. So then, is this person divorced? As a minister of the Gospel, how do you counsel him? Is he single or is he married?
A real world problem for singles ministries is dealing with a person who is separated but not divorced or, in our view, even single. Table for One Ministries defines divorced as “The papers are filed” for a reason. We believe that until a divorce is legally finalized that person is married. Marriage is a sacred commitment and by all means should be fought for until the end. Separated is nothing more than married but not together. It’s still marriage.
This is NOT to say singles ministries cannot help. The church can and must help in this situation, but singles ministry should be for singles not married adults. The problem is introducing a hurting, frustrated, married person to a group of happy, healthy single people does not encourage the married person to seek God’s strength to fight for their marriage. Instead, it encourages them to abandon their marriage and seek the “happy single life” they see in front of them.We can hear the criticism now: “Every case is different and there should be exceptions,” “Divorces can take years,” and “Things are over, so why wait?”
We encourage the waiting to give God time to work. Emotions run high during separations, and they need to be given time to let God speak to BOTH people involved.
To those separated: marriage commitment is a big deal. Leaving it should not be a simple task. Allow God to move and even if that divorce takes months to sort out, take time to heal before looking to engage the single adult world. Leaders, protect your singles from getting involved with a married person, and encourage the separated adult looking to get involved in a married adult group first, giving God time to work in their life.