One Way To Grow Your Singles Ministry You Missed

Pregnancy centers are commonplace now in our cities and towns. These centers of hope of a life yet to be born have contributed to the steady decline of abortions in the past decade. Churches and evangelicals alike praise their existence, from a distance. The sad reality of pregnancy centers are they lack volunteer and church involvement to see the family in need through all stages of their life, not just a pregnancy.

On a recent trip the leaders of a local pregnancy center told us they desire to connect young mothers and families to the local church. These are Christian brothers and sisters on the front lines of saving lives, yet they feel alone in their battle. The sad irony of our pregnancy center leaders feeling isolated and alone as they reach out to mothers who feel the same should be heart-breaking to any Christ follower. Something has to change and it starts with each one of us. Nearly 40% of all families in our community are single parent families. Does your church reflect that statistic? To see single parent families connected to your church, here are some strategies for empowering our pregnancy centers beyond resources:

Connect with a Pregnancy Center

Not every church has a pregnancy center connection but they should. Establish that connection or find the one your congregation has and reach out to their leaders. While volunteering at the center may be where you feel led, we think everyone should be able to take the next step after connecting with a center.

Develop a Connection Pathway to Your Church

Pregnancy center leaders tell us that the amount of churches willing and committed to connecting these young mothers and families to a church is embarrassing. We simply are not doing enough as a church to empower these leaders with a pathway to a church home for their clients. Your church can distribute information about your congregation, but the most effective method is to go in person, meet the pregnancy center client with their permission, and greet them at your church when they come. We are talking about taking time to hold the hand of family and connect them to your church family, potentially changing changing their family lineage for generations to come.

So You Want to Grow Your Church?

Growth strategies for churches come and go, but the core messaging is the same. To reach people you have to go where people are! They will not come to you, and in our culture that is growing increasingly true as fewer Americans identify with church as a social norm. We propose this method of reaching into the lives of a mother and family in need is not only a Kingdom win, but one that will grow your church numerically as well. It may seem crass, but churches live in the reality of needing to add people to grow or they cease to be relevant. We think starting with pregnancy centers is a place where life change happens; would you want those lives in your church family?

In a generation when parachurch organizations can be very effective in reaching people where they are, churches have nothing to lose in extending an open hand. Worst case, the mother never visits your church but you shared God’s love and were welcoming. Potentially, one conversation and invitation could change generations of lives to follow Christ.

Single Myths: You’ll Know When the Right Person Enters Your Life

The falsity of the statement in this title reaches many levels. If you are a Christ follower, we’re sure you felt the same immediately as a single. Except the importance level, searching for a mate is no different than seeking and drawing closer to Jesus.  

A relationship whether with Jesus or with a friend or with a family member takes time and effort on the part of all parties.  Although we know that Jesus is always present, our acknowledgement of Him, our conversations with Him and our study of His Word and ways are essential for a healthy, loving relationship with our Creator.

Seeking a relationship for friendship or marriage is much the same. We must spend time with the individual to learn his or her morals, lifestyle, and beliefs. We must see the potential mate during his or her best of times and worst of times. In order to do that, we must make the time to connect and spend face-to-face time with the person. We cannot expect a godly, healthy relationship to come from texting, Facebook interaction or tweeting. We cannot think a long term commitment can be sustained on the initial attraction to the humor or physical looks of a person.

Spending time with the individual we see as a potential mate must encompass many situations and events. The actions and words of Individuals can be very different, whether in a group situation, a family situation or a one-on-one conversation. Think you’ve found the one? That’s great. Give the relationship the time to grow.

See the individual’s reaction to a bad situation. Watch the person’s moves when someone requests help. Are they involved in their church or do they walk through the door on Sunday but nothing more? Are prayers offered before meals? Is his or her Bible covered in dust on the living room coffee table? How does he or she treat your family members? Does he or she respect elders? Does he or she respect you?

All these things take time to discover and nurture. Just as Christ wants us to get to know Him, grow closer to Him, our earthly relationships benefit from the same effort to ensure a long-term, healthy relationship.

Community after College

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Graduation day has come and gone. Celebrations of “no more school ever” have faded and college room furniture donated to the next incoming student hopeful for the year ahead. Graduating college is a big day,  the start of a new chapter in your life. Maybe you will move back home with your parents or have found a job in a new city. Wherever this new chapter in your life starts, it will start with new community.

 

Relationships forged in grade school have evolved and in college you found new friends that will be in your life for years to come. However, they, like you, have moved forward and now your schedule is more empty and there’s more  time for Netflix than you care to admit. This leaves you with a question, where is my community? Here are some tips to finding your new community in your new chapter of life.

