Written by Christena Cleveland
(Note: Since many pastors, church leaders, and readers of this blog are married, these tips are written for that audience. The irony that I’m writing a blog post about singleness for married people is not lost on me. :))
1. Admit that singleness is complex and that you know little to nothing about it.
A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity. As a result, married people sometimes mistakenly believe that they know something about singleness when in fact they don’t. Singleness isn’t a junior varsity version of marriage. It’s an entirely different sport – and if you haven’t played it, you haven’t mastered it. The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women. If you got married before these ages, then it makes sense to acknowledge that your experience as a single adult is below average. In other words, you don’t know a lot about singleness. This calls for humility.
I talk regularly with a white pastor who got married when he was 21. Most of the time, we talk about our racial differences and how we can build bridges across them. But recently we struck up a conversation about how my experience as a single person in the church differs from his experience as a married person. As I was sharing my experiences, it occurred to him that my singleness is just as foreign to him as my blackness is. He said, “Wow! Our conversation about singleness and marriage is just as cross-cultural as our conversations about being black and white.”
Treat singleness like you would treat any other cross-cultural exploration. Listen. Read some books. Don’t even think about preaching about singleness if you don’t actually have substantial and meaningful experience with it. Or, if you do choose to preach on the topic, enlist the help of an actual single person (like Greg Boyd did a couple of years ago when he asked me to team-preach this sermon with him.)