There she is. All dolled up in CHURCH of all places!! Just who does she think she is? And she had the nerve to sit right next to my man! Could she make it any more obvious that she’s window shopping coming to our small group study? Geez.
Truly that may not have been what went on in the discussion of the married girls all my age in the church I was attending while single, but the cautious glance to my left hand looking for any indication that I wasn’t a shark in their tank every time I said hello or made an introduction was clue enough that the uncomfortable vibes they were putting off were intended to put me off. Right out of the vestibule and onto the street if a few of them had their way. And then to hear chatter a few weeks later of how I walked right up to the husband of the put off Christian sister like I was belle of the ball. Wow. That one cut deep. Nobody took a moment to realize I worked with the married man and he had invited me to his church because “my wife and her church friends are always doing fun stuff together so I know they’d love to meet you.” Wrong sir. Your wife and her MARRIED church friends keep the social calendar rocking for those with rocks on their left ring finger.
Walking into a new church alone is difficult enough. Just the awkward hello and sizing up that goes on from both the visitor and the members. Are they like us? Is this a fit? Are they going to try and get all of my mailing information here on the spot? No I don’t want to wear a nametag as I’d rather fade in to the wall. No I don’t have children to enroll in Sunday School. No I wasn’t invited by anyone here. No I really don’t want to stand up during the “welcome visitors” part and shake hands with people I may never see again. No please don’t tell me to sit up front and center as I am really good at snatching a seat in the back in case I need to make a run for it should the sermon cover divorce, shamed women of the Bible or submitting to your husband. I just need a new place where I don’t have a chance of running into him, but where I can run to Him.
You’d think it would be easy enough. And it’s not just divorced or newly single women who feel the shame of the “A” across their chest at church. Single girlfriends who have faithfully followed Jesus just tripping on His hem praying each day there is a plan for them to be wives and one day God willing mothers are feeling the stigma of “Party of One” each Sunday. It seems if you lost your husband in war you might still only get a six month period of grace before the married sisters see you as competition. One girlfriend told me if she hears “Let Jesus be your Boyfriend” one more time from the pulpit she might stand and scream. That will really get the Married Marthas talking.
So before a Singleton comes undone in the Lord’s House (or leaves and never returns), let’s chat about six things you can do now to make that single girl feel welcome:
1. Most churches cater to the Marrieds. It’s just how it tends to roll. From the time you enter for pre-marital counseling to walking down the aisle – as part of a duo you feel comfortable in church. The nursery is a glimpse into your future and you always have a buddy to walk with you into “young marrieds” Sunday school groups or new small groups or couple conferences or even up to communion. You are never alone in church any longer. Breath a small prayer if you get that luxury because if you are walking around lonely hallways or reading couple-centric bulletins every single week, even the rockiest relationship at least gives you another body to stand by.
2. Welcome her into more than just your church’s Single Groups. Even if it’s an amazingly spiritually fulfilling experience, right off the top of her head she is gonna see it as the usual front of let’s hook y’all up and marry you weird single people off already!
2b. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it. On the first meeting and even on the second and third meeting with our single dear one, don’t go into Fiddler on the Roof Match Maker mode. “Oh I have this one of a kind single second cousin you really should meet! Don’t mind that he has a third eye in his forehead and lives in a bell tower because that’s what makes him so unique!” Step in if someone else is trying to marry her off if you see discomfort in her eyes. Change the topic, stage a prat fall, yell out “Freebird” to your praise team. OK if you do the last one, someone email me the results, please.
3. Realize that yes, she is probably looking at your husband. But not in the way you are so quick to think. For the most part (and I know there are some singles out there fishing in husband territory but for the sake of argument let’s agree that they are few and far between) she is also looking at you. And your relationship with your spouse. Your interactions, your banter, your body language. Why? Well, if she’s fresh out of a horrible marriage it’s to see what a healthy God-centered partnership looks like. If she’s single and waiting for God to speak to her future, she’s hoping to be encouraged by witnessing a holy marriage. So realize that you dear one are the example of a Christian marriage to the non-marrieds as well as to the non-Christians you encounter day in and day out. If that doesn’t get you re-evaluating how you speak to or even about your spouse to others, I’m not sure what will.
4. For the majority (I know there are always exceptions so I don’t want comments telling me how wrong I am over and over because honestly I can do that to myself over and over), understand that the last thing a newly single woman wants is another man in her life. Especially if she has exited an abusive marriage. Especially then! Don’t be judge and jury in a nano-second “protecting” your man out the gate when all she needs is a kind tone, a heartfelt welcome and a place to find peace. Brokenness is universal so remember that we don’t see each other’s battle scars on the outside. Sometimes those battles are still raging within as we stand all prettied up in our Sunday best making polite small talk trying not to weep and simply fall apart because life is just.too.darn.heavy.some.days.
5. Invite her into your world of married women. Invite her to small group social gatherings that have marrieds and families of young ones. She might not feel comfortable being part of a small group covering a marriage or parenting book, but then again she might. And if your group isn’t comfortable with a single being in the discussion piece then bring her into the social gatherings, book clubs, and girls night out. If she is a mom then invite her to moms groups or playground time after church. Working single women might not be able to make the events and conferences, and single moms may not be able to get kid coverage for such things, but the invitation alone reminds them they are part of the church body. Not the lepers living on the outskirts of town banished by all who co-file their taxes.
6. Look her in the eye. Stop and acknowledge that she is part of the body of Christ. Find a single next Sunday and ask if she might like to sit with your family. And I say “she” because it might be weird for you to walk up to a guy and ask him to join your tribe so pass this on to your hubby with the understanding that single guys feel the loneliness of the church body too. Introduce single friends to married friends and to other singles. Do as your momma (or Emily Post) taught you. Be polite, ask questions, use your manners, make introductions, remember names for next Sunday, be kind. Offer to pray with her or for her as your relationship grows. Listen more than you speak. Speak less than you fear.
Will she steal your husband and run off in to the sunset making your children call her by her first name Tiffany and open a hot yoga studio with your retirement account? Gosh I sure hope not, and I seriously doubt it, but let’s be honest: your marriage was already at DefCon Four trouble if it took one single to undo a life together. So banish your worst case scenario thinking and look around. You were once single. You could, God forbid, be single just like that again. Your daughter could be that singleton years down the road because Mr. Right just hasn’t happened right yet. There’s no telling what kindness can do. For both of you.