 

Get out there

You won’t find friends while watching TV or cat videos on Youtube. The starting point for community could be found online, through your co-workers, or a local church. Many singles struggle with just taking the next step, which is any step! For introverts this can be an even bigger struggle than the extroverts who are always throwing a party. Just like our relationship with God where we are called to ask, seek, knock, we have to be willing to go into the world to connect and find community with other believers.

 

Do things you like doing

You already have things you like doing. Bowling, shopping, pottery, hiking, board games, and all kinds of interest. There is something you enjoy doing, so why not do it for the Lord and find community with other Christ followers who enjoy the same things. It is much easier to make connections in a social group when you enjoy doing the same social things as the individuals in the group.

 

Try new things

You already have set yours ways after graduating college more than you realize. By your early 20s almost all of our habits have been formed, from eating to cleaning and social interactions. Maybe you hate tennis, but going to a tennis match with some new friends or even playing a match or two could reveal something you did not even know you liked! It is also a great way to share the Gospel by interacting with new people and experiences and sharing God’s love through it all.

 

This new chapter after college is an exciting one. See it as a way to continue growing and honoring God while engaging in community to become more like Him. Not all community is edifying, so be sure to make up the majority of your community time with those who share the same values as you, and use the rest of your time to share about God’s love. Take the unique opportunity you have now to be involved in community, to lay the foundation for years of community and relationships to come.

Wise Counsel

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Who do you turn to when you have issues in your life? Your phone, social media, a co-worker, or friend? Have you considered the priority order of who you go to? Maybe the order of whom you take your life challenges speaks to your spiritual walk maturity. Consider this:

 

#1 Take it to God

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

  • Instead of finding someone or something to take your request to, take it to God. It sounds simple, almost overstated. But when something happens in your life and you need help, is your initial reaction to take action or take it to prayer? Keep in mind, prayer is not meant to be a long, drawn out oration with fancy words and a formula for success. It is your heart petitioning your emotions and making a request to our God.

 

#2 Take it to Wise Faith Counselors

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

  • It’s not a question of whether an unbeliever can be wise; it’s about seeking someone with similar values when addressing an issue. The person with whom you seek wise counsel should be the one that also shares the most important relationship in your life, Jesus. It’s not that we can’t glean information from those not following the Lord, but ultimately it’s those who hold the same value system as us that we should seek wise counsel from.

 

#3 Take Action

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

  • If you’ve already done Step 1 and Step 2, don’t fall short of step 3 and doing something about it. We’re not called to only process the issues and challenges, but we’re called to take action and be bold for our God. Joshua needed the encouragement to move forward, take action, after seeking counsel with God. We should do the same. When faced with a life challenge, we need to be bold and take the steps needed to honor God.

Singles, you need to be complete in Christ to fully approach life’s challenges. A relationship with Christ is the foundational relationship for all others you have or may desire in your future. Live your life now in the way that honors God and places Him first so He may use you in mighty ways for the Kingdom.

A Broken Engagement = Broken Dreams

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According to leading wedding industry averages, nearly one-third of engagements end before the wedding day. That means when the right one says “I do,” there is more work to be done besides the wedding details. Engagement is not a time to stop focusing on your relationship, but rather the time to dig deeper into the reality of a lifelong commitment before God.

 

Don’t make a lifelong commitment on a short-term relationship

  • Maybe you are reading this and are not engaged. Regardless of where you are (or aren’t) in a relationship, time is meaningful. Spend time with the person and see a future that cannot be replaced by bursts of conversations or non-personal communication. This is the person you should see yourself building a family with, to whom you need to stay committed through good and bad times. How do you know this person is the one if you have not been around them long enough to see their values demonstrated by life actions, not just talk?

 

While your dreams are broken, you are not

  • Cue the song lyrics “Love Hurts.” You had your future, or at least a piece of it, planned out, and you were excited about the adventures ahead. It’s not just the broken relationship with your spouse-once-to-be, but there friends and family to notify too – not to mention social media. What appeared to be a dream became a nightmare. Let yourself process these feelings and emotions, but remember the Truth is found in God’s Word. As a Christ follower, you are a child of the One True King, and He knows the number of hairs on your head. You are eternally loved, never alone, and complete regardless of a called-off wedding day.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:7

 

Trust His plan not your plan

  • The wedding spiral can be brutal. Once the question is asked and a ring is placed on the finger, the rabbit hole of planning, bridal shows, and pinterest boards begins. The tidal wave of budgeting and opinions can be brutal, even when it’s about the happiest day of your life. But when the engagement is called off, the reversal of all those emotions and decisions must happen, including notifying everyone involved. Your plans are derailed, but His plans never were. Regardless of the reason, God’s got this. Turn to wise counsel in this time of shifting plans, and keep your eyes focused on Christ.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

 

Many singles have experienced an engagement that did not end in marriage. It is actually more common than expected. When stories are shared of past relationships, many can recount a very serious breakup or an ended engagement. Learn from the experiences in your life that may wound you, but never let them leave you broken. With Christ, you are never broken — you are complete in Him.

