Reaching Out to Singles
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, find out how to reach out to singles in your church by listening to Wendy Widder, author of A Match Made in Heaven. Joining her are various guests.
Wendy WidderWendy Widder started out as a fifth grade teacher. However, her love of words and scripture eventually led her to writing for Logos Bible Software. She has a PhD in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (University of the Free State), an MA in Hebrew & Semitic Studies (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and an MDiv with an emphasis in education ministries (Grand Rapids Theological Seminary).
Find out how to reach out to singles in your church by listening to Wendy Widder
Reaching Out to Singles
Wendy: I have an older woman who came up to me one day, and she said, "Well, Wendy, I just want you to know that I'm praying for a man for you." And I smiled and nodded and thanked her, and she smiled and nodded back, and as she turned to go, she grabbed my arm, and she said, "You're just too good to waste." And I know she didn't mean it the way it sounded, but I thought, "I'm too good to waste? All the things that I've done to this point have been a waste?"
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 16th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll find out some of the things not to say and some of the things to say to singles in your church today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I have a question to ask our guest today. Can I kind of just jump in and ask the first question?
Bob: Our guest is Wendy Widder. We're talking this week about churches and singles and how it all fits together, and I'm thinking back to when I had just graduated from college, and …
Dennis: … back to when you were single …
Bob: … I was single and, in fact, I'd just broken up with the girl I'd dated throughout college. And I was in a small church. There were, maybe, I don't know, 125 people coming to the church at that time.
Dennis: Were you lonely?
Bob: Yeah, I was kind of lonely.
Dennis: You'd broken up with your girlfriend.
Bob: I'd broken up with my girlfriend.
Dennis: Your heart was broken?
Bob: I lost some weight during that time and would …
Dennis: … were you depressed?
Bob: I didn't want to go home in the evenings. Yeah, I wasn't doing very well.
Dennis: So were you wandering the streets? What were you doing?
Bob: Now, wait, I've got a question for Wendy. Can we just leave me out of this and get into …
Dennis: … go right ahead.
Bob: Okay, thank you very much. So, anyway, Wendy …
Wendy: … hi …
Bob: … welcome to FamilyLife Today. So here I was in this situation, and I remember that summer thinking, "I wonder if I need to go to another church?" And I wasn't in college anymore. In my work environment, I didn't know many single people and the church there were maybe three or four, and I knew them, and I wasn't going to marry any of them.
Wendy: Why stay?
Bob: Okay, all right, you've made a good point. Obviously, we have a studio audience full of singles here, too.
Dennis: Who are enjoying that statement, you bet.
Bob: But, realistically, I was thinking, "Where will I meet anybody? If not at church, where? And if there's no one at church, shouldn't I be going somewhere where I can find somebody who I might be compatible with?"
Wendy: You're asking someone who is still single to answer that question.
Bob: I'm going to the wrong person, is that what you're saying?
Wendy: I don't know, maybe [inaudible].
Bob: There was no online dating service at the time for me to go to, so I wasn't sure what to do. Do you think I should have stayed at the church or left the church?
Dennis: Well, I think it depends upon how lonely you were.
Bob: Well, I wasn't finding anybody at Arby's. I was going to Arby's in the evening, and I wasn't finding – I wasn't meeting anybody there.
Wendy: I guess I'd ask what was your reason for going to church?
Bob: Oh, now she's pulling out the darts, you know? Stinging me a little bit now.
Dennis: She is getting personal.
Bob: Well, that's true, and maybe that's the point, huh?
Dennis: It is. You know, I do think what Wendy has just said here is we go to church for a lot of reasons. Married people, single people, single who are divorced, single parents who are attempting to raise the next generation, those singles who have just come out of college. And I don't think it's a wrong motive to be at church because you want to be around other men and women who are followers of Christ. I think that's the right stuff. In fact, Wendy Widder has written a book called "A Match Made in Heaven," and part of the reason why you wrote this book was to really exhort and encourage singles as well as the community of faith to better understand one another.
In fact, one of the illustrations you used was that of a quarry that you used to go swimming in.
Wendy: A beautiful place in Wisconsin. It's called Lannon [sp] Quarry. It's not called that anymore, they renamed it in the trend of changing names, I guess.
Dennis: It was a swimming hole.
Wendy: It was a swimming hole, and it was fairly small, although when I was little I didn't think it was small. I thought it was huge, and I couldn't imagine anybody swimming anywhere better. After all, my family went there. How could anything else be better? And it was wonderful. I didn't think there was anything bigger or better. And then when I was in high school – well – that's an overstatement, of course, I knew there were things bigger and better – we do live near Lake Michigan, which, of course, is bigger than Lannon Quarry, but when I was in high school we took our senior trip out East, and we went to the beach, and I saw the ocean for the first time and was overwhelmed by how huge it was.
