"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Sometimes It Just Gets Way Too Hard

"I was so good at what I did that everyone thought it came easy to me. If they only knew. If they only knew how hard it was for me. If they only knew what it cost. They thought it was easy for me because I was good at it. But it was killing me. If they only knew." ("Don't Cry Past Tuesday" - Charles Poole)

Ministry is tough. It is the only career/calling/profession/job that can raise you to the highest of heights one moment then allow you to plummet to the depths of the deep the next. If you serve in a local church, you have more bosses than you can please and on some days, none of them are pleased. Then there are the days that you are filled beyond words for the fellowship, support and encouragement of your brothers and sisters in Christ; thankful for those people who are grateful for your work and encourage you as you walk in His steps. And it is even more so, when you are in a lay (volunteer) ministry.

I have had the fortune of being on both sides of the 'collar', so to speak. I have spent some years in a full-time vocational ministry and I am now working in the secular world while still being involved in various ministries in the local church. This is why the above quote struck my heart like a hammer the other day.

Being a single guy, it has always been a concern to me when I see churches that (basically) relegate single adults to the back of the sanctuary. The Church today encourages the institution of marriage and speaks to that commitment as making a person complete. They cannot quite comprehend why people may choose to live a single life or, heaven forbid, that they should divorce or be widowed. Yes, that was intended as just a teench of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek. The more accepted ministries of children, youth and senior adults are understood and encouraged while the single adults are almost a feared community and do not typically receive the same attention. As a result, there are thousands of Christian single adults from 20-55 who feel isolation, judgement and lack of support from the one place where this should not be the case. And there are literally thousands more who have never been approached with the Gospel and the invitation to join with a local congregation.

A number of years ago, I was asked to be a layperson leader of the single adults in our church and to help grow it into a ministry. Let me mention here that we are a large congregation and have around 150 single adults who are members. Advisory councils were formed, Bible study classes were reorganized and social activities were planned. We also looked for ways to minister to others. We provided help and assistance to the elderly with their lawn care or other needs, became involved in helping at a local children in distress center and also at a shelter for battered women and children. We as a group of single adults believe very strongly in giving back to those in need and continue to do our best to reach out in the name of Christ.

Recently, I began to realize that the overall ministry concept was not coming into place and I began to think and pray about how best to handle it. Not having any representation on the church staff makes it difficult to keep our presence in front of the congregation and to keep a ministry running smoothly. We are all volunteers with full-time jobs and, in some cases, children with their own schedules to keep and do not always have the time or money for printing, copying and mailing mass mailouts and flyers. We do not always have the time to "meet and eat" for long planning luncheons and to survey the needs of the congregation. So, to cut to the point as best I can, I sent out an email the other day to the whole Single Adult Ministry and laid out the situation as I saw it. I felt like a failure in my leadership because we were not able to do all that we needed to do. I was discouraged because I felt our church (like so many others) supports the single adults in word only. "What are not doing that we should be doing? What else can we do?", I asked. "How can we accomplish the vision that we have at our church instead of seeing folks leave for another church that is more affirming?"

Over the past couple of days, I have received several replies from single adults in my church who are hurting so badly and begged me to help keep this ministry. The need for fellowship with those who understand what it is like to raise children alone. The desire for friendships and social activities that are not terribly expensive because they live on just one income. The wanting of Bible study and groups that deal with the pressures and needs of single parents, of those who have become widowed at a young age and those who have never married. The uncertain and frightening days of having your parents grow older and need your care more and more, yet you feel like you are all alone. The anticipation of having a group to hang out with on the weekend just to hang out and enjoy being together. This group of people want a place where they feel accepted and loved, not judged or thought of as less than whole simply because they are not married.

I cannot handle it. My heart hurts so bad for these wonderful people who are not having their spiritual or emotional needs met at a church. A church, of all places! The place where God is taught and worshipped. The house of believers which should see past age, race, gender and marital status. Perhaps, this is an area where I need the ministry more than the ministry needs me. I don't know. I honestly don't know what to do.

So, I ask for you, my friends and fellow bloggers, please say a prayer for our ministry, wherever God wants to take it. Pray that God will encourage me and the other volunteer leaders to keep on keeping on despite the frustrations facing us. Pray that God will lift up the discouraged, the tired, the single mothers and fathers who are short on time, money and faith, the single mothers who lived in abusive relationships far too long and are now trying to make a life for themselves and their children, those who need friends and some fun things to do. These are all the things that a Church is here to provide.

I apologize for being so lengthy, but this was my catharsis for the day.
And thus, for today, this is the gospel according to Jimmy.

Be God's,
Jimmy

3 Comments:

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Jimmy,

I am glad that you found my blog today. I am truly honored that you think I am a good writer. I have never had the asperations or the courage to even think I can write. Shannon is an amazing writer and I am trying to get the world to recognize it!

It is interesting that you mention being single in the church, because just this Sunday at the church potluck I felt like an outsider. I am 34, divorced, no children. I was standing in a circle of women who were all married with children. I could not contribute much to the conversation, which left me feeling self conscience. I don't fit with the college group, too old and I don't fit with my age group!

Sorry for the lengthy post, I look forward to reading more from you!

 
At 10:09 AM, Blogger Vicki said...

Hi Jimmy! After being offline awhile, I'm back to catch up with friends and fellow bloggers. I've enjoyed reading your columns and thank God for you. As a single, I've certainly experienced the things you shared. I'll be praying for your church and ministry.

Blessings,
Vicki

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Paula said...

Catharsis duly noted. And appreciated. I've been praying for God's leading about my role in our singles ministry at my church. It is a mess, in my opinion. Recently, the ministry took a turn that I just found out several people who took positions within do not like but would not speak up about. Because the church decided the ideas were good ones, that's what happened. They didn't explore other possibilities. I could go on forever about it, but what you had to say is so universal throughout the church it's pathetic. It's hard enough to be single -- even by choice -- but if you're divorce or widowed, it is much more difficult. Again, thanks for sharing.

 

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