A Singles Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving for a single adult has some different nuances that married adults don’t have. For one, if there is family to be with, it is an easier decision to make to go see them than choosing which side gets which holiday this year. Singles, like married adults, may live in the same city as their parents or live miles and miles away, while some may still live with their parents.

But here is where Thanksgiving changes for singles. Those singles who don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving are left over the holiday alone, with possibly no one to share it with. Even the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving can be stressful as everyone is talking about travel plans and big dinners, while some have no plans at all. Some singles with siblings are often given no opportunity to host Thanksgiving at their homes, rather the married family member gets priority. As the family grows, the single vote seems to be diminished somewhat to the siblings with spouses and kids.

The church you’re involved in needs to recognize these singles and organize some type of gathering for them leading up to Thanksgiving. You may be the one to organize such an event for your church. Also, there is an opportunity on Thanksgiving day for people to open their homes to those who have nowhere to be and offer them a seat at the table. If you’re a single adult with nowhere to be, let your friends know so they can bless you with a place to join in as family and give thanks to God above from whom all blessings flow.

Many Faces

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Have you ever experienced great customer service? “Out of this world” kindness from a store or restaurant that compelled you to tell others about it on Facebook or Twitter? Now, have you ever wondered if the person that made that experience great was that same way at home as they are at work? Sometimes when people are paid to do something, they do it with excellence and exceed all our expectations. Truly serving another person beyond what is expected. But are those same people with great customer service the same at home as they are at work?

Two faces is an easy trap to fall into. You put on a face for work and then have a face for rest of your life, or maybe you have different faces for many areas of your life. Many faces for many people may seem to work for a short period of time, but over the long haul your faces begin to crack. The charade of faces becomes too hard to maintain and you become who you are, your real face. This can be seen in older adults, who have lived their whole lives and now are simply who they are without effort. Some are grumpy and mean, while others are sweet and kind regardless of their physical circumstance. Their true face is showing.

1 Peter 2:12 NLT “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” When you have many faces, you are inconsistent and your walk with the Lord suffers. Others should be able to find no fault in you because of your honorable and consistent behavior. Phrases like “Live what your preach” come to mind as standard believers should have on their lives.

Shed your many faces so that your light may shine bright in this world. Be the same person at work, as you are at church, home, around family, and with friends so the Lord may be glorified in all that you do.

Four Things the Single Parent Needs from the Church

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Single parenting! I remember those days well! When I entered into this stage in my life I had just left the military but little did I realize I was entering into an even bigger challenge. One that would demand more physical and mental stamina than my Drill Sergeants had demanded from me.

My daily routine consisted of getting not only myself, but the kids, out of bed and ready for the day. I’d get them to the babysitter or school, then off to work I’d go. After work it was time to pick up the kids from the babysitter, arrive home, fix dinner, clean the house, help with homework, bathe the kids, then sit down to work on bills, plan meals, get up to clean the daily clutter and wash the dishes–all before collapsing in bed at night, depressed with the thought  that tomorrow would start the routine all over again. It felt like each day was a battle that left me exhausted, sometimes bloodied and bruised. I’d wake with the new sunrise, facing another battle to be won.

Chances are that within your church are many of these brave troops . Whether you are on staff or a concerned brother or sister, these brave soldiers need you and your church. They may not admit it, they may not even know it, but they need fellow believers to come alongside them in their daily battles.

Here are 4 things all singles need from the church to accomplish the goal of raising children who love and honor God.