And my purpose in using that illustration was that sometimes I think we assume, because we've all been single at some point, and we're all part of the church, that we understand everything there is to know about singleness and the church. And I would suggest we don't – that there are oceans of things to be discovered about singles and about the church that we need to take the time to discover.
Bob: You asked me that pointed question – what was I going to church for, and that's a fair question to ask, but I need to ask you the question about singles that you observe today in the culture. Do you think there are a lot of singles who are going to church for other than spiritual motivations?
Wendy: I think there are a lot of people going to church for other than spiritual motivations.
Dennis: That's a good answer.
Wendy: Singles are some of them, and it's not wrong to go to church and hope that you're in a place where you can meet someone to marry. What a wonderful place to meet someone to marry. But if that's my primary reason for going to church, then I don't really understand what the church is.
Dennis: So what would you say is the proper motivation and what ought to be our heart's desire as we attend church?
Wendy: I believe we come together as a community of faith every week to worship God together and to encourage and love one another and to better learn how we can reach out to our community.
Dennis: And so we're there, together, as a community because we can better engage Him in a relationship with other believers who are like-minded.
Wendy: Yes, and we can only truly grow spiritually as we are growing together in a community. God made us community creatures. He made us to be in relationship with each other, and it was sin that separated us from one another and from God, and it is redemption that brings us back to that relationship with each other.
Dennis: Okay, I'm going to turn to our guests who are in the audience and ask you a pointed question. Why do you go to church?
Unidentified Speaker: For me, it's twofold. I think, one, I am a follower of Christ and, in obedience, we are called, as believers, as Christians, to be a part of the body of Christ, the church. So on one hand, it's obedience; on the other hand, as a Christ follower, I am wanting to connect with God, and I believe that is a place to connect with God and connect with others and to feel the love of others and the love of God at the same time. And also a place – a vehicle in which to serve.
Dennis: Okay, someone else? Be honest.
Unidentified Speaker: Well, if I were to answer that question quite honestly, I think, a lot of times, to be around people. As a single, I'm not married, I don't have a family, and so an easy way to fellowship with other people is to go to church.
Dennis: Does it meet that need?
Unidentified Speaker: On the whole, it does.
Dennis: Yeah? Okay.
Bob: Chrissie [sp]?
Unidentified Speaker: I go to be with other people, but what initiates it is just a desire to fellowship with other – well – to fellowship with other believers; to worship God together. There is just something about being, for instance, in the Worship Center, singing praises together and reading Scripture together. There is just something about that that just binds me closer to God, and it warms my heart to other people.
Dennis: You know, I think just the question is a really good question.
Bob: It's a healthy one, isn't it?
Dennis: Just – for anybody to ask. Why are you there? Because your mommy and daddy took you for 20 straight years? And you knew your lunch ticket could only be punched if you went to church with your parents?
Bob: Well, nobody here said, "I'm going to church because it's a better place to meet a quality single person of the opposite sex – better than a bar." Now, nobody said that.
Unidentified Speaker: It is better than a bar.
Bob: Just making sure here, just making sure. Wendy, there are people going to church for that reason. I mean, I'm thinking back to when I was broken up with my girlfriend and going, "Where am I going to meet somebody?" You know, aren't there people who are going, "I'm going there because I want to meet somebody?"
Wendy: Yes, there are lots of them and, like I said, I don't think that's a bad reason, as long as it's not at the top of the list.
Bob: There are some singles groups that get this reputation in the community, you know? It's like the evangelical night spot.
Wendy: It's a meet market.
Bob: Yeah, it's a meet market.
Dennis: Hold it, hold it – the meet market?
Bob: You've never heard that expression for the singles group?
Bob: I was going to say, "Where you been?"
Dennis: I haven't been off in the boonies, but that's an awfully crass term – the meat market. Why do you think it's called that?
Wendy: Because people go there to meet each other, and they're checking each other out.
Bob: I think the issue is, at some singles groups, it feels like the only reason some people are there – week in and week out – is to try to find somebody to spend some time with one-on-one, somebody of the opposite sex. The fact that it's a spiritual environment just means maybe it's a little safer or maybe it's a little more naïve, frankly, and so, hey, let's just go there, because it's a good place to meet girls; it's a good place to meet guys.
As you'd look at that, Wendy, would you say that's the dominant theme of singles groups in America today or a subset of singles groups?
Wendy: I think it's a sub-theme in singles groups.
Dennis: But has strong currents.
Wendy: Well, yes, because, as Jared said, we're single, and we are looking, most of us – hopefully, not stalking but looking.
