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Challenges of singles ministries

08.27.07 | 15 Comments

Peacebang asked some great questions about ministering to single folk a few days back. I’ve been chewing on it since.

Growing up evangelical, I saw a lot of singles ministries come and go. Many, maybe most, fell into the traps that Peacebang lays out so well, but I don’t think they’re so different that we UUs can’t learn from their foibles. So, looking back at them, I want to add a couple of wrinkles to the discussion. Maybe you can help me iron them out.

The first wrinkle has to do with size. Church singles groups seemed to come in two sizes: not quite big enough and more than big enough.

Not quite big enough groups collapsed in on themselves sooner or later. Folks would pair off and leave the group, or else the group would get dated out and hard feelings would send everyone in their separate directions.

More than big enough groups have so many folks that the group can’t be dated out—there are just too many people for everyone to date everyone, or even to know everyone. The group gets known as a place to meet people, becomes a meat market and attracts meat market behavior. Either the group is vigorously policed or folks start leaving because they don’t feel safe.1

The other wrinkle is the singling out of singles. On one hand, a dedicated Singles Ministry honors an important group of people—which is to say, the majority of Americans—with dedicated programs of ministry. On the other, it can patronize singles as needing special help to survive “normal” congregational life. (Using the world “singles” so many times in the post is starting to feel patronizing.)

So tell me, how do you iron these wrinkles? Or don’t you? Are UUs so different that my old evangelical memories don’t have any bearing? What does a successful “singles ministry” look like?

  1. Obviously, as these groups were evangelical, the emphasis was on pairing people off and getting them hitched, so that may have more to do with it than the size issue.[]

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