  1.  Love: This is such a no-brainer really. We all need love, but single parents need to experience unconditional love and acceptance from the church. Single parents come in all shapes and sizes. Single parents can be widowed, divorced, or never married. They may have purposely adopted children while single. They may be taking care of nieces and nephews or grandchildren. They need to be known and loved for who they are and who they can become. Every situation, every single parent family is unique and face unique challenges but they all hold great potential and can be a great asset to your church. They just may need a little extra help to get there.
  2.  Protection: To begin with, the church must be a safe place for their kids. Your children’s ministry should be clean, safe, well-staffed and maintained. Make sure the staff knows who is allowed or not allowed to pick up the kids. A check-in system is vital in any children’s ministry. Single parents may be going through custody battles and who picks up their child could mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, I believe single parents may need protection from predators who may target their children based upon their vulnerabilities. This can be especially important for young mothers. We have all heard the horror stories of children being abused by a stepdad or mother’s boyfriend. Single parents who are left to deal with life alone may, in some cases, let their guards down because they are desperate for companionship and in real need of help in the home. The church can and should protect against this by coming alongside single parents to provide them with the very things that leave them vulnerable. Families of the church can help single parents by offering things like child care and assistance with transportation to events or sports practice. Churches can provide classes and advice about dating, what to look for in a man or woman, and how to introduce them to your children. These are only some of ways the church can provide protection for the parent and the child.
  3.  Help: This can come in many forms. Everything from outside yard work, handyman work in and outside of the house, babysitting, or providing housing. Assistance can come in many forms, but the most effective help comes from knowing the single parent personally so you can know the best ways for the church to step up. The single parent may need assistance education about handling their finances, dating advice, or classes on parenting techniques. Unless the church makes an intentional effort to get to know the parent and discover their needs those needs may never be met. The church needs to be proactive in offering assistance. Don’t wait for them to ask for it, or an incident to occur before offering help. Be intentional about connecting single parents with the church community and with leaders who can offer help and or advice.
  4.      Encouragement: For the single parent, this need is second only to love. At times, single parents become overwhelmed with their life and daily responsibilities. In the dark times it can be hard to see a way forward. To single parents It may seem as if there is little hope for their future or their children. Sometimes it is hard to see the future when you are mired in the present and haunted by the past. Single parents need to be reminded they follow a great God! One who has amazing plans for them. They need to be reminded that even if life seems challenging now, what they are experiencing is only temporary, God is doing something amazing in their life. The church should give them hope for the future. When I look back at the man I was then, compared with who I am now, I realize my time as a single parent was a period of growth. I failed many times, but no matter what life brings, God taught me He is enough.

He taught me to rely on Him alone for everything and then later He brought an amazing woman into my life. This year we celebrated 21 years of marriage. I am a pastor at a church in south Florida, and God is continuing to use my experiences as a single dad to encourage others. My hope is your church recognizes the incredible potential of single parents. Yes, they may need some extra attention, but the payoff is worth it in the end! Learn to see beyond the present and look to the future that God has in store for the single parent in your local church.

Fear the Table for One

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Fear is an interesting word. Its use invokes emotion from all who have known its grip. The sensation of helplessness is all too often the motivator behind fear. After a horror movie, fear comes from thinking about not being able to control things like you saw on the screen from happening to you as you drive home alone. In finances it comes from instability of knowing the future and wanting to control your financial future. In life fear often appears as worry of what is going to happen in the future.

As a single adult there is a lot to fear or worry about. There is sometimes pressure from friends and family to find someone and settle down, worry over finances with only one income, and how to balance a social life that honors God and does not break the bank. Then there is the dating scene if you choose to be in it! What clothes to wear or where to even look for a potential date play a small part. Then you feel pressure to have nice things to impress the other person to make a “good first impression.”

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25 NIV

God’s word tells us all of the worry is completely useless. It takes practice to ground this good habit into your life. But we must in order to show our trust in Him.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

God desires for us to rest in Him and for Him to be in control. There is no reason to fear or worry about a table for one scenario as a single adult. Go out and enjoy life and do not worry about eating a meal alone or thinking you need someone by your side to enjoy life. As a Christ follower you are complete in Him. You have nothing to fear or worry about when you completely trust in Him.

Don’t Assume My Table for One

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I love to eat out. In fact it’s one of my favorite things to do in my week. It’s not that I overeat, I just enjoy going out and tasting new things and meeting new people. I even include it in my monthly budget so I am responsible about my table for one dining experiences.

One particular night, I walked into a restaurant and ran into some church friends. They are not from my class but people whom I know fairly well. There was an extra seat at the table and then it hit me. I would really like to be invited and not have to be at a table for one this evening.

I usually embrace my table for one. I do it almost all the time and never think twice about it. But every once in awhile I don’t want to be at a table just by myself, and I want to enjoy the company of friends, family, and those in my life. It’s easy to assume a single adult is okay with their table for one, but the point is to not assume.

And that evening I felt alone more than I had in a long time because I wasn’t even given the chance to avoid my table for one.

Community is a huge part of our lives as single adults. Married adults, please hear me when I say we can be friends and there does not have to be a chasm between our lives. I know I’m at a different life stage, but let’s try and find some middle ground between isolation and the third wheel that is Biblical community.

Let’s love one another as Christ has loved us and never assume anything about one another. So, will you join me for dinner tonight?