Dennis: I want to ask how prevalent is moral purity in singles groups today? Because there's been a lot of research done of youth groups, and we know that the average Christian youth group – their morals are virtually no different than their secular counterparts in the junior high and high schools of America. Tell us what's going on morally in the singles groups across the country and the church?
Wendy: I'm not authoritative on this matter, so I'm not sure, but I would suspect that the youth group kids who grew up and became singles didn't change their morals overnight, and that some of those things – a lot of the things are still there. A lot of singles don't see anything wrong with premarital sex. They don't see anything wrong with undue affection; lots of physical contact; and I think the youth group kids grew up.
Dennis: I think, too often, the church, instead of being the salt and light in the culture, has dropped its guard and, just as Wendy said, why would their morality have changed if it wasn't that different when they were in high school?
Bob: Let me kind of change directions here for a second – we've talked this week about what singles can do to make the church a better place for them. Help us, who are not single, know what we can do. What are some of the things that married couples have done, families have done, to make the church a better place for you?
Wendy: I appreciate that couples and families who become my friends, and they aren't trying to matchmake me. I don't mind if people introduce me to others who are nice and they think might be a good match, but they don't tell me, so it's a covert operation. That's good. But when I'm not approached as if I'm their project or as if they'll be happier with me as a friend if I'm married, so let's try to fix this for Wendy. I like to be treated just as a person, as a normal functioning person who can contribute to their family.
Dennis: You've said in your book that you encourage families to not wear shoes; instead, wear a single person's shoes.
Wendy: Yes, I said that in the context of things that people say to singles. Questions that they ask or comments that they make, like, "God has someone wonderful for you." That's meant to be encouraging, but the Bible doesn't promise me that and so don't promise me that. If God doesn't, don't make promises God doesn't make. And my comment about wearing singles' shoes is to really think before you speak and think about how your comment is going to be interpreted.
For example, if you ask a single person – "So, are you dating anyone?" And their answer has to be, "No," well, then, where does your conversation go from there? You've pretty much backed them into a corner, and it becomes really uncomfortable. So hear your questions and your comments before you say them.
Dennis: So engage them, not around their status in terms of being a married person or a person in pursuit of marriage. Instead, engage them around life goals, like their mission, their career, their giftedness and spiritual gifts that they're using and engaging in the church?
Wendy: It's difficult for married people who haven't been single for a while to know how to talk to single people, and you can't just go up to single people in your church and say, "So, tell me what it's like to be single." They'll run the other way. You really have to be their friend before you have the right to ask those kinds of questions. And the way you become friends with singles is the way you become friends with anybody else – you spend time with them. You have them in your home, or you do a group activity or something – you spend time getting to know them as a person so you know what to talk about, you know what they do for a living, you know what their interests and hobbies are.
Bob: Do you feel like most people at church pity you for being single?
Wendy: I don't know if I'd say most people, but I know they may not say that, but they would think it. I had a dear, dear friend of mine, an older woman who came up to me one day, and she was asking me some questions about a project I was on, and I was smiling and nodding and shaking her hand and talking to the people passing by in the hall, waving in church, and she said, "Well, Wendy, I just want you to know that I'm praying for a man for you." And I smiled and nodded and thanked her. I don't mind when people tell me that, but I know that she's a happily married woman, and she was wishing the same for me. And so I said, "Well, thank you, I appreciate that, but I want you to know that if God doesn't have that for me, I'll be okay." And she smiled and nodded back, and as she turned to go, she grabbed my arm, and she said, "You're just too good to waste." And I know she didn't mean it the way it sounded, but I've heard a lot of those kinds of comments, and I can usually stomach them, but that one just made my eyes smart, and I thought, "I'm too good to waste? All the things that I've done to this point have been a waste because I'm not married?"
Dennis: Yeah, and, like, the only people who can have an impact for the kingdom of God are married people?
Wendy: She did not mean that. She would be horrified if she knew that's how it sounded.
Dennis: No, but I do think there is a – well, it's an inaccurate theology of singles, where we don't have the high view of the single life that Paul talked about, where they are freer to serve Christ to make a greater impact than those of us who are married. If we really believe that, we would not always be trying to set our single friends up with a date. We'd be trying to figure out how to help them be even more effective in God's work here on this planet. And I just think, Bob, of some of the great singles we've interviewed here on FamilyLife Today. Elisabeth Elliott was single for a number of years in her life and was used mightily by God because she had this kind of view of being single. She was content, and she was all about being used up for the kingdom.
