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Seeking to understanding the needs others bring to community

May 2, 2007

One of my most significant struggles in being a part of a church is finding a place where I feel I fit and can have meaningful relationships with others. At first glance that may not sound like a big issue, and in many ways it is something we all struggle with. The key of the issue for me is that I am single. Although singles make up about 50% of our culture, the percentage is far lower in the church.  Often there are roles that singles can not fill in churches, or the exact opposite happens and churches expect that singles have time and energy to serve in ways that others don’t. Some churches are very family centered, which can often leave singles that are not connected to a family group to feel very out of place. I attend a church that is not family centered, but because there are strong family networks in the church and there is a high percentage of families with children (or expecting) the struggle to find the place to fit is difficult. Being a small church there are few singles in the church and many of them are connected with one of the family groups.

A couple weeks ago I was talking with someone at church about the struggle I face and how lonely it can feel to not make connections with people when I desire to do that so deeply. The wife I was talking with emailed me later as the reality of what it would be like to not have a husband or family member to talk with sunk in. One of the things I have found is that unless someone spent a significant length of time as a single adult they tend to forget the perspective that a single might have regarding church and relationships. I have had several other conversations with singles, those that are married, and even pastors lately trying to learn how to better express what I experience and where I am coming from, while also learning to see the needs and experiences of others around me. Just like I often feel people don’t understand my perspective as a single, I can fail to see or understand the perspective of a married man, a mother, a senior citizen, or a teenager.

I have been left thinking a lot about community and how we can walk together. Yesterday I was speaking with my pastor about the difference between caring for and caring about others. He can’t “care for” everyone in the church, but he does have a heart to care about others. That is a heart we should all have. We all have a need though to care for and be cared for also. I have been looking around my community a lot more lately, trying to see and understand the experience of others. Trying to recognize what others might be looking for in community, and trying to expand my heart so I can understand them better. I have realized that the only way to do that, is to take the time to ask questions and listen to what they want and need. If we are really going to be involved in each others lives and find a point of connection we need to know the stories of those around us and see things through their perspectives.

I have started trying to share more about my story, my heart, and what I and many singles who live alone come to community looking for and needing. Here are a few things that I have shared with others. What are things that you, or someone in your situation in life might be looking for or needing? How can we learn from each other so we can be a stronger and healthier community where we truly share life together?

• face to face communication with someone
• physical contact (a touch, a hug, a baby to hold, a child to play with)
• someone to laugh with, play with, enjoy life with
• a place/relationships where others communicate I am wanted, chosen, pursued, desired (singles can feel no one wants them or chooses them – especially those of the opposite gender)
• relationships where I am cared for (not just cared about) and where I can invest and care for (not just care about) others
• someone who is willing to be there when I am sick, hurting, needy, or just lonely
• someone who offers to help out with those things in life where we just need a third hand (moving furniture, taking the car to the shop, running an errand when life is crazy)
• relationships where I can feel like I belong to a family and where I have opportunity to share with and give to others like I desire to with a family
• a place to love, give to, and serve others – an outlet for the desires I have to do this with a spouse and/or children that is unmet
• someone to do something with, just hang out with, or eat a meal with (sometimes I go weeks without sharing a meal with anyone)
• something/someone to invest in, care about, spend time with
• depth and meaningful interaction
• people to give a different perspective and share some accountability with
• enthusiasm, encouragement, passion, and support

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