By Liz Lampkin, Crosswalk.com
One of the most necessary parts of life everyone experiences is healing. It is a process. It is the steps we take to fill in the blanks. It is the part of life where we become whole again. It is closing wounds of any kind that may have left us vulnerable. While healing is an important part of our lives, it can be a traumatic experience as it forces us to recall the circumstance that caused the initial suffering. The church. A place of worship. The place where believers in the Almighty God come together to fellowship with one another. The church. A house of prayer where people come together to pray and uplift God's Holy and Righteous name. The church. A place where many people have been wounded and hurt by their brothers and sisters in Christ. The church. A place where Singles often feel ostracized and overlooked. The church is many things to many people, but the last thing one could imagine it being is a house of hurt. Many singles who attend worship often feel they are not an important part of the congregation. They grapple with hurtful words and actions from other believers while silently suffering in the background. Ultimately, this silence leads to singles avoiding ministry work or leaving the church altogether. Church hurt can also lead to wavering faith in Christ. So how is it that people encounter hurt in a place where the Spirit of God dwells? Here's how.
What Causes Church Hurt
1. Discouraging Members
Believe it or not, many members of the body of Christ discourage other members, especially singles. Questions about their relationship status, who they may be dating, inquiries regarding marriage, and unsolicited advice about how to get married. Many singles are discouraged by members asking about their relationship status rather than encouraging them to remain single and recognizing the beauty of it.
2. The Church Upholds Marriage to a Higher Standard
Marriage ministries, marriage retreats, marriage ministry t-shirts, and meetings. Churches focus a lot on marriage as if it is the only relationship status God created and the ultimate goal of Christians. Church culture tends to paint a picture that once you are married and have children, you have arrived at a place of acceptance. This is not the case. While marriage is a sacred and blessed ministry ordained by God, it should not be valued more than being single.
3. Singles are Often Prejudged and Misjudged
People often view unmarried members as desperate for marriage, sexually irresponsible, and they believe singles have all the free time in the world. This is not the case. The preconceived notions that members of the body of Christ create about single members are often based on their past experiences or presumptions based on who they believe singles are. These misconceptions challenge a single church member's character and create the presumption that singles' lives are unproductive.
4. Singles Aren't Included in Positive Sermons
How many sermons have been created to uplift singles? Typically, when a pastor/preacher delivers messages that mention singles, the primary focal points discuss fornication, waiting to engage in intercourse until marriage, or the type of mate one should pursue.
5. Assume They Are Involved in Sexual Immorality
Sexual temptation is everywhere, and it affects everyone, not just singles. Assuming that unmarried Christians practice sexual immorality is a painful reality single churchgoers face more often than not.
6. A Loss of Focus
This hurt is often self-inflicted. Many people involve themselves in ministry work and forget why they became involved. Serving God's people and honoring Him with the work He has placed before you is the primary reason one should involve themselves in the church's work. However, as the work begins, the adversary comes about and brings along distractions. Not only this, but the flesh can cloud one's judgment, and it becomes easy to lose sight of the work at hand.
7. Idol Worship
People often make their work in the ministry their God. Titles and positions often get the best of believers, and the focus veers off the heart of the work for God's people. This happens because the flesh takes over and allows the human ego to take root. Not only do believers tend to make their ministry work their idol, but they often make church leaders idols. In their minds, they create a picture of perfection regarding pastors, associate ministers, deacons, or worship leaders. They're placed on a pedestal, and when reality sinks in that their beloved church leaders are imperfect humans who require the love and guidance of the same Savior that saved them, they don't know how to handle it. It distorts their view of them, and it's difficult for them to release that view.
While these and other reasons are causes of church hurt for singles, there are ways to begin healing the scars singles carry and bring them back to the church with a renewed mind and spirit.
Single Steps to Healing Church Hurt
-Create sermons that uplift singles. The Bible tells us that it is better to be single so that individuals can focus on the work of the Lord. Why is this not the heart of a sermon for everyone to hear? Singles need to hear messages geared toward their growth and walk in discipleship while single.
-Create classes that discuss how to live everyday life as a single Christian that does not focus on marriage.
-Make singles feel as though they belong to the church. Place them in leadership positions, and have them teach Sunday School or Bible studies that focus on their spiritual growth.
-Have meaningful meetings with church leaders on how to include unmarried members more in the church.
-Have joint marriage and singles ministry meetings so singles can gain a better insight into what it takes to be married and married church members can better understand what it means to be single.
-Set aside specific corporate prayer time for singles. During this time, prayers for singles should be focused on their walk in discipleship and their relationship with God.
-Create Sunday services dedicated to single members. Not to advertise their relationship status but to uplift them as the people of God they were created to be.
The journey of healing is a painful one. However, it is necessary for personal and spiritual growth. Healing from church hurt is something many people have experienced or are currently experiencing. In order for the work of the church to be done as God commanded it to, members of the body of Christ must come together as one. For this to happen, healing must take place. Singles are integral to the church and should be regarded as such. Singles, pray for your healing and for those who hurt you. Take the necessary steps to remove any hatred or malice you may have in your heart so that you can return to the heart of working in the church.
As life's journey continues, I pray that singles find a place in the church where they belong. I pray that souls and hearts are mended. I pray that you value yourself as much as God values you.
Author Liz Lampkin is an experienced writer, teacher, and speaker. She is an advocate for singles who encourages them to live their best life God’s way. Follow her on Instagram @Liz_Lampkin.