Bob: And I've always remembered the comment that Tommy Nelson, I heard him make, and I don't know if it was original with him, but he said, "If you're single, run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can, and if you see somebody running in the same direction out of the corner of your eye, take a second look." And he was really saying your focus ought to be on Kingdom service not on where you are relationally, because that's what God's got you here for. He doesn't have you here to have you single or have you married. He's got you here to have you serving Him, and He's going to use you in whatever state you are in, whether it's single or married.
Wendy: Definitely. When Paul talks about singleness being better in some circumstances, he's, of course, not demeaning marriage in any way, but we do have a certain freedom in certain areas that is a gift that we bring to the body and to the church and how, as single people, do we steward that gift? How do we make the body a better place because we're there?
Bob: Are there some ways you think – I heard you say, "If I'm single for the rest of my life, that's okay." But okay – who wants okay, right? Have you ever thought to yourself, you know, "If I'm single for the rest of my life, that could be pretty great."
Wendy: That's what I believe, it's not what I always feel, and I don't have to live my whole life today. I get to live today, and today is great, and tomorrow it can be great, and the next day can be great, and, before long, I will have lived a lifetime, and it will have been great.
Dennis: And the way to live a great life is the way the writer of Hebrews said, speaking of running in a direction, Bob, and perhaps gazing at the finish line but occasionally glancing over your shoulder to see who is running with you – the writer of Hebrews in chapter 12, verse 1 and 2, says, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and ascend which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now, I have to believe, for both single and married alike, but since we're speaking directly to singles, the picture of Jesus setting before Himself the path toward the cross and then enduring it has some fresh meaning today, and some fresh motivation for laying aside the sin, which so easily entangles us. And I don't know what entangles you, but I just want to challenge you, if God's been showing you want that sin is, what those encumbrances are that are keeping you from running as a single person or, for that matter, as a married person. Lay them aside, strip them off, and run as fast as you can toward the finish line of Jesus Christ.
Bob: You know, some of our married listeners really have a heart for the singles they know in their church. Maybe they've never been able to connect well, maybe they haven't known what to do or how to do it, but they just think for themselves, "Gee, I'd like to see these singles enjoy being a part of the community of faith," and I want to encourage those listeners to get a copy of Wendy's book. I think, too often, we'll think, "Well, this is a book for singles." I think it's a book for all of us – a book that all of us can grow from and learn from, and it can make the body of Christ what Christ wants it to be if we'll all dig in and participate and have some singles over for dinner this Sunday, right?
Dennis: Good idea.
Bob: We have copies of Wendy's book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. It's called "A Match Made in Heaven," and if it's going to be a heavenly match, it means we have to be a part of that. So call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and request a copy of Wendy's book.
We also have a book that you've written for singles called "Living Whole Without a Better Half," and any of our listeners who would like to call and order both books, we'll send along, at no additional cost, the CD or the cassette that features the audio from these interviews. You can get more information when you contact us at 1-800-FLTODAY or when you go online at FamilyLife.com. You can order from our website, or you can call us – again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and our Web address is FamilyLife.com.
You know, this is kind of the halfway point of the summer. We're about halfway between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and one of the things that is true for ministries like ours over the summer is that we tend not to hear from as many of you during the summer months as we do during the school year. And we understand folks are busy with lots going on, but we're always encouraged in the middle of the summer when we do hear from listeners who write to us and let us know how much FamilyLife Today means to them, and those of you who are able to help during the summer months with our financial needs. Those donations mean an awful lot to us during the time when we're not hearing from as many people as we usually do.
If you would like to get in touch with us, you can write a letter and mail it to us. I'll give you our mailing address here in just a minute. You're always welcome to give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY with any questions or comments that you have and, of course, you can contact us via the Web. Go to our website at FamilyLife.com. You can make a donation online, you can make a donation over the phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, or write a note and mail it to us at FamilyLife Today, Box 71111, Little Rock, Arkansas, and the zip code is 72223. Again, it's FamilyLife Today at Box 71111, Little Rock, Arkansas, and the zip code is 72223. Dennis?
Dennis: You know, it's been a treat to have Wendy Widder with us. Wendy, we appreciate you and your book on how singles can engage in the local church and how we, in the community of faith, can do a better job of connecting with singles and maximizing them. I just appreciate your book, "A Match Made in Heaven," and I hope you'll come back again and join us on FamilyLife Today.
Wendy: Thank you.
Bob: And we want to thank our studio audience for being here with us as well. I hope all of you have a great weekend. I hope you enjoy worshiping in church this weekend as part of the family of God, and we want to invite all of you to join us back on Monday when we're going to be joined by the wife of Josh McDowell and the wife of Dennis Rainey, who are two guys who are – well, they're known for being high-energy guys. We'll find out what it's like to be married to them. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